Dear Phil :

I hope this letter finds you well. You’ve been on my mind of late. There are lessons I’ve learned that you would benefit from learning also. I’m positive about this because, well, let’s be real. I’ve known you longer than you’ve known yourself.

First, my friend, know yourself. Know who you really are, which includes your strengths (and weaknesses), your passions, your values, and your calling. You will spend the better part of your adult life deepening and clarifying your awareness of these things, but the process is better started sooner than later. Start now.

When you are certain of your strengths you have greater confidence to tackle life’s challenges. Don’t flinch away from looking clearly at yourself. Don’t cocoon yourself in denial. Knowing your weaknesses will help you avoid unnecessary mistakes, and make you more aware of when you will need help and accountability to achieve your dreams.

Be clear about your passions and values for they will help you navigate the course of your life. Your values are those intangibles you hold dear and the attainment of which ultimately shape all your decisions. Values are qualities of living for which you are willing to forgo other things less valuable to you. Harmony, challenge, contentment, security, excitement, etc., are all values which you may esteem over things like having a new car, faster game console, or even a more prestigious job.

Passion is linked with our values. Passion is what provides the energy to achieve your goals when doing so isn’t fun and instead takes blood, sweat, and tears. Valuing physical vitality is what causes you to choose an hour at the gym every day instead of an hour on the couch. Passion is what drives you to go for that one last rep, that extra five pounds on the bar, that last quarter-mile. Passion is what makes you reach just a little farther when your whole body is telling you there’s no strength left with which to reach.

What are your values? What are you passionate about? The sooner you clarify what your values are, and for which you experience the most passion, the sooner you will experience increasing momentum, purpose, and meaning in your life.

These days I coach a lot of young, high-potential, high-capacity people like you. Many of them are running on a high-octane mix of hope, youthful exuberance, and optimism. They careen haphazardly from one activity or goal to the next, never quite being satisfied, never finding something the sense of meaning for which they hunger.

They are restive and restless. They lack any depth of awareness of why some jobs, friends, or pastimes hold their interest and some do not. They are “experience” junkies, bohemians living life in the moment, for the moment, and then moving quickly on to the next shiny experience that beckons them.

There is a different, better way. You are made up of a constellation of gifts and strengths. You have certain values which shape your decisions about how you will interact with the world. You have passions that drive you to achieve.

The question is, what are you driving towards?

Know your calling. As a person of faith, I believe God is already at work in the future, and is inviting me to join him there. My calling, your calling, is that powerful, gracious, and exciting invitation to be the person God created you to be and to pour into the world all the positive change, meaning, and significance which you and I were designed to contribute.

Just as passion drives us in the now, calling is the winsome sense of invitation to step into a life even more complete. To accept your calling and fully embrace it is to experience life in all its many dimensions of work, play, and relationships with the sense “this is what I was made for!”

RELATED: 4 Practical Ways To Discern Your Calling

You were uniquely designed for a purpose. Every experience in life, approached with the right mindset, will further equip you to accomplish what you were designed for. There is a you-shaped void in the world and only you can truly fill with the goodness and truth, the beauty and significance of which you are capable.

So, Phil, I urge you to live your life to the fullest. Live out of your strengths. Align your life with your truest values. Figure out what you are truly passionate about and use that energy to carry you through and over any obstacles you encounter along your way. Most importantly, reflect, dream, envision, pray—do whatever you must to discern your calling. Figure out for what greater purpose you were designed. Fulfill your calling, and you will know joy.

Your friend,


An accomplished professional with unique leadership experience in enterprise and academia, Dr. Phil Carnes is an Executive Leadership Coach with multiple certifications, including an emphasis in emotional intelligence. He has advanced degrees in Biblical Studies and Education, and a doctorate in the field of leadership with an emphasis in semiotics and future studies. Phil and Jennifer, his college sweetheart, have been married 25 years and have four children. He loves fishing, the arts, exploring the intersection of faith and culture, and traveling with family and friends.

and friends.