Doing work we are passionate about, that makes great use of our natural talents and skills, and enables us to live our ideal lifestyle often reads as a modern day fairytale. I see it as an elevation in the standard we hold for our careers, shifting it from what makes sense in our minds (and on paper) to what we are called to do at the level of our soul.
The theologian Frederick Buechner artfully describes our vocation (a.k.a. our calling) as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” This statement feels like the truth, so the question becomes: how exactly do we find this holy land?
After making many painful mistakes in my personal quest to find the work that was meant for me, I’ve discovered a few secrets to the art of uncovering your calling and bringing it from a daydream to your everyday reality.
Secret #1: Reconnect with your essence.
You are who you always thought you were. I remember after grieving a bad breakup there was a moment of relief when I realized who I was at my core hadn’t changed, I had simply adjusted to respond to a toxic environment. When the toxins were removed and I gave myself some space to heal, I snapped back into who I really was at my core.
The same can happen in our professional journey. You may have conformed to the ideals of society and become weighed down by the daily grind. But when you give yourself space to come home, you realize the dreams you had when you were younger, the passions that put you into a flow state, and the things you were naturally good at, are still there and waiting to be cultivated.
Take some time to go back into your history and ask yourself, “What did I love to do when I was young?” and “What did people say I was naturally talented at?” Think about what you loved and despised about your previous jobs. Collect these puzzle pieces and experiment with how your passions and talents might organize themselves into meaningful work.
Secret #2: Edit your rules for success.
Did you know that neuroscientists have shown that most of our decisions, emotions and actions are handled by our subconscious mind? This means that 95% of our life is dictated by our programming– much of which was established in the younger years of our childhood. In order to get a clear picture of our calling and actually have the wherewithal to step into the risk of manifesting it, we have to get off autopilot. Pump the breaks and get clear on what your current model of success looks like and evaluate what effects that model has created in your life. Then decide what new model will be necessary for you to commit to your calling.
To help us with this task we can look to Tony Robbins’ Human Needs Psychology for additional insight. He proposes that all humans have six basic needs: the need for certainty, variety, significance, love/connection, growth and contribution. The first four needs are needs of the ego and the last two are needs of the spirit. Each of us has two needs we value most. Mine were the need for certainty and for significance. This programming had a major impact on the decisions I made in my career (and my broader life). It kept me from taking risks with major financial implications and drove me to work hard to be seen as worthy and important in the eyes of others above all else. The ugly truth is that this wiring kept me from experiencing love and from growing and contributing to something outside of myself– which are the keys to living a fulfilling life. Once I re-prioritized and made continued growth one of my highest values I found a way I could uniquely contribute to the world. It felt like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders and the quality of my work skyrocketed.
What does your blueprint for success look like? What human needs have been driving your behavior? Would you like to make any edits?
Secret #3: Connect to your “Big Why.”
Our unique passion shows us where our calling’s starting line is. While pure passion is a powerful spark, it is not a sustainable resource. Our “Big Why”– our deepest reasons for doing our work– combined with the slow burning ingredients of faith, adaptability, endurance, persistence, patience and the willingness to fail forward is the true fuel for this winding journey.
Connecting to your “Big Why” is a powerful tool for combatting fear, accepting rejection and persisting through setbacks. When your fear or a critic shows up with a big red stop sign and says, “You can’t!”, you can now lovingly answer back, “Oh yes I can, and here’s why.”
Take some time to uncover your “Big Why.” Ask yourself why it’s important that you do this work, and keep asking until you get to the essence of your mission. Then, start building the muscles required to play the long game. Take small risks and learn how to take a fall. Ask for something outrageous and learn what it feels like to hear “no.” Once you do these things on a small scale you can stretch to take bigger, bolder risks that will geometrically expand the impact of your calling.
Secret #4: Enjoy the journey.
It sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. Our calling is a journey and it is to be enjoyed. It’s not a destination we have to reach in order to experience pleasure. I truly understood this lesson for the first time after designing and executing a major community service project while I was in college. The event was a success by the standards I had set and yet I felt empty when it was over. I realized that the journey was what was for me and the destination (the result) was for those I was serving.
Soak in each moment and know that it has tremendous value beyond your immediate understanding. And be sure to celebrate your wins as you go! It’s the best way to mark time and to prove to your subconscious that this calling thing is working for you. The work you do through your calling is your special gift to the world.
What is one thing you can commit to doing today that will bring you closer to your calling? The world is waiting on you!
Sarah Anassori is a Holistic Executive Coach on a mission to guide the next generation of heart-centered leaders to step into the work [and way of working] they were made for. Sarah seamlessly unites her years of traditional business experience with her passion for mindful living, personal innovation, and authentic leadership to bring a strategic + spiritual approach to career transitions. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and at sarahanassori.com.