I recently met with a young man (OK, he was in his thirties, but I’m pushing 50 so he was young to me) who is struggling in his job. He described his company as a place where ownership is building their empire on the backs of the rest of the staff; how he’s overworked, but underpaid; how he hates going to work in the morning, and how he can’t wait to get to the weekend; how it’s just not a healthy or fulfilling place to work. I asked him, “Are you looking for other work?” He told me he was, and that he had a few interviews lined up in an industry in which he’s always wanted to work.
We spent the next few minutes talking about that industry, and why he’s so interested in it. He gave me the back story on why he’s so intrigued with this field. We even discussed ways that he might be able to fast-track his way into the “dream job”. It was cool to see him move from melancholy to excitement as he discussed this potential new chapter.
But then I asked him another question that somewhat stopped him in his tracks. I asked, “So, if you had this dream job, and got to get up every day and work in the field you love, would that lead you to ultimate fulfillment?”
He looked at me like the proverbial deer in the headlights, then finally said, “No, I don’t think it would.”
I’m not sure how it all started, but somehow, we’ve been sold this bill of goods that if we just find the right job or vocation, that we’ll be satisfied, that we’ll live the fulfilled life. Well, I’ve got news for you: It ain’t true! There’s too much evidence out there (both anecdotal and quantifiable) that suggests fulfillment comes when we find and live into our calling (or purpose, mission, reason for existing…call it what you want). And if that’s true, then the follow up question is this: How does one go about finding one’s calling?
Psychologist Douglas LaBier suggests that a good place to start is to STOP thinking of ourselves. He identifies two themes of people who are living according to their purpose: 1) They aren’t pre-occupied with self-interest; and 2) they use their energies to serve something larger than themselves. The great leaders in history all lived this out: Jesus, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa. All of them were others focused, seeking to build something bigger than themselves for the benefit of others. Their vision was a better life for others, not themselves.
Now, the reality is that few if any of us will ever come close to achieving the accomplishments of those I just mentioned. But what if we took some time to move from being pre-occupied with our own benefit and comfort, and moved to seeking the good of others. What if we stopped building our own kingdom for a minute, and really considered what it would look like to build a kingdom of benefit for other people? How fulfilling would that be? How rich and satisfying would life be then?
My friend Brandon Schaefer likes to point out that when we dream about big things, it can be paralyzing when we look at the journey to get there. So, he recommends asking “What’s the next step I can take in moving toward this new reality?” And so, I’ll end this post suggesting that you take the next step by simply stopping, and ask yourself, those around you and even God, three simple yet profound questions…
- What am I being called to build?
- How am I being called to build it?
- With whom am I being called to build it?
I hope the answers start you on the road to finding your calling.