3 Keys to Discover Your Calling
Author: Jeremy Harrison
Work. Why do we do it?
Certainly, the rent needs paid and the fridge needs stocked. But is that all? Or is there more to it?
I believe that we were created to work. But not the drudgery kind of work. It is an amazing feeling to get paid to do work that aligns seamlessly with our passions, talents and our natural areas of influence.
But how do you find that kind of work? How do you even know what you’re looking for? And if you’re looking for a job, how do you make good decisions that move you in the right direction?
In 2015, I visualized a simple way to think about discovering your calling. It was influenced in part by a couple books which I’ll explain below. Since then, I’ve sketched this idea on the back of a napkin dozens of times. I share it with people who are wrestling with finding their calling.
There are three key factors that I think should influence your calling:
Who are the groups of people you can naturally influence based on life experience or how you’re inherently wired?
I grew up on a farm. When a salesman would stop by our farm as a kid, it didn’t take long for dad to sniff out the out-of-touch “city slicker” — the guy who didn’t understand farmers. It was harder to trust someone who didn’t understand our way of life. But when the visitor was a fellow farmer — assuming they had something to offer that could legitimately help us — before long they were having a conversation at the kitchen table, and they could earn my dad’s trust.
As I moved down my career path, I found that this farm background of mine later led to a natural connection with small town, small business owners who were taking a lot of risk to start businesses with limited capital. Had I tried to serve Ivy League MBAs who grew up in a wealthy metropolitan area, that would not have been a natural area of influence for me. I would have seemed out-of-touch to that audience, and it would be difficult to earn their trust.
We all have multiple areas of influence that come naturally. Some are based on life experiences, others are based on ways we are inherently wired. Take time to list your areas of influence, without worrying about how they connect to a particular career path.
This second factor that can help you discover your calling is pretty obvious. It already guides career choices for most people, as it should. Your “strengths” include learned skills, natural talent, spiritual gifts and resources you have access to. Sadly, there are people who feel stuck in a career that doesn’t utilize their strengths. Take time to list all of your strengths without worrying about how they connect to a particular career path.
This is about identifying things you love to do. Things that motivate you. People and causes you’re passionate about. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Take time to list all of your passions without worrying about how they connect to a particular career path.
You are here.
You can download a printable version here: Discover Your Calling Worksheet
First, take time to list everything that you can think of for each of these three circles, without worrying about how they connect to one another, or a particular career path. Just take time to brain dump everything you can think of.
Next, plot your work experiences on this chart. You probably worked jobs that utilized a strength, but you weren’t passionate or influential. You maybe worked a job in an area of passion, but found you were no good at it. Put a dot on the 3 circles to mark where you were at with each work experience.
What do you see when you view your career path on this diagram?
Here are a few key takeaways:
- Find joy in the center.
It’s an amazing feeling to be operating in this sweet spot where strengths, passion and influence intersect. Few people operate in the center, but I think many could if they were aware of it and consciously moved toward it in their careers.
- Be patient.
You aren’t going to nail all of this at once, that’s why they call it a career path. Strive to make your career path like an inward spiral on this diagram, moving ever closer to the center with stronger strengths, greater influence and deeper areas of passion.
- It’s dynamic.
What you list today isn’t everything. You will uncover new strengths / passions along the way, and even build new areas of influence.
- Don’t let starting pay or ladder-climbing influence your career choices.
Too often people make decisions based on the starting pay, or based on their ability to climb a corporate ladder. But if you can find experiences that move you ever closer to the center of this diagram, you will not only be happier, you will also be like a magnet to employers who see how effective you are and want you on their team.
- Don’t mistake burnout for lack of passion.
I see this a lot. People have something they are passionate about, and they jump into it with both feet. But then it gets hard (it always gets hard) and they don’t take time to rest. Before long they are burnt out, and they mistakenly think they aren’t passionate about it anymore. Don’t let your passions get crushed because you don’t take care of yourself. Build rest into your life. Daily, weekly and seasonal. Shut it off at night and enjoy your personal time doing something completely different. Take an entire 24-hour day every week where you rest and don’t do any work. And take vacations! For several years, my wife and I have tried to take some sort of vacation every 4 months. That breaks our years into thirds and helps us rest, reboot, and stay passionate about our calling.
Are You Wired as an Entrepreneur?
There’s one more dimension to this. If you’re wired as an entrepreneur, you can use these 3 circles to find areas that would make you a happy, and hopefully successful small business owner. In 2015, I wrote a related post, “Discovering Your Calling as An Entrepreneur.”
I believe everybody has something they were created to do, but few get to experience the joy that comes from operating in the center of their strengths, passion and influence.
Two Books that Influenced This Idea:
In “Good to Great” Jim Collins talks about the “Hedgehog Concept” and shows three overlapping circles that helps good companies become enduring great companies.
In “Church Unique” Will Mancini talks about how churches can uncover their “Kingdom Concept” which is like a Hedgehog Concept, but applied uniquely to the church.