6 Ways to Discover Your Vocation And a Meaningful Life

As I write this, a family of squirrels meanders around my backyard. There must be a baker’s dozen of them, a few jumping from branch to branch, a few more clawing small holes in the ground, and the other half dozen hoping to outsmart the alpha squirrel, who hoards over a feeder of corn. The whole deal is quite distracting for someone with A.D.D.

Squirrel.

Anyway, this is my writing backdrop, my happy place. Something about squirrel life calms my soul. Maybe squirrels aren’t your thing, but chances are you identify with the outdoors on some level. Hunting. Camping. Running. Biking. Tree hugging.

God’s creation is a great preacher, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see. Most times I don’t, I’m ashamed to say. But every now and then, when the coffee’s brewed just right, my backyard takes me to church.

Yesterday was one of those times.

I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about my identity and purpose. Blame it on my Millennial roots or Rick Warren, but my greatest fear is punching a clock or “working for the man.” We exist for more than a paycheck. I believe that.

Even if our minds don’t believe this, our bodies do.

The most common time of the week for heart attacks is Monday morning. It’s true, Google it. Many people are engaged in meaningless work. And it’s killing us. Literally.

This brings me back to the squirrels. These furry animals do the same stuff everyday. Hide acorns. Climb trees. Play chase. They do squirrel stuff. Not one time has any squirrel ever wanted to be a bird or a wasp or even a tree. Squirrels are quite content with being squirrels, thank you.

Squirrels don’t need shrinks. They know who they are and why they’re here.

Finding your vocation is the key to a meaningful life because it answers two timeless questions: Who am I? and Why am I here?

You see, when you understand your identity and purpose, life makes sense. This is your personal vocation, the bridge between identity and purpose. Vocation destroys comparison (trying to be someone else rather than who God created you to be) and spiritual apathy (meaningless living).

How do you discover your vocation? Here are a few points to guide your journey.

1. Your vocation is who you are, not what you do.

We start here because nothing else matters if you miss this point. Your job or career is not your vocation.

For some of you this news is disappointing. I’m sorry.

For many, however, this news is liberating. A job or career doesn’t define you. Can I get an amen! How unstable are careers, right? Answer: I’m thirty-one and working on number three.

It’s very possible that your vocation happens outside of your 9–5. I call this a “side hustle.” You may call it parenting or coaching.

My vocation, in case you’re wondering, is to make things whole. Whether working as an engineering, raising a family, pastoring a church or writing, this theme is consistent.

Once you discover your vocation, you let go of this silly notion that God has only one path for your life. Your vocation determines your path, not the other way around.

2. Your vocation leaves you feeling unqualified and overwhelmed.

Your vocation will not be easy. Your vocation might leave you weeping in fetal position, drop you off at the doorsteps of a counselor’s office or some combination of the two. Regardless, it always brings you to the end of yourself.

Many people miss their vocation because they believe a meaningful life is easy. Surely it’s not this hard, right? I mean, if it’s not making me happy it can’t be from God.

Psssh.

America’s two great lovers, comfort and security, tell many lies. Anything worth having requires sacrifice. When I survey my life’s most meaningful endeavors, marriage, family, pastoring, and writing come to mind. All of these inflicted wounds on my heart, demanding a lot of time and energy. At the same time, all molded me into a better man, more empathetic and compassionate, less prideful and consumed with self.

You can have an easy life or a meaningful one, but you can’t have both.

You can have an easy life or a meaningful one, but you can’t have both.

3. Your vocation always moves the world forward and contributes to the common good.

God moves creation forward and moves people towards freedom. Your vocation will do the same.

Success and accomplishments aren’t indicators of vocation. It’s possible to be at the top of the mountain with an empty heart. More times than not, you find your vocation in the valley, in those spaces where the spotlight doesn’t shine, in those areas where hope, beauty, and justice are needed most.

4. Your vocation involves a community.

Because your vocation is a divine implanting, it will always, always involve both a receiving and a giving. “Love you neighbor as yourself,” in the words of Jesus. You can’t love your neighbor unless you love yourself. And you can’t really love yourself unless you love your neighbor.

Your vocation will inspire others, fill people with hope or release others from the chains of injustice. Your vocation is never about you, in other words.

It connects you with the world. It unites you with God’s creation, all of it. Somehow it’s all connected and it all matters.

5. You find your vocation at the intersection of what upsets you, ignites you, and gets you out of bed.

What ignites your heart and mind? What injustice or brokenness angers you? When do you feel most alive? If resources weren’t an issue, what would you do? If you had a year of life remaining, how would spend it?

When your giftedness and unique way of receiving love connects with an experience, you catch a glimpse of your vocation. And it’s beautiful. Time stands still.

Pay attention to these moments.

6. Your vocation awakens you to the power of the present.

When you live from your vocation, your heart and mind stop living in the past and future. The only moment of any significance is this moment, right now. Your vocation awakens you from your slumber, and, at last, you see the world for what it is, not what you wish it were.

You lose interest in superficial issues. When you discover your vocation, stuff like body image, accomplishments and the Kardashians have no place in your life. If superficiality really is the curse of our age, as Richard Foster says, then vocation is the antidote.

If superficiality is the curse of our age, vocation is the antidote.

If you sense there’s more to life, you’re right. You don’t have to dread Monday morning. You were created with meaning, for meaning. Once you understand who you are and whose you are, you can tap into your vocation. I pray you discover it.

Grace and peace, friends.