"The soul is like a wild animal -- tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy." Parker J. Palmer from Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
In our last issue I made a distinction between one's life purpose and a calling or vocation. As you may recall the Life On Purpose Perspective offers that your life purpose is more about who you are as a spiritual being and what you came here to this life to be and to experience, while a calling or a vocation often has more to do with what you choose or are lead to do as an expression of your purpose.
Of course, on one hand anything that you do in life can be enhanced when it's 'poured' into the context of your life purpose. For example, several years ago with Life On Purpose Institute was just getting off the ground, Ann and I shared a job as the 'kitchen supervisor.' What the job mostly entailed was a lot of cooking and cleaning and very little supervising.
When I viewed the work as an expression of my life purpose to be of service, live simply and stay spiritually serene, it was a wonderfully enriching experience. But on those days I went with the fear, lack and struggle of my Inherited Purpose shaping my life...well, the work was tedious and boring.
Since working in the kitchen wasn't really 'in the beam' of my life purpose it took more work and a higher level of intentionality to keep creating the work as an expression of my life purpose.
So Choose Callings that are "In the Beam"
The other side of this paradox is that there does appear to be those activities that are more in the beam of your life purpose, often in part because they optimize the use of your God given talents and abilities, or tap into those things you just love to do and are good at.
These are often where you will find your calling or vocation. It may be a particular way you love to express yourself -- writing, teaching, mentoring, gardening, sailing, mountain climbing. It may also involve a particular area of life or subject like anything to do with nature and helping to sustain it, and of course, it may be some combination of ways to express yourself around a particular topic or area.
For example, I love the threesome of coaching, writing, and speaking particularly when they revolve around the subject of life purpose. There may be times that I find myself in a bit of a writing slump, or times when I want to cut back a bit on my coaching, or occasions when I'd rather not deal with the travel that often comes with speaking, but fortunately in over 13 years I've never had all three things happen at the same time. I think a big part of that is because the underlying passion about purpose remains true.
Determining Your Calling
One of my favorite quotes about vocation comes from Frederick Buechner:
"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
Of course, knowing your life purpose clearly and succinctly can be a valuable aid in guiding you to your soul's calling -- how your soul optimally would like to express itself.
In lieu of that or to assist in that, it's important to create a safe place for your soul to show up. The continuation of Parker's Palmer quote that I started this article with goes like this:
"If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek."
So, here is a simple process of honing in on your calling...or at least to get you started in the right direction:
1- If you know your purpose, state it up front either in writing, verbally or both. Be present to not just the statement but the experience that's captured by the statement.
Not sure about your purpose? Then start by examining your core values -- what matters most to you. (More about identifying these in a future issue.) Let these core values serve as your guiding light.
2- Set the intention for your inner guidance to direct you to what's next for you in a primary or significant way you plan to express your purpose or devote energy to your core values. This step further opens the channels to Divine Spirit.
3- Be ready to be surprised. Guidance may come in many different forms -- an inner voice, a feeling in the gut to take a particular action, a serendipitous connection with someone, so stay alert. And last but far from least:
4- Follow the Joy -- follow the 'deep gladness' that let's you know you're on the right path.