by MARION ALTIERI on SEPTEMBER 20, 2011
Ironically, finding a job can be hard–but finding your vocation, the reason you were put on the planet–that is easy.
Let’s start at the beginning. What is a vocation? In Latin, the word, voco, vocare means, “to call.” Your vocation is your calling. Your calling is a job that only you can do in the way that only you can do it. Yes, doctors have vocations. Priests, Imams, Nuns, Rabbis, too. Those are callings, definitely.
But you don’t have to be able to save a life or counsel a soul in order to have a vocation: your vocation is not necessarily tied to your education, or special training. It definitely has nothing to do with being licensed by the State.
It has everything to do with you, and the unique things that you bring to the proverbial table.
I believe, with all my heart, that everyone has a calling. There’s something that you were born to do–and no one else on all God’s green Earth can do it as well, or with the same flair–as you.
I’d always suspected that this was so: I knew that I had talents and gifts, and that I should be using them. But I wasn’t sure how to use them, or in what arena.
Then, eight years ago–I was 47 years old at the time–I was channel-surfing on a Sunday morning. Waiting to go to Mass, I had time to kill. I surfed to the local PBS station, and saw a woman speaking. She was brilliant, and brilliantly funny. A very pleasant person at whom to look. Her name was Barbara Sher, and, come to find out–she was a career counselor, and a guru of sorts.
She said something that struck me like a lightning bolt: that I had a vocation, and that it was very easy to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. (Instead of all the other frustrating junk that I’d been doing, in my effort to “make a living.”) She went on to say that she wished that every guidance counselor at every high school in the world would give the advice that she was about to expound to every 14-year-old freshman during their first week of school.
Man. That would have saved me–and millions of other lost high school students–a ton of heartache over the years.
And the advice? That I had a vocation to find.
But how to to find my vocation, ah, that was a trick, some magical, unknowable thing, I was sure.
Nah. Simple, saith Barbara Sher. In a nutshell, the first step to finding one’s vocation is to…
* THINK about the gifts and talents that you have. You know, the things that you know you do well–and that other people have confirmed over the years. No doubt friends, colleagues–even strangers–have observed you doing something and exclaimed,
“You’re a GREAT –, you should do that!” or,
“Do you realize how wonderful you are at –?”
And every time someone has said that to you–it made you think, “Huh. I am pretty good at –.”‘
But then you were stumped. OK, so what. I’m good at something. Maybe several somethings, even.
OK, so now you’ve figured out what talents you possess–and everyone, every single person on this planet, has talents. Don’t try to tell me that you don’t have talents and gifts–that’s lousy self-esteem talking. Or at least, it’s your effort to be polite–it’s not polite to brag about your talents–or so we’re taught. I hereby give you permission to cast aside that ridiculous notion, that you shouldn’t acknowledge your talents. (Not only should you acknowledge them–you should give thanks for them.)
When you look deeply into your heart, you know that God gave you special abilities when you were born.
And you may even feel guilty, or weird, because you didn’t know what to do with them until…as in my case, age 47.
Let’s dump the guilt and weird, and move on. Thinking about the fact that you didn’t use your talents in the past doesn’t change anything: but thinking about how you can use them in thefuture–now, that’s exciting! Life-giving. Affirming.
Blessing–for you, and for everyone who’s going to benefit from your talents from this minute, forth.
So, then–what’s the next step to finding your vocation?
Ah, this is the fun part!
* THINK about your passion.
What the heck is your passion? I’ll try to paraphrase what Barbara Sher said:
– Your passion is something that you love so much, that you think about it all the time.
– That your magazine subscriptions are related to the subject.
– The first websites you check, first-thing in the morning–are related to it.
– and the Big Tell–the way you know for sure that something is your passion is:
…that you’re really happy when you’re near it, or participating in it, or just observing it–and you’re miserable when you’re not.
(And why wouldn’t you want to be around something that makes you happy? Please, don’t give me that old hack that we’re not supposed to be happy on this Earth. It is not true that we’re supposed just to get through this Life, with no joy–and certainly, we’re not supposed to lovewhat we do for a living!)
That’s nonsense. Really, that doesn’t even make sense. If you’re alive, and you’re on this Earth–why would you not want to enjoy every single second of your Life–including the 40 hours that you work every week?
So now we know that the two parts of vocation are your talents and your passion.
What do you do with them? Can you make a living, actually work 40 hours a week, using this formula? What’s next?
Put them together. (Motion here, of taking left hand, and joining it with right hand.)
And BOOM! Your Talents + Your Passion = Your Vocation.
As God is my witness, it’s true. Barbara Sher is brilliant–she’s tapped into something with which people have wrestled for centuries. The minute I heard her tell her TV audience to put together our talents with our passion, I said aloud,
“I’m supposed to write about horse racing?”
And as soon as I voiced that question–within one week, the doors of opportunity began to open for me. I would not tell this to you, were it not true.
Eight years later, I’m still writing about horses and horse racing. I edit books about the same. I suspect that I’ll do this ’til I keel over at my laptop (or whatever they use when I’m 82), at a racetrack somewhere. I’d been working for years in jobs that I hated, and writing on the side just to keep myself sane.
I love writing–I need to write–and I’m passionate about horses. But I never put it together, until I heard Barbara Sher tell me that it was OK.
Yep, I was middle-aged when I figured out that my vocation involved my talents for writing and editing (things I love doing, anyway)–and my obsessive love for horses. I was middle-aged–but Grandma Moses was 85 when she started to paint.
And I figure that I have at least another 25 years to ply my trade–and so do you.
I urge you to use this very simple formula to find your own vocation, toute de suite. Time’s a-wastin’, folks. Every day that you’re not working in your vocation is a day of drudgery. Every day of workin’ your vocation is a day of adventure. Yes, you’ll be disappointed along the way. Not everyone is going to hire you/take you on/consult with you the minute you declare your vocation to be valid.
Like any other venture, it may take a while to get established. But at least you know why you’re working so hard, and for whom.
You’ll be disappointed, yep, but remember that those who don’t believe can’t take away yourconfidence in your vocation–the knowledge that you have, that you were born to do this thing. There’s nothing and no one to stop you, once you know what you’re supposed to be doing–and you set your sights on making it happen.
Nothing can stop you, but you. And that, for some people, is a problem. If you declare that you know your vocation and it fizzles out–you have no one but yourself and your own fears to blame.
But for those of you who are brave enough to step out of the spacecraft without a tether, the reward of realizing who you are far out-weigh any fears that try to take you down.
Caveat: finding your vocation also will assure that you work a lot more than a mere 40 hours a week. 40 hours is for wimps. People who know their vocations and are pursuing their dreams work upwards of 80 hours a week–because they love what they’re doing so much, they don’t want to take time to sleep.
If you want to sleep a lot–some of it from the depression that comes with not being fulfilled–then keep on doing what you’ve been doing. Just look for a job that you won’t like, any old job. That job may pay the bills–or almost.
OR try this idea on for size. Take a job that’s not necessarily your dream gig–and realize that that job is not the end of the road for you: it’s the means to an end.
Work in whatever job you have, or get, and give it your all. Your present employer deserves that you respect your present position enough to put your heart into your work.
But when you’re not at that job, if that job isn’t fulfilling your heart’s desires–then I urge you to stop for just five minutes. Take out a piece of paper, and write down your talents. Acknowledge the good things that you do well.
Then–I’ll bet you don’t even have to think about this part–think about your passion. You’ll know that you’re thinking about your passion because you’re smiling when it comes to mind.
Put those two things together, on that simple page of paper–and recognize that you have just put into place the first brick of your vocation.
Promise me–forget me, promise yourself–that you’ll take those five simple minutes to find your vocation.
Then, go back to work at your job, and smile. You know that old adage, “Smile! It’ll make them wonder what you’re up to!” In this case, what you’re up to is that you’ve found your calling, and you’re putting together the pieces to make it happen. Your talents + your passion = your vocation–and you can smile all day long, because you know that you’re finally on your way to working every day at something that not only provides your basic needs–but also fills your heart with joy.
When you’re doing what you were put here to do, everyone–not just potential clients or customers–everyone around you will benefit.
And that Truth, as they say, is guaranteed.