What is your calling? What is your purpose in life? What did you come to this world to do?
If you’re a passionate and introspective soul like me, you’ve probably asked yourself these questions before. More and more everyday we read about how we should find our purpose and pursue it throughout our lives in order to find meaning and contentment. There are even scientific studies that show that people who view their work as a calling rather than just a career or a job have a higher life and work satisfaction. So what exactly is this calling or purpose?
I’ve personally struggled with this concept for many years. Before I took on this journey of deep self-analysis and reflection, I thought ambitious goals were enough in order to feel a sense of direction. I hadn’t read much about happiness and had no clue positive psychology (the scientific study of happiness and well-being) even existed. Yet from personal experience, I knew that happiness not only derived from a present state of joy, but also from the pursuit of an objective that gave me something to aspire to. That is, until I found myself feeling empty despite my achievement of those goals.
And as I reflected on these feelings of emptiness and boredom that had arisen despite my attainments and successes I realized something. Meaning and satisfaction come from a personal investment in what we do and the intrinsic fulfillment we get from it. It has nothing to do with financial gain, social advancement, or any other type of external reward or motivation. It is about doing something that we love for the sake of doing it. Exerting our efforts and spending our time on passions that light the spark inside of us and allow us to share with the world the unique gifts we possess.
The problem was, I had no idea what all of this even meant. I had never before stopped to think about what I found intrinsically rewarding or fulfilling. Monetary gain, external validation, and boosts to my ego were pretty much the only drivers I knew. More so, I thought this “calling” meant having one passion we were born with to pursue relentlessly. I’d heard all these stories about people knowing from a very young age what they were meant to do and then dedicating their lives to doing just that. I had even witnessed that at home with my father who had always been so passionately devoted to being a lawyer. Yet, here I was, almost 30 years old and with no clue regarding this passion I was supposed to have figured out a long time ago.
So I spent some years trying to find this long-lost purpose of mine. I discovered during that time passions I had no idea I even had. Yet, I wasn’t sure how to make them into my life purpose or how to make a living out of them. I searched and searched for an answer but I just couldn’t find it. I was trying to find this one calling and a way to devote my life to pursuing it without losing other things I deeply cherished along the way. I grasped on to all these different ideas hoping to find what I was looking for there, but ended up feeling lost again. And in that process I almost drove myself to a mental breakdown.
It wasn’t until I came to understand these truths about our purpose in life that I was able to find my place in this world:
- It is not limited to one passion. Our purpose can consist of various different things that make us tick and feel alive. Pursuing our calling, therefore, does not mean we must devote our whole existence to just one thing. We can, if that is what we desire. However, for most of us, it translates into more than one realm in our lives. For instance, I’ve learned that touching the lives of others through this blog is my calling just as much as raising my son into a happy and kind human being is.
- It doesn’t need to be grandiose. We don’t need to change the world in a dramatic way or surrender our lives to something greater than us. The more we do in service of others the more fulfilled we’ll be. No doubt about that. But finding our purpose can be just as simple as finding the bliss that motivates us to wake up every morning and engage with the world that surrounds us. Not to merely exist in this life but to live it. Bringing forth our vigor and enthusiasm and inspiring those around us to do the same.
- It is not always static but can change with time. Some may have been born with a clear-cut passion they want to spend their whole lives on. However, not everyone figures out their calling early in life and certainly not everyone devotes their entire existence to it. As we grow and evolve throughout the different stages in our lives we may discover new passions and desires that shift our sense of purpose and calling. We are constantly changing and developing so there is no reason why our purpose shouldn’t. What motivates us today may not do so tomorrow.
- It doesn’t have to align with your job or career. They say we should do what we love and money will follow. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Many times there is no professional version of our pursuit or the opportunity costs of doing so are just too high. More so, the pressure of turning our purpose into a career can end up killing our passion and inspiration.
So if you find it impossible to align your career with your purpose in life don’t believe you need to give up one or the other. You can have a job or a career that provides structure to your life, stimulates your advancement, and pays enough to secure your financial freedom while still pursuing your passions on the side in whatever ways you can. Try to find joy and meaning in whatever occupation you hold, considering the amount of time and energy you invest there. But don’t let it stop you from doing what you love.
We all have a longing for rich and engaged lives that give meaning to our existence. The difference resides in how we go about accomplishing this. And that is where our purpose lies. In finding the force that keeps us moving forward with zest and zeal. Wholeheartedly and with full spirit.
We must each find our own “shine.” And then… shine on.