Thursday, February 18, 2010

What is "a calling" anyways?

I didn't mean to do back-to-back posts on this forum, but today's blog post is apt for this group. I would really appreciate your thoughts on this.

Over lunch one day a friend was telling me about Chip Conley’s book, How Great Companies Get their Mojo from Maslow. She was impressed with his philosophy of using the model for personal success and translating that to businesses. Taking it from one individual’s “peak experiences” and applying them to corporate transformation. Part of it was evaluating which slot one puts one’s professional enterprise in: a job, a career, or a calling.

I understand what a job is — it’s the oft-mundane 9-5 grunt work that pays the bills. It usually doesn’t involve passion, vision, or aspiration.

I think I also understand what a career is — it’s when you take off those blinkers at that job and chart a plan for your professional growth. It is a commitment to improving your opportunities, your salary, and provides some amount of satisfaction. In some cases, it defines who you are, what you stand for, and where you’re headed.

A calling … hmm … now that’s a word I don’t fully comprehend. According to various websites, dictionaries, and blog posts, it is work that gives you immense satisfaction. You wouldn’t necessarily even want to be paid for it. It defines for folks their “purpose” in life.

Bu what is our purpose in life? A friend told me yesterday, she thinks it’s something that stems from one’s beliefs. But how do you form your beliefs? Aren’t your beliefs based on the knowledge you have at any given point of time? And if that is so, shouldn’t they change as you grow, are exposed to new ideas, thoughts, people…? And if your beliefs change, then doesn’t your purpose in life also shift?

So, how do we say that a calling is something constant. That somehow you know this is the one and only thing you were born to do. Isn’t that really a way of saying that at this point of time in your life, given all you know about yourself and your surroundings, this is the best you can do with your talent, time, energy, and expertise? And because at this particular point of time you think this is the best use of your potential, that it gives you immense satisfaction? Ergo, this is your calling … for now.

Of course, this led to a whole new stream of questions about what potential is — both perceived and actual — and how we define time. But that’s another blog post.

I hear many people say that their work is their calling — they drop the word around so casually even though it supposedly carries so much weight … but here I am … not even sure what that word means.

I love writing. I always have. In my journey to becoming a writer, I explored many other options but wasn’t very good at any of those. Writing grounds me. It helps me grow as a person. It helps me connect. It satisfies me when I write for myself — like this blog. I don’t get paid for this, yet I do this every single day — so does it mean that this is my “calling”?

Does it also then imply that I have reached the highest point of my potential? That there really isn’t anything in this world besides writing that would give me the same satisfaction? That nothing else will come close to challenging me, uplifting me? That this is the end?

But there are so many things out there I haven’t even tried. Some things I don’t even know about, forget trying. Then how can I limit myself to one calling? How can I tell myself this is all I was born to do? Maybe there’s a host of other things I can do well and derive satisfaction from … how can I say just this is it?

Just like we’re moving away from the idea of having only one career in a lifetime, can’t we at least look at having more than one calling in life? Maybe there is something to that whole concept that needs a little revisiting …

Maybe not?

What do you think “a calling” means anyways?


Katherine Jenkins said...

Interesting that you should post this about calling. One of lessons on my blog was, "Your calling is whatever fills you with enthusiasm" And I used the Alchemist as an doesn't mean you are excited all the time, but that you feel a sense of satisfaction from whatever you are doing. I don't think it is a constant thing...I think it changes every moment. The only thing constant in life is that everything changes. My calling is whatever I am doing at this moment that feels right to me.

angelguided said...

Hi Mansi, interesting post and one that concerns me very much. I believe a calling is what you were put on this earth to do. I think it has to be something you love and are good at. Something which comes natural to you, is you defines you. Like yourself, I have always written, love it, it is my oxygen. I too become confused as I do not earn money as such from writing. I can do other things well and I wonder sometimes whether my calling is something else and whether I have a calling which involves using all these different skills. If you see my post on angel meditation with archangel Michael, I mention you can ask him to help you with your life purpose. You can have a different career, or earn money doing what you love. The point is once you know what your calling is, you will never be happy doing anything else. :)

Tony Anders said...

I dedicated a chapter to this in my book "Artisan of the Human Spirit". I will post here the opening to my essay on the subject as it speaks of what it means to me.

I always thought when someone mentioned something being his or her “calling”, it was something they were simply good at; a validation of the success of their efforts. I remember I was fielding questions of what I truly wanted to do or become; questions about what inspired me; most of this was during moments I felt unrest in my career. I was breaking away from what was expected of me. I had always leaned toward doing or saying things that gave me approval; this time, I was listening, but to a different Source. When I turned inward to listen to my heart, and I mean to really listen, I finally understood what people described as a “calling”. It is more like a call to action, a wake-up call, or a call to come home. This was the awakening of my perception of what a calling is, at least for me.
My calling is like a lighthouse in the fog, something that keeps my navigation true and me safe in traveling toward my destination. My calling is not a specific trade or activity or action, rather it is the essence of me that allows me to connect wholly to what it is I am here on earth to accomplish. It is the synchronization of my dreams, personal fulfillment, and Divine intention.

Thanks for your post Mansi!

Beth Chapman said...

Mansi you could start an entire blog dedicated to this - hint hint. One of the many ways I've made the distinction is that a 'job' is the mundane, the 'have to' do. When we're writing we are so overwhelmed with the words and images that editing and checking for typos becomes the 'job.' Everyone has 'jobs' to do. Career could be considered a strategic or focused effort to pursue a type of 'work.' A good editor can turn a 'job' into a career. A calling, ahhh my friend, a calling is none of these. I have met and consider friends people who performed the most undesirable jobs in our society. It is not a career. But the way they perform those jobs is a work of art, their caring, their love, their kindness to people. Their presence and energy that they give forth in those jobs exudes their love for life, people, the earth and themselves. I’ve often looked at them as having found their ‘calling.’ A ‘calling’ is what calls forth the breath of life that is within you, like breathing in meditation, and then you breathe out to the world and give back. A calling then, transcends the other two. It’s not so much a “what” as it is a ‘do’ or ‘be.’ In your case, your writing, at this point in your life, may be the ‘breathing out’ of your calling. Who knows, as you said, tomorrow the breathing in and out may be dance, song, or architecture? Whatever it is, the ‘job’, the ‘career’ always move within in answer to the call – breathing in who you are and then breathe out to the world.

Marla said...

I have come to believe that my calling/s are those things that I am passionate about. Just talking about them makes my heart pound and my face flush. I am excited to be a part of them. I long to participate in the journey. It is never about money. It is about passion.

marcime said...

Hi Mansi - thoughtful post - and a good question - everyone above me did a great job filling out the discussion i think.

I agree that calling changes as you change and your life circumstances change...

But it also stays the same, in that there are core bits of yourself that indeed blossom and grow - but you've had them all along...and you will always have them - that unique set matched with wherever you find yourself - is your calling, i think:)

Mansi said...

Thank you, all. While everyone has their own interpretation of what a calling is, I do realize one thing is common: it's something that comes from within, not something you search outside of yourself.

Healing Morning said...

I agree, particularly, with Marcella's wording (I agree with what everyone has said in these comments because they're all valid perspectives), in that we are born with that specific light, that specific energy thumbprint that creates that specific "something" that will be uniquely satisfying to us, and us alone.

We will stray from that specific thing out of necessity - to make a living, to experience different things & learn even more clearly that that "something" is really what we love most & burn brightly doing. I don't feel that calling has to be a money making situation, although that is the ideal and the dream we all aspire to achieve.

Many times just identifying that "unique something" and embracing it can smooth out frustrations & dissatisfaction w/ what we do daily to pay the bills. It's all a matter of perspective and choosing how to approach it all.

And finally, I believe that no matter what we do to pay the bills, if we have identified that unique something about us, it shines through and affects and complements everything we do on a daily basis. The challenge is to identify that unique something first!

~ Dawn