The majority of my coaching engagements begin with me guiding a client through a business problem, usually in one of three areas: personnel, sales/marketing, or strategy. Over time, however, as I get to know my client, and they get to know me, conversations often move into more personal areas of their lives. Often, we’ll discuss topics such as right fit in their job, work-life balance, time management, burnout, etc. A common question in these “next level” discussions is, “How do I move from ‘existing’ to living an intentional life at work and at home?”
A few summers ago, I listened to a podcast by author and teacher, Terry Wardle. The title was “What’s Your Vocation?”. As an Executive Coach, the title caught my attention enough to listen. In this 15 minute podcast, Wardle explained that most of the time, people answer the question “What’s your vocation” erroneously, citing what they do to earn a paycheck. He goes on to explain that the word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocatio, which means “to call”. So, our vocation is not necessarily our job. It’s our calling, our reason for existing, our purpose. Vocation is not the same as our occupation.
Wardle goes on to explain that most people spend all their time and energy on their occupation, not really knowing what their vocation is. For some, the vocation is known, but it’s relegated to the future. The thinking is, “I’ll work, get set for retirement, and THEN I’ll do what I’m supposed to do”. But for Wardle, and others such as Simon Sinek, this way of thinking is short sighted. For those who know and prioritize their purpose, life is much richer and fuller.
One of my dearest friends lives his life this way. If you ask him, “What’s your vocation (calling)?”, he’ll say, “To teach and influence the lives of young men, to teach them how to be moral, good citizens, and well rounded. I do this using baseball as a tool”. My friend is runs a travel baseball organization. It should be noted that he spends hours each day on this vocation, and he doesn’t get paid a dime. If you ask him, “What’s your occupation?”, he’ll say “I’m a beverage salesman”. You see, my friend has intentionally orchestrated his life so that he can first live out his calling… teaching and training youth. To do so, he’s chosen a job that supports his calling. Although his work takes a significant part of his day, he knows that the schedule and the compensation it provides supports his primary focus: teaching young men how to live life well.
When I explain this to executive leaders, you can see the light go on. They often realize that what they have believed is their calling, is really just a job. This often begs the question, “How do I figure out my vocation?”
If you’re asking this question, I offer this simple exercise that will help you begin to discover what your calling or purpose may be. You can download the exercise here. And if you would like to talk about this topic, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to chat. I’d love to be of help.