Finding your calling (and why it’s usually nonsense)
You’ll find an awful lot of online content about finding your calling, finding your life’s purpose etc. Often from career coaches too – they claim to help you with this.
Not this one. I don’t subscribe to that.
And if you’re wresting with trying to find your purpose in life, I think you should relieve yourself of that massive expectation.
If you have a passion or a calling or a purpose (or whatever you want to call it) then that is great. You are one of the lucky ones and dare I say, one of the few. You have what you might call a “vocation”. A job or career that you always dreamt of doing and that you feel compelled to do. If you were doing something else you might not feel satisfied, or happy or fulfilled.
But I don’t think this happens to everyone and I don’t think you should be hung up on finding yours. Here are my top 10 reasons why:
1. You have many skills, a lot of which are transferable. Take communication for example, an important skill required in lots and lots of careers. If you are a plumber and you have technical plumbing know how and you think those skills can’t be transferred to other professions, think again. Consider other technical jobs or training young apprentices for example.
2. There are many jobs out there. If you can match your skills to some other jobs that you might enjoy, why not. Trying out other things may surprise you.
3. There are jobs now (and in the future) which did not exist when you were choosing a career. So, you decided back in the day that you wanted to be a dot matrix printer expert. That job doesn’t exist anymore (I hope!), but other jobs do. Technology moves on, market demands develop. Careers change over time. Be open to the pivot!
4. The research tells us that a job for life is done. The most recent research I heard said that school leavers now may have up to 9 different careers. Not one particular purpose in life (necessarily).
5. Your needs may dictate what you do. Having “a Job” as opposed to “a Purpose” is OK. You may simply need a job, any job, at some stages in your life. And that is OK, to have a job that is not your “calling” but that satisfies some need in your life at that time, primarily financial, is good.
6. Your priorities and views change as you get older. When I was in law, another solicitor once commented to me that when he was young, he wanted to change the world, but now he was older, he just wanted a quiet life with a reasonable standard of living. What we want to get back out of a job may change as we get older. It may be unrealistic to still have the same passion 20 years in.
7. The people living out their life’s purpose may in fact be living someone else’s dream. I often wonder about this. Family businesses for one example or family traditions. Daddy always wanted me to take on the family business, it was what I knew growing up, therefore I convinced myself that it was my destiny. Or all my family are teachers, and I was told from an early age that I would be a great teacher, therefore teaching is my passion. Take a moment to consider just who’s dream it is that you follow your “passion”. Is it genuinely yours, or something you’ve been conditioned to believe?
8. Focussing on “that one thing” blinds you to the world of choice and variety out there (and your “one thing” may not be what you thought it was). Someone told me a story about a secondary school student who decided it was architecture or nothing for him ( no architects in the family, so no pressure from elsewhere). He refused to put anything else on his CAO application, so convinced was he that architecture was his one true passion. He didn’t get the points and had no plan B. He enrolled in a PLC in architecture and discovered, not long into the one-year course, that it wasn’t in fact for him and that he didn’t enjoy it at all. A more open mind could have allowed him to explore other possibilities.
9. Trying to “find your purpose” is a lot of pressure to put on yourself when really you don’t need to. I liken this to finding your “soulmate” (and again some lucky people seem to find them!) But it’s a lot of pressure to put on one person. Hello, are you my soulmate? Are you perfect for me? And it’s a lot of pressure and expectation to put on yourself and the other person. Or indeed a job. Does this perfect, utopian notion of your life’s purpose exist? If you keep looking for it, will you ever find it, and are you letting other perfectly good options go by in your quest for perfection?
10. Having a job that you’re good at and enjoy and gives you reasonable remuneration (and other things) is OK. What do you want out of life? Many of us just want to pay our bills, have enough for a few nice things and perhaps a nice holiday and have a reasonably interesting, enjoyable day job. Maybe some of us would like a little challenge or excitement thrown in, or perhaps something else that’s important to us (creativity, helping, doing detailed work or whatever is important to you). If you find something that fulfils these needs, isn’t that OK? Isn’t it good, or even great?
Bottom line from me is to stop torturing yourself about finding your passion, work with what you’ve got, consider what you need and look at the world of possibilities for you. Its á la carte, not a set menu!