Monthly Archives: March 2012

Life Callings for the Mainstream

Image

So just how “out there” is the idea of having a life calling? Is it the stuff of tea leaves and crystal balls, or is it an important factor if you are interested in consciously designing your life (and not letting life just happen to you)?

Unless you ask yourself some pretty fundamental questions about what you want to do, what you want your life to look like, and how you want to feel, you are probably going to end up with a life that is in “default” mode: You go into accounting because your dad was an accountant, or even because you like numbers – while never looking deeper at what you want your life to be or where you want to end up. And one day you realize you are miserable doing the work you are doing. But you are afraid it is too late to make a change. (Don’t worry, it’s not.)

A life calling doesn’t have to be thought of as a magical or metaphysical thing. It is quite simply something that is woven together from your passions, skills, essence, life experiences, and what you love to give to others. It can be thought of fairly scientifically with this formula, and it can be found by examining each of these pieces closely.

Now, I would be lying if I tried to pretend that I approach the subject this scientifically. I do believe that somehow in this life we are all set on a path for learning, growth and giving that influences who we are, what we experience, and what we love in order to perfectly shape and create a life that helps us grow, while at the same time enabling us to be happy. Can you believe that what you would love to do most and what you are best at is also the thing that will make you the happiest? How cool is that?

But if you just don’t believe there is something set out before you that you are supposed to accomplish, surely you can get behind the idea that doing some things will make you happier than others. Let’s compare running a business to running a life: When you run a business, if you want it to be successful, it’s not enough to do the next thing that is before you and put out fires (that is, it’s not enough to work IN your business). You need to think about your business, create a business plan, a mission and a vision, and action steps to achieving them (to be successful you’ll need to work ON your business). Same is true with life. It’s not reasonable to think you will end up with a wildly successful life (whatever your definition of that is) if you don’t have a mission and vision, action steps, and a plan.

Why wouldn’t you think about what would make you really, really happy (vision) and build on that? And if you don’t know where to start with it, why wouldn’t you start there? Why stay stuck just hoping to win the lottery, be recognized, or wishing for some other change? It ain’t gonna happen unless you make it happen. But the good news is, making it happen is completely within your power, whether you believe that your calling has been created for you or is of your own creation.

 

The Devil You Don’t: What if I have no idea what I want next?

Where do I start if I have no idea what I want next? I’ve run into this question a few times over the past several weeks. I’ve talked to a couple of people who are feeling completely overwhelmed at not only the prospect of being motivated to do something (find a new job, get out of a terrible relationship), but also of the idea of having to create whatever it is that happens next.

We are not dummies. We know when our jobs stink or our relationships need fixing or ending. But we stay stuck in bad situations out of fear. Fear of being alone, fear of not being able to pay the bills, but mostly fear of being in charge of designing what happens next. What if you have no idea what you want, but you only know it isn’t THIS?

Ah, I’m glad you asked! Fear of transitions is completely normal. Hence the expression about the devil you know and the devil you don’t. But the truth is that with a little soul searching you don’t have to face a devil you don’t know. You can figure out what you want next. It doesn’t have to be a devil you don’t know, and it doesn’t have to be a devil at all.

My experience tells me that while many people need help getting over hurdles to goals that they’ve clearly articulated and really want (without self-sabotaging emotional baggage about why you shouldn’t or can’t have it) once they are at that point, they are 85% of the way there. (OK, I completely made up that statistic, but you get my point). It’s not that the major thing that holds us back is lack of motivation, know how, and the like. It’s that we don’t know what it is we truly want.

Imagine being in the situation of hating your job. (Maybe you don’t have to imagine very hard). You know what to expect: the boss you hate, too much work that is no longer fun, and a steady pay check. The idea of finding something you love may seem impossible, frivolous, and terrifying when you don’t know where to start. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Start keeping a journal of any interactions or situations that give you a little zap of feeling alive. Was it when you were out at a nice dinner, helping someone solve a problem, or handing in a completed project? No matter how small that feeling, write it down and see if you can start to put together a theme of when you feel at your best.
  • Look at your skills. I’m not talking about the latest web technology you learned. Don’t recreate your resume. I’m talking about your innate skills. If you are great at learning web technology because you love it, then that should go on your list. Or if you want someone in your life who will appreciate your ability to listen, write it down. Chances are, you are really good at certain things because you love to do them, and if you love to do them they somehow fit into the puzzle of what is next.
  • Get some help. Whether it’s professional coaching or a good friend, having someone listen and offer another perspective can be helpful. You may gain insights into yourself that will help you write the next chapter.

It’s both scary and empowering to think that we get to choose what happens next in our lives. But if you can push into the fear of change knowing that there is hope, that you can figure out and create what you want, then hopefully that will outweigh the fear (and downright hopelessness) of staying stuck forever in a situation you hate. You are the only person with the power to make a change. Otherwise you will stay stuck in this same situation, or one equally difficult. But if you can find the courage to take a look, my guess is that you will figure it out and you’ll be too excited about the change to even have time to feel afraid.