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How to find your calling: 5 ways to discover what you were born to do

The Oxford dictionary defines ‘calling’ as a strong desire or feeling of duty to do a particular job, especially one in which you help other people.

According to Richard Leider who has written extensively on the subject,

You know when you’ve found your calling; it’s when you enjoy your work so much that you forget what’s going on around you. Your calling is something you can do for hours on end without being pushed or getting bored. The incentive to do the job comes from within you.

You can’t hear your calling?

The lucky ones are those who at 5 years old know exactly what they’re going to be when they grow up, and they do it. Whether that’s being a builder, a designer, or a dentist – they JUST KNOW!

Others have a calling but keep it suppressed through fear of what people might say, or family pressures.

For the rest, there is just silence!

If you have never felt strongly drawn towards a particular career, firstly, this is quite normal. So many people have no idea what they want to do. Secondly, there are ways you can tune into your calling and make it loud and clear.

“If one always looked to the skies, one would end up with wings.”

Gustave Flaubert

How did I find my calling?

I acted on my calling twice, and although I cannot express with specific words how I felt each time, I can testify that it felt right.

My first calling was in 2006. I started working in Human Resources within the Aviation sector and then the Charity sector, and was supporting organisations and their people. I created meaningful and lasting relationships, and still do.

I ignored the negative comments towards my decision to work in that field and followed my heart. 

At the time I did not know it was called ‘a calling’ but it felt right to move towards that direction. I was using my strengths, I was enjoying my work and was happy.

My second calling came later on. I was still working within HR but the coaching part of HR really appealed to me. I took several courses, got qualified and now living my dream, and helping others find their calling.

Help your career calling find you

If you’re longing for that “this is EXACTLY what I was meant to do in life!” feeling, don’t despair. Finding your passion is a journey where you collect clues along the way, and I have some exercises to start you off.  It will require introspection, digging into your memory, and being open about your feelings.

Firstly, it’s a good idea to keep a record. Use a brand new notebook, and start by asking yourself the questions below. Finding your calling is all about looking for clues…

Looking for clues in your history

Do some time travelling and think of all the times you felt good whilst doing something, in or outside of work. Think through:

  • All of your previous jobs, whether they lasted 1 day or 10 years
  • Summer jobs
  • Internships
  • Side projects
  • Community activities
  • Voluntary work
  • Hobbies and leisure activities
  • Jobs or activities you did while travelling

Pick several experiences that you feel are important to mention. Write down what made the experience memorable – the more specific you can be the better.

Highlight the times you felt inspired, interested, useful, connected, in the flow, excited, alive, strong, energised.

Note the times when you made a positive impact on others, and also when you felt inspired by those around you.

Clues in your energy

Q: What things do you do where your energy comes naturally and in abundance, when self-motivation comes easily? 

For example, for some, the thought of organising the kitchen cupboards is a nightmare, while others leap at it.

Clues in your interactions with others

Q: What topics of conversation make you come alive?

Q: What do people praise you for?

Uncovering your natural gifts

It can be easy to overlook your innate gifts and talents. These aren’t just the obvious things like being a great dancer, or a whizz at mathematics.

For example in my case, I’m a natural listener. I love listening to others so they can feel heard and understood. They know that I’m not judging them but truly listening to their particular issue and helping them resolve it.

Go back over your list of memorable activities. What were you doing well at the time, in a way that came naturally to you?

Here is a list to get you started. For more, see Richard Leider’s Calling Cards.

  • Organising things
  • Facilitating change
  • Analysing information
  • Giving care
  • Researching things
  • Developing relationships
  • Building things
  • Listening
  • Guiding people
  • Bringing joy

  • Getting participation
  • Creating trust
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Fixing things
  • Making connections
  • Teaching
  • Designing
  • Performing
  • Creating structure
  • Seeing the bigger picture

Look for the commonalities and the words you feel drawn to. Which ones bring you joy and happiness? What do people come to you for?

By finding the common threads, you can discover talents you never knew you had.

Be aware of your values

Following your values will help you align with your calling. Do you know what your top values are, in order of priority?

Values are your ultimate ideals, or the qualities of life you want for yourself and the world, that are the most important to you. These could be things like kindness, self-expression, empowerment, beauty, learning, simplicity, community, fun, etc. 

From your experiences listed before, try to uncover the top 5 to 8 values that matter the most to you. You can base this on how strongly you feel about them and that most represent who you are. 

Explore whether or not you act on those values, and how they influence how you think and how you make decisions in general.

By the way, working with a qualified coach can help you get really specific about your values in order to make long-term career decisions.

Taking it forward

With some introspection around your work history, interests, talents and values you should start to see clues that point you in the right direction towards your calling.

Our calling can only be heard if we are exposed to it. A future ballet dancer hears his calling only after seeing a ballet for the first time. If he hadn’t seen the ballet, he wouldn’t have heard his calling. 

So take your clues forward as you follow your curiosity and open yourself up to new experiences and ideas.

Start your journey towards your true calling in life

To recap, your calling is something that uses your natural gifts, combined with what you love doing (they’re not always the same thing) and what’s important to you.

Your calling cannot be forced, but you can set yourself up for it to come more easily. And by the way, your calling can come at any age – 5, 55 or 75!

By listening to your heart, staying aware of your values and following your curiosity, your calling will find you.

Photo: @ketut-subiyanto

Sylvia Nicolas
Verified Coach
Verified for professional standards and commitment to clients. Read more Close

Sylvia is an ICF Certified coach who can help you find a new career path and develop your potential as a leader. Email sylvia@snhumanresourcesconsulting.com to find out more or book a free consultation with Sylvia right now.

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