Calling is not just a religious thing


“The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him employment and happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve been examining the difference between leaders and managers in the light of finding your place. The process of connecting with and engaging others is filled with nuances and subtleties. We need to know who we are, what we are “called” to be and do, and what we bring to the equation. Like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, there is a place to fit, a void that is shaped just like who you are. Fortunate is the person who finds it. Frustrated are those who almost but not quite ever discover it.

The world of religious professionals has pretty much co-opted the concept of “calling” but it by no means is limited to a religious or spiritual experience. In more rigid societies, one’s calling might be predetermined by status and vocation. Your father was a tradesman so you will be, too. But most of today’s cultures are less rigid. America has always been a place where one’s birth did not predetermine one’s destiny.

No, calling is, and should be personal. Calling is the meaning and passion that drives and fulfills. It is the ease with which our innate gifts and talents find expression and response within the people with whom we are engaged. Calling is the higher purpose that drives us, that forms our core values and beliefs, and that persuades us that effort is worth it and obstacles are worthy of the cunning it will take to overcome them.

Calling means that we do nothing for very long for only the money.

Before I hear too many objections, let me assure you that money is important. We make a living by earning money, but we make a life by responding to and remaining faithful to our calling. Calling is a pursuit of values higher than money. Hint: people who pursue calling are often highly paid. Why? Because of the authenticity of their work. They can give 100% to the job not because they are paid labor but because they’ve found their place. They fit. Everything about them connects with the opportunity before them.

Calling means that we do nothing for any amount of time that runs counter to our core purpose.

It sounds altruistic and it is true that before you find the prince you have to kiss a lot of frogs, but leaders who live by and for their calling never settle into a job because it pays the bills. They can see far enough ahead that they never want to arrive at a place 40 years from now only to despair over what they’ve done…or not done… with their lives. Temporary work is never permitted to become a permanent position because the calling always beckons.

Ronald A. Heifetz, in The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World wrote that “If you find what you do each day seems to have no link to any higher purpose, you probably want to rethink what you’re doing.”

He’s right, you know. And higher purpose as stated there has nothing to do with hearing voices, having epiphanies, or seeing visions. It has everything to do with knowing who you are what you are called to do.

You cannot hope to fit in, to find your place, if you do not know at least to some degree, what drives you.

Calling means that the passion that drives us changes work into achievement and fulfillment.

Being useful is not the same as being fulfilled. It is psychologically rewarding to accomplish, but is pales in comparison to accomplishments that are consistent with your call. Peter Drucker encouraged leaders to “build only on islands of personal health and strength.” Just doing good, productive, and useful things is not enough. The need is not the call but answering the call doubtless will address needs. Put things in order and be responsible for yourself.

Finding your place requires more on your part than waiting for the door to open to that ideal position. What is necessary? Tune in next week for the answer.


Leave a Comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.