The “preconditions” of calling

My job as a management and business professor puts me in a unique position to help people consider the possibility that work can be more than just drudgery motivated by a desire to survive, but that it can be a calling.

What is evident however is that while so many people desire to “find” their calling, few actually know how to go about it. Recently I’ve begun helping a number of people along in their journey to find their calling. In this post I thought I would share the first part of that process, the “pre-conditions” for finding your calling, so that you too can start this journey of discovery.

First a disclaimer, calling is not simply passion. Calling is not just about doing something that you love. Instead it is a sense that you are doing what you were born to do and fighting for a cause you were born to fight for.

The Preconditions:

Precondition 1: A Desire to find your calling

It seems simple but many individuals lack the motivation required to find meaning in life and in work. You must have an overwhelming urge to find your calling. This urge may be catalyzed by simple curiosity, religiousness, dissatisfaction with your current work or life, or some critical life event that changes your perspective.  Perhaps you have a vague restlessness or emptiness haunting your work or career plans. Regardless of the source you must have enough motivation to maintain the intensity and investment of time required to find your calling, otherwise you will simply experience an endless loop of frustration, aspiration, and dissipation. Do you have the urge?

Precondition 2: Watchfulness

Research shows that in order to find your calling you must be ready to read the cues of your calling. This requires you to be deliberately introspective and reflective about reading the meaning of experiences, feelings, events, and conversations.  A capacity to listen and make sense of our place in a larger story is important. Spend some time in silence and in prayer. As a Christian I believe that a part of this process is asking God to reveal it to us, and then being watchful for the answer. We must not only have the urge to find our calling but we must be vigilant about interpreting and acting on signals that may indicate it is being revealed to us.

Precondition 3: Experimentation

Research shows that you must be open to the many possibilities about what your calling might be and that you must be persistent in trying new activities and putting yourself in new circumstances to “test” and try things out. By testing things out you are not only finding new possibilities but you are determining if you are heading in the right direction. This is often the most difficult precondition to meet. There is a good deal of uncertainty and stress associated with trying new things, you have to be willing to give up some stability and embrace uncertainty.

Precondition 4: Self Understanding

To find your calling you must progress in your understanding of who you are. No two people are alike. Who are you? Finding meaning often means understanding how we fit into the larger picture – the BIG plan.  We have to find a clearer picture of who we are. Research indicates that having good “self-clarity” (who am I and what is important to me?) strongly correlates to having a sense of calling. Personality tests and discussions with friends, family, pastors, and others that you trust is a great place to start. Look at your life story, are there any common themes that run through it? What do you most enjoy doing? How do you like to work? Is there is a cause you really believe in? Who really influenced you in life? What are you most dearly held values and beliefs?

I have come to understand myself as a searcher while understanding that in this life we see through a glass dimly and only in part – even so the search continues, it’s what I was born to do and it’s what I feel called to help others do. I believe we’ve all been called to love God and enjoy good, while also being called to love and help others. How each of us loves and helps others through our energy and passion is going to be unique to each of us, that’s where calling comes in. Now are you prepared to find it?