Ask any child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and there will be an instant answer from a source of love and joy. As age and choices increase, it becomes a challenge. As age and choices meet responsibilities and financial obligations, it’s a question no one asks anymore believing it’s way too late.
Working with those in career transition, I push clients to dig deep and discern what it is they are meant to do. It often comes down to whether they just want a job or are ready to rise to the challenge and respond to a calling. Many people believe a calling and a career are same. They are blessed to have found a way to combine their passion and livelihood to make it their life’s work. “To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”, Katherine Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post.
For others, there is a struggle between what they want to do, what they have to do, and what they feel they need to do. These folks can benefit from career coaching and counseling. Frederick Buechner defined a calling as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” Matthew 22:14 says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” I maintain that many receive callings but few callings are chosen!
A calling is something you discover. A career is something you choose. The secret ingredient that makes the difference is a passion (that childlike love and joy). The two tools to use to measure the difference are love and energy. Are you doing what you’re doing for the love of doing it, or is it just a job? Author/designer Alexandra Stoddard recommended that her clients decide what they’re most enthusiastic about and what they prefer to do, in order to have it manifest in their lives. I like to use the Dr. Seuss approach: What makes you MAD, SAD, and GLAD? The answers hold the keys to your mission fields.
As you choose how you spend your days, are you working to acquire or are you striving to be significant? Success naturally flows from making a difference, from being significant. For those who measure success by acquisitions, their outward displays will always be equaled or bettered by the wealthier, the new and improved. Success vs. Significance: there IS a difference.
“A dream career generally promises wealth, power, status, security and great benefits. A calling is often a different story….A career may end with retirement and lots of ‘toys.’ A calling isn’t over until the day you die. The rewards of a career may be quite visible, but they are temporary. The significance of a calling lasts for eternity. A career can be disrupted by any number of events but not a calling,” (favorite author), John Ortberg.
Bertrand Russell believed that there are four ingredients necessary for happiness: health, warm personal relations, sufficient means to keep you from want, and successful work. Successful work is the outward display of an inner response to a personal passion. If you truly love what you do, it isn’t work. Those with a calling are generally willing to do it without pay. It wasn’t until Oprah Winfrey reformatted her TV show away from its initial Jerry Springer style that her ratings soared. What made the difference? Oprah sought to be significant by being and having a positive impact on the lives of her viewers. Here is what she has to say about careers, callings, and passion:
“The Soul’s Code by James Hillman says that the way to true success is to honor your calling. Have the courage to follow your passion – and if you don’t know what it is, realize that one reason for your existence on earth is to find it. It won’t come to you through some special announcement or through a burning bush. Your life’s work is to find your life’s work – and then to exercise the discipline, tenacity, and hard work it takes to pursue it. How do you know whether you’re on the right path, with the right person, or in the right job? The same way you know when you’re not: you feel it. Each of us has a personal call to greatness – and because yours is as unique to you as your fingerprint, no one can tell you what it is.
Each of us can have real success and significance by extending our talents, time, and resources to others – and by building character in ourselves…For me, success is about knowing who you are and then using who you are and what you do to serve yourself, your family, your community, our world. It’s knowing your strengths and building upon them. It’s being so confident in your own character and style that no one else can even tell you how to dress – or, more important, how to live. You have a certain way of being in this world, and your imprint is what matters. There’s never going to be another one like you. So take it to the max.
Ignoring your passion is like dying a slow death. Your life is speaking to you every day, all the time – and your job is to listen up and find the clues. Passion whispers to you through your feelings, beckoning you toward your highest good. Pay attention to what makes you feel energized, connected, stimulated – what gives you your juice. Do what you love, give it back in the form of service, and you will do more than succeed. You will triumph.”
Quote to Ponder
A career tries to make money; a calling tries to make a difference. A career seeks to gain, a calling seeks to give. You might say a career helps you win the rat race; a calling reminds you that even if you win a rat race, you’re still a rat. – Bill Coffin
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