Three Ways to Discover Your Unique Calling

Why is knowing your Calling so important?

There’s an ancient scripture that says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Courtesy of istockphoto.com/olaser

Courtesy of istockphoto.com/olaser

Here’s the deal: a vision of authentic purpose breathes life into us. A calling gives us a powerful, sacred, and holy vehicle to express who we are. Living our calling enables us to step more fully into our true selves and make the contribution to life that we are uniquely designed for. It focuses our life energies. So let me suggest several steps to exploring this Calling in your life. 

Your goal is to be able to articulate your Calling statement in one sentence or two in a way that captivates, inspires, and rallies your energy and truthfully reflects who you are.

First, make a list of all the specific activities and behaviors you’ve done in the various roles you’ve had in your life that brought you positive energy and deep satisfaction.

You’ve loved doing them. You find yourself doing them in some form or another no matter what setting you’re in.

When you have this list, look for any common threads between all those. What do you notice?

For example, one of my clients really loved public speaking, teaching in the classroom, having one-on-one conversations with people, especially students, coaching soccer, and doing photography. A pretty disparate list. So I probed a bit more.

“What was it about each of those activities that you really enjoyed? Was it just engaging in all of them or was there something specific in the activities that energized you? Can you think of any common thread between all of them?”

After much reflection and discussion together, he observed: “I think they all involve helping people face obstacles and learn to improve and become their best selves.”

He loved taking mediocre soccer players and coaching them to excellence. He loved speaking in public about themes and issues to help people expand and develop their lives. He loved mentoring and coaching students in his office with whatever problems they were facing, challenging and prodding them to expand themselves. And though he wasn’t the primary photographer on his team, he loved arranging and providing just the right equipment and settings so the photographer could maximize the shots.

It turned out that that phrase or statement really reflected for him what he felt Called to be and do in the world. Describing this with clarity and honesty started helping him feel like he was living out his Calling whether he was coaching his soccer team or speaking in public. And this increased vision about his mission and purpose began to empower him to say Yes to things and No to others with equal authority and confidence based upon alignment with his Calling.

Second, take some time to reflect on and answer these questions:

  1. What are you uniquely designed and prepared to do?
  2. List the things to which you’re consistently drawn. What about them draws you?
  3. When you were a child, was there something you always wanted to be or do when you grew up?

Look through your answers to these questions. Do you notice any common threads between them?

The first question calls upon two things–two superpowers–in your life: your unique life experiences, and your unique top strengths.

So make a list of your unique life experiences. What have you done or experienced that has shaped you and your way of being in the world? Where have you lived and how has that has shaped you? For example, sometimes our experiences of brokenness and pain become springboards to a special calling–those wounds give us a passion and a life experience that give us wisdom to address people in that kind of pain.

Then take Gallup’s StrengthsFinder to identify your top five strengths. What do those strengths say about what kind of contribution you are wired to make everywhere you go? Which four strengths categories do your five strengths fall under: Relationship Building, Influencing, Executing, and Strategic Thinking? That will inform you about your strongest areas of contribution and what you are called to do and be.

Identify your childhood dreams. I encourage you to spend some extra minutes on that third question. It’s a very intuitive one. Childhood dreams often express a deep, instinctive, innate desire that comes from a pure place. Kids typically haven’t been hampered or weighed down yet with all the discrepancies, deliberations, limiting beliefs, image consultants, and ego burdens of adulthood. Their naiveté and innocence often speak truth. So we need to plumb our childhood dreams and desires.

When I was a kid, my dreams were unequivocal. I wanted to be a speaker who traveled the world, experiencing adventures and risky situations, giving talks to people about the meaning of life (whatever that meant to me as a kid). I wanted to be global. I wanted to speak in significant ways. I wanted to be in front of large crowds. And I wanted to help people live a good life in response to what I had to say. I spent hours with this fantasy–dreaming up all kinds of international adventures for myself.

I realize now that that childhood dream was my soul calling out to me about where my strongest place in the world should be. And sure enough, that dream is still alive in me today because it was a piece of my truth, and it continues to speak directly to my Calling and Purpose in life.

Third, now try to write down in one sentence what you feel to be your Calling in this world—your life purpose—what you are placed on this planet to do and contribute.

Remember, this is not about your role(s), or the positions you hold at work, or the hobbies you engage in. Read my last post about distinguishing between role and calling.

Calling is a more expansive, specialized description about the kinds of actions or behaviors you could consider as your mission whatever role you’re in. This is about what excites you and energizes you most in life. This is about what you feel you simply have to be doing while you’re alive to feel like your life really counts. This is about what kinds of things truly maximize you and express accurately who you are and what it is about you that is unique to you.

Here are some example Calling statements from people I’ve worked with:

  • My Calling is to mentor and coach people to be their best selves
  • My Calling is to create in a way that inspires people with greater possibilities for life
  • My Calling is to be a mirror to help people see the beauty of themselves in a way that gives them more confidence and joy
  • My Calling is to bring compassion and justice into places that need this light
  • My Calling is to fix what is broken and restore it to its original beauty
  • My Calling is to include people who feel left out, giving them a sense of belonging
  • My Calling is to give God-given advantages to the disadvantaged
  • My Calling is to help people find their voice and speak it with confidence and clarity

So why is all this important? Author Gregg Levoy, in his book Calling: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, describes the significance of identifying your Calling this way:

That which we cannot name is lost to us, and that which we can name is coaxed into life.

When you and I can put words to this sense of purpose and calling, we coax this unique God-given expression of self into life with greater power and purpose.

So what is the sentence you’ve come up with that describes your purpose and calling?

My next post will be about the obstacles you face and how they relate to your Calling; how to reframe them in a way that furthers your Calling.

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Looking for a Speaker or Coach?

If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it. And interested in coaching for how to be an effective culture architect in your groups? Feel free to email me at greg@gregorypnelson.com or look at the Speaking or Coaching pages of this site.

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2 thoughts on “Three Ways to Discover Your Unique Calling

  1. After reading your last blog, I wrote down all the adjectives I could think of under my roles. That is helpful to me because I’m an introvert, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than sit in my room with a book and a blanket. I think that’s why my work defines me so much; it allows my “calling” part to interact in the world in a useful way, but that is different language than “having a purpose.”

    • I like what you’ve done with your adjectives for your roles. Good clues to your sense of calling. I call that “purpose” or “mission.” It’s your sense of what you do in the world that is uniquely you in expressing your unique contribution wherever you are. But in the end it the language has to work for you. Looks like you’ve found a way for that to happen. Excellent! Would love to hear some time what you’ve discovered with the adjectives, etc. Sounds great!

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