“It’s 7:21, traffic and weather on the ones. Here’s Jeff.” That was the announcement I listened to every morning on my drive to work, along with muted horns of city drivers honking at suburbanites brave enough to bring their cars downtown. It was my soundtrack of sorts. Maybe for you, it’s the melodic three-note chimes sounding off as the doors close on the train. Or if you’re cooler than me, it’s the bass and high hats of trap music bumping through your ear buds. Whatever you routinely listen to, if you’re commuting to a job you’re not passionate about, the noise won’t be loud enough to drown out the morning mix of anxiety and dread playing in the pit of your stomach.
I finally turned everything off and listened to my gut two years ago when I left a senior-level position at a nonprofit helping families with disabilities. It was gratifying work and I liked what I did, but I wasn’t fulfilled. The artistic part of me needed a creative outlet. So when the time came, as it did every year, to renew my contract…I didn’t. I decided, instead, to start on a new road towards my calling as a writer and online entrepreneur.
To get there, I focused on 3 key areas.
Your strengths are your best assets. Unfortunately many of us often overlook them and spend way too much time trying to fix our weaknesses. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg focused on his appearance and said to himself, “Screw starting Facebook! If I just spend my life at the gym and inhale tons of creatine powder, I know I can look like Terry Crews.” Can we say, missed opportunity? The judicious approach is to identify what you’re naturally good at and eventually master it through the work you do. It could be anything from public speaking to connecting people to strategizing to technology. Contemplate all the things you’re capable of, paying close attention to the skills that come easily to you. Those are the unique strengths you’ll want to flex.
What are your interests? On the surface this seems like a simple question, but with the daily grind of errands and obligations, many of us have lost touch with the answer. I certainly did. After working in the same career for so long, it took me a while to connect with what I was truly passionate about. So I began to imagine how I’d spend my time if I never had to work or think about money. You can start there too. Also think about any hobbies you have or activities you do that light you up. You can even think back to what you always loved doing when you were a kid and use that as a jumping off point (hint: your love of watching TV doesn’t count).
This is the secret sauce to finding your calling. When it comes to your life’s work, keep in mind it ain’t just about you. It’s also about how you can be of service to someone else. I’m not saying you have to become the next Desmond Tutu. Your contribution doesn’t need to go global. I’m simply suggesting you think about how you can help or positively impact another person (outside your family) through your business or your 9-to-5.
My quest to find out what I really wanted to do with my life wasn’t without bumps in the road. However, focusing on my strengths, interests and contribution not only helped me create a meaningful role for myself, it also gave me clarity on who I want to be in this world. That’s what a calling is. It’s work that allows you to intersect what you do with a greater purpose. As notable author and theologian Frederick Buechner puts it, “Your vocation in life comes from where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”
If you ever decide to pursue your calling, remember to you stop listening to the noise around you and start heeding what your heart tells you. When you do, you’ll quickly discover that you no longer have to stay stuck in a long commute and an unfulfilled life.