How to discover and live your calling

Wisdom from ‘The Art of Work’ by Jeff Goins

As someone on a mission to live a more purposeful and rewarding life, I read ‘The Art of Work’ by Jeff Goins with interest. Jeff believes that we each have a calling in life, which should be of benefit to ourselves and others. This calling is our life’s work and won’t truly be answered until the day we die. But there’s no time like the present to get on track. Here I’ll share some of the wisdom from the book, and hope it is of benefit.

Your life is already calling you

We can all get hung up on ideas of the fancy things we deem worthy of the title of a calling. I could be called to become the yoga guru who brings joy to the masses, the minimalist who finally triumphs over consumerism or the chef who convinces every single person to eat only local wholesome foods. However, when thinking on such a grand scale it’s pretty easy to deter yourself through overwhelm at the outset. Jeff provides practical exercises to help us gather insight.

“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am” Parker Palmer

The clues to our calling are already all around and within us, just waiting to be identified. Jeff asks us to read our lives; to reflect on the peaks and difficult times and note the lessons within them.  What means a lot to you? What hobbies have you kept up over the years? These clues to our strengths and passions may point in the direction of our respective callings.

“You don’t ‘just know’ what your calling is. You must listen for clues along the way, discovering what your life can tell you. Awareness comes with practice.” 

Your calling evolves over time

Understand that every moment of your life is part of your calling. Don’t worry about so-called mistakes or even having a lack of direction. When you live consciously, and believe that your life matters, you will constantly be building a life you can be proud of. Then one day, you can look back and know you did what you were called do.

“You don’t need a specific address to begin…You can always change direction once you get in the car”

Think of your life as a story, but don’t get so lost in the thinking that you forget to act. It is only with action that your story gets interesting!

Don’t let fear quieten the call

We can be deterred from following our calling because we are scared it will turn out badly. Perhaps changing career will reduce our salary or make us look unreliable to future employers so we stay in a job we hate. The tendency to stick with the devil you know is a decision made from fear. As Jeff notes, “we want the journey to be safe. We want it drawn out for us – no surprises or setbacks, just a clear beginning and end. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the process usually works.” Instead Jeff encourages us to,

“lean in, realising that failure is inevitable, but it’s also not a legitimate obstacle. We can keep moving, albeit sometimes in a different direction.”

Jeff wants us to be aware, to have faith and to get busy. Fear can do so much to keep us trapped in the status quo, but I have found that an unwanted status quo is a place of depression. Feel empowered to recognise that you are either preparing for a new journey or happy with the journey you are on. Do not feel pressured to change course or feel bad about your life because it doesn’t feel grand enough to be a calling. You may be living your purpose in exactly what you are doing and there is wonder in this. Just be aware.

If you are embarking on a new journey and making changes, know that hardship brings many opportunities to learn and there are many people around who are there to support you through it. My hand is raised for this role-just leave a comment!

Stay the course

So what happens if you are living a successful life but feel unsatisfied? “You have to pay attention to passion and beware of the temptation of success.” If the life you are living does not bring you joy or feel purposeful, yet you are making good money and ticking certain societal boxes, break out. Do the awareness exercises and take steps towards a life that brings you joy and purpose.

If you have already reached your goal in life but are starting to feel flat, Jeff advises that you take action. A personal favourite quote of mine from the book reads;

“Anything less than proactivity is a cheap imitation of the life you were meant to live” 

Every action brings a reaction so the more you do, the more you invite into your life. Open the door to opportunity.

The art of a life well-lived

We don’t know what the future holds but if we live in awareness and believe that what we do is of importance, we will end up somewhere we are proud to be. If you learn at every step, you build an arsenal of skills, strengths and experience with which to attack any problem and thrive at life. Because in the end, “Your calling is not your job, it’s your entire life.”. The Art of Work is, in the end, the art of living.

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