How do you walk through life? Are you sure-footed with a specific destination in mind? Or do you meander, unsure of your direction or exactly where you’re headed?
Every now and then, you’ll hear about a friend or acquaintance who has “found their calling.” And when you hear those words spoken, it might cause you to wonder: Does everyone really have their own calling, even me? Spiritual philosopher David Spangler says yes:
We all possess a gift or talent that we are attracted to and enjoy doing…this gift ultimately connects us to others. This is our calling.
Yet, while Spangler may make it sound easy, determining the precise “gift or talent” that connects you with others can be difficult. Here are just a few of the questions that come up when looking for our path or purpose:
How do I know which gift or talent is my calling?
How do I incorporate this gift/talent into my life?
What if my calling makes my life more difficult?
There are no flashing road signs to alert us that we’re on the right path—or tell us when it’s time to make a mid-life course correction. We need to figure it out for ourselves and determine how we can build a life with meaning and purpose, one that makes the most of our own potential.
The 5 clues below don’t provide all the answers but may help you get closer to discovering your calling. They may also provide you with the motivation you need to get moving on it.
Clue #1. When looking for your path the first place to search is within.
From John Templeton to Napoleon Hill, many spiritual leaders believe the answers we seek can be found within. So, what’s the secret to tapping into this internal source of knowledge? You should start by quieting the mind, through meditation or prayer, and once settled, contemplate what you were meant to do. Spiritual author Carolyn Myss tells us that, with patience, “the path will reveal itself.”
There’s another important component to finding the answers we seek: faith that we will find them. We have to believe the answers are available to us or they will continue to remain a mystery. In The Spirit of Happiness, Discovering God’s Purpose for Your Life, the scholar T. Byram Karasu describes faith like this:
To believe—to have faith—in God means trusting there is a reason for the existence of everything in his world and beyond, and there is a meaning in its mystery. It means believing that there is a Holy Purpose for you.
Clue #2. You can seek help from a mentor or anyone you admire.
If you don’t have a person to emulate or seek advice from in your own life, find a public figure you admire—then read all you can about him or her, including any available autobiographies. Doing this may help you intuit how these people might seize opportunities that are occurring in your own life.
The inspirational blogger James Altucher has written about mentorship and came to a similar conclusion. His net: you don’t actually need a living, breathing mentor at your side to receive the expert guidance you need. According to Altucher:
Everyone wants a mentor. I picture some old guy saying, “Ha ha, here’s how we did it in my day. Here’s what you should do.” and then he lays it out exactly what is the secret mystical formula for life fulfillment. It doesn’t work that way. Everything in life is your mentor. Think of everything you see or do as mentoring you.
Clue #3. Your calling or purpose can emerge in one of many different ways.In her book The Wisdom to Know the Difference, Eileen Flanagan writes of an Episcopalian group of laypeople on a mission: to uncover the best way to find “God’s purpose for our lives”. To do this, they read through a ton of scripture and spiritual autobiographies. Their conclusion? Our purpose can come to us not in one way, but in one of many ways. Flanagan writes:
Our purpose can emerge through a gnawing feeling that we need to do a specific thing. On occasion, it can burst forth as a sudden awareness of a path that God would have us take. Our call may be emphatic and unmistakable, or it may be obscure and subtle. In whatever way our call is experienced, God has chosen to speak to us and bids us to listen.
Clue #4. Don’t let obstacles stop you, just keep moving forward.
Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr. writes that at some point in life we may be on the right path—and then the going gets tough. Our path may not move in a straight line and we may even find it littered with stones that we have to climb over or around to get back on track. In Quatrone’s words:
The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit like the “Yellow Brick Road.” It is a rocky path through the wilderness. It is not a linear road where we take one step after another in a straightforward progression. That is not what the road is like. Rather, it is a series of twists and turns, and there is nothing simple or straightforward about it.
Yet once you get past the rough patches, you almost always come out stronger on the other side, learning character-building lessons along the way. The important thing is to keep your eye on your destination. Should you ever feel you have lost your way, pause for contemplation and renewed direction. Patience is key.
Clue #5. When you find your path, you’ll know it. (Life becomes easier.)
It is the toughest task you will ever face. But once you define your purpose, the meaning of your life will become clearer and all other tasks, no matter how difficult they may seem, will become easier.
This quote, also by Karasu, points out that the sooner you’re able to uncover the gift or talent that connects you with others, the better. Once your purpose is uncovered, you get to practice getting better at it each day. You can work at being a better coach or mentor, a better veterinarian or volunteer, a better baker or painter, a better (insert your calling here).
When you’re on your true path, you’ll find that you’re not only helping to enrich the lives of others, but that this is the key to your own happiness as well. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, making your own small contribution to the good of the world.