Turn Your Job into Your Calling

I like my day job.

Is it my “calling”?

No.

I worked in a career for almost 30 years that I felt was in response to a calling. Was it, really? In retrospect, I don’t think so.

Since then, I’ve struggled in soul-deadening jobs that had no sense of calling to them. I did what I had to do to pay the bills. Away from work, I spent entirely too much time deadening what was left of my soul with a myriad of distractions, including, but not limited to, copious amounts of alcohol.

I don’t know about you, but I need meaning. I require a sense of purpose. Without them, without an overarching narrative to give a larger context to the frequently monotonous, day-to-day, rushing-here-and-there experience of life, I lose my way. I lose the energy it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Many times I thought of my life in terms of the Biblical figure Moses, who went from living in the Pharaoh's palace to tending sheep on the backside of the desert. Or the ancient Hebrews, wandering for 40 years in the desert on their way from Egypt to Israel.

An Epiphany.

I didn’t encounter a burning bush, but I did have a quiet epiphany: my job is not my calling. My calling is quiet, subtle, but vastly important.

My calling is to positively impact the life of everyone I encounter. My calling is, in fact, to live for others. Every day. Wherever I am.

No, I don’t expect to deliver my people, or change the world, or even see results from what I’ve done.

I don’t have any expectations at all; I don’t need them.

All my calling requires of me is self-cultivation — in my private hours become the best me I can be — and showing up for others with awareness and openness.

“The deepest vocational question is not “What ought I to do with my life?” It is the more elemental and demanding ‘Who am I? What is my nature?’” -Parker J. Palmer

My potential impact flows out of who I am, not what I know or what I say.

You’re Already Doing It.

Who you are is already impacting the people around you.

Want to make a difference? Focus your attention outward.

Be fully present.

Listen.

Don’t try to make an impact. The moment you try to make an impact, you’re calling attention away from the concerns of the other person and focusing it back on yourself. Whatever your response — if a response is necessary (and it usually isn’t) — let it flow spontaneously from your deep listening presence.

5 Quick Tips to Get You Started

  1. You have something to offer.

Again, Parker J. Palmer:

“Our strongest gifts are usually those we are barely aware of possessing. They are a part of our God-given nature, with us from the moment we drew first breath, and we are no more conscious of having them them than we are of breathing.”

2. Someone needs what you have to offer.

Every individual you come in contact with potentially needs your quiet, listening presence.

Your co-workers, your boss, the grocery check-out clerk, the person at the fast-food drive-thru. Mere seconds of awareness and openness can provide a powerful impact, even of the only words you speak are “Thank you”, or “I’d like a small order of fries, please”.

3. Be Intentional.

You’re going to have an impact on others whether you plan to or not. Making your work your calling, however, is all about intentionality.

Write it on an index card, put a sticky note on your computer screen, set a reminder on your phone; whatever works for you, call the word Impact to your awareness throughout the day.

4. Be Consistent.

A calling is something that motivates us regardless of circumstance or mood.

There are days when word “busy” doesn’t begin to describe your day.

There are days when you just don’t feel like “people-ing”.

There are days when anger, or sadness, or the desire to hibernate, or any of a myriad of human emotions will cloud your desire, and drive you inward to focus on yourself. Some days it take a massive effort to get outside your own head and be present for others.

It’s the consistency of your impact, however, that brings the most benefit to the people around you.

5. Let go of the results.

Face it: in most cases you’ll never know how, or to what extent, you’ve had an impact. Not being able to point to an award, a photo, a certificate, or a line on a resume to show that we actually did something battles against the desire to be “solutions-focused”.

Having an impact isn’t about saving the world, it’s about planting seeds. There’s a Chinese proverb that says,

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

So, get out there and start planting.

Call to Action

How will you turn your job into your calling? If you’ve found your calling within an otherwise unfulfilling job, what steps did you take? Living out your calling is something you do everyday; I’d love to hear your stories! Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @JaySteelmon!

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