Have you had a nagging feeling that beckons you to do something – such as write a book that’s been inside of you, start an organization built around something you care deeply about, or leave your job to start your own business?
We all have callings, sometimes multiple callings, throughout our lives. Our callings surface over and over again, sometimes in obscure ways or in areas that we have ignored, until we listen.
When you act on your calling, you get a deep sense of peace and an overwhelming feeling of personal satisfaction.
You will find that you are just one piece of a larger puzzle, and that your impact will felt by more than just you.
That certainly has been true for me in following callings to write a book and chapter about issues that were important to me, start an organization for a cause I felt strongly about, adopt an older child, and move across country to step up in my career. Every time I have acted on a calling, my soul has been nourished. And each calling has taken courage to stretch beyond comfort, to grow into a new aspect of my life.
Each person’s calling is unique and distinctive and in alliance with our personality and talents. My professional callings have focused on international development and peacebuilding. I worked in Washington, DC for three years in the early 1980’s in international development and felt I was really living my purpose. Being at the center of policy making, I had access to extraordinary leaders and my work was making a difference in people’s lives in ways that mattered to me. It was a peak work experience.
Then life and love called me back to my home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Though I had a family now and enjoyed my life there, the urge to return to DC kept resurfacing. Each time, I dismissed it. It was so easy to justify ignoring the urge to leave the Bay Area, especially when I thought about how much would be involved to move a whole family across country. Yet the urge kept growing, and I knew at some point I would need to return to complete something that was very important to me.
When President Obama won the election, I immediately knew it was time to return. My 16 year old son embraced the idea of finishing high school in Maryland and my husband worked out the details of running his business from there. We looked at this as a family adventure. We packed up, rented our home, found a great rental in the DC area, and moved across country, even though I didn’t have a job.
When I listened to my calling this time, I trusted that everything would work out. It has, and has opened me up to new opportunities I never thought possible. We are now fully engaged in life here, enjoying the culture, history and vibrancy of this area, and so grateful that we have this opportunity to deeply experience a new environment.
There are many ways to access callings.
Callings come from deep within. Intuition and instincts that won’t go away are powerful cues. For me, a strong feeling or inner voice gets my attention by interrupting my train of thought. Often my heart starts pounding and sometimes my throat gets dry as I am called out of the comfortable and “normal” into something bigger. The heart pounding and dry mouth go away when I listen.
One of the books I love on callings is How to Find Your Calling in Life by Althea DeBrule. Here are some tips she offers:
- List your lifelong hopes and dreams.
- Review the things, people, causes or situations that have brought you joy, satisfaction and meaning.
- List the memorable moments that have thus far shaped your life.
- Identify the area(s) where you would like to see your life make a difference, and for what you would like to be remembered.
Calling or illusion: it’s not always easy to discern!
We often get pulled by things that look good, and yes, it can be difficult to differentiate at times. It helps to give yourself space and time to ensure the calling comes from within. When I feel a calling, I take time to let it sink in, to “try it on,” to see how I feel either yes or no.
Even when the calling is scary, I feel a sense of excitement – a positive energy — when I think of accepting the call. If it doesn’t feel right, I let it go for awhile and then revisit it. If I find myself continually thinking about it and the voice keeps returning, I pay attention. If I feel a sense of relief that I decided not to move forward, this is often a sign it wasn’t right (or sometimes it can be so scary you aren’t ready).
But everyone’s signals are different! I encourage you to take your best steps and listen to what is calling you, then act upon it. Ask for support from a friend if needed. Your life will open up and be blessed.