How to Find Your True Calling: A Guide to Identifying Your Life’s Purpose

I admit it: There have been times where I was so confused about what my life’s purpose was that I actually asked Google.  I fired up my browser and typed “How to find your calling” to see if it would lead me anywhere.

Deep down I knew that it couldn’t tell me, but I imagined that it might lead me in the right direction.  Maybe if I fill out this career test… oh wait I have to register to see my results.  Maybe if I read this story about this person who found their true calling… oh wait it’s an ad for purchasing their eBook.  Maybe if I rephrase the question in the search box… I’ll dance around the issue all night.

Admittedly, searching for answers online is much simpler than soul-searching.  Maybe that’s why you’re here reading what I have to say at all. Trust me, I’ve been there — so I understand if you’re just quickly skimming this article looking for an answer.

Quite simply, there are two worlds:

  1. What you do for a living, and
  2. What you were born to do.

I believe that in most cases, they’re radically different, and seemingly impossible to connect.

What you do for a living is the safe option.  It’s comfortable, it’s what you know, it’s what you’ve done for years.  Perhaps most significantly, it can’t be all that horrible, because you’re still doing it.

What you were born to do is the frightening option.  It’s uncertain, it’s what you enjoy, but is there any money in it?  What if it doesn’t work out?  You’ll have traded in your safe career for a silly dream that never came to fruition, and then what?  Come crawling back to reality, shamefully admitting that your entrepreneurial venture was a bust?  No thanks — I’d hate to be a failure.

This uncertainty, this fear of the unknown scares us to the point of paralysis.  We don’t take action because we don’t want to fail at what we love to do.

I’ve recently felt, though, that the alternative is much worse.  Doing only what you have to do for a living, to make ends meet, day after day with no outlet for what you were born to do wears on you more and more as time passes.  You become increasingly unhappy.

I recently read a book by Jim Manton called “The Secret of Transitions: How to Move Effortlessly to Higher Levels of Success.”  In it Manton discusses how happiness requires purpose.  I couldn’t agree more.

It’s a good book as far as self-help books go, and I want to share one paragraph in particular that really spoke to me.  It’s on the subject of passion:

When I am _____, I feel most alive.  Everything is acting in concert–mind, body, heart and spirit.  I am here.  I can feel my heart beat.  I can feel the sensation of energy flowing into my core as I draw in a breath.  I see, hear and feel.  I notice that my only emotion is one of gratitude.  I love being alive.

I left out what Manton’s passion is in the quote above, because I feel like it’s better to leave the empty space for you to fill in.  What Manton wrote, or what I might write, or what anyone else might use to fill in that blank space is unimportant.  I want you to focus instead on the feeling that he describes.

What makes you feel most alive?  What’s something you do that makes you feel like everything is right in the world?

Say it out loud.  Say it louder.  Say it again and again with pride.  If you’re smiling, you’re on the right track.  If you can’t stop smiling, you’ve hit your target.  And if you’re crying, you’ve found your true calling.

Whether you’ve already found what it is that you were born to do, or if you’re just starting to take steps towards embracing your true calling, I’m thankful that you’re here.  Writing is my true calling, and without readers like you I’d feel like there was nothing worth writing about.  Thank you for helping to fulfill my life’s purpose — now tell me about yours!

(If you want to read more about Manton’s Transitions, see the Book Review I wrote for The Daily Leap)

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6 Responses to “How to Find Your True Calling: A Guide to Identifying Your Life’s Purpose”

#1 Jillian on 07, Jan, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Hi Shaun, thanks so much for this post. I found Life Reboot a few months ago when I was feeling quite lost and disenchanted with my career in corporate communications. I identified with many things you said in your previous articles and they helped me find the courage to explore other career options.

It would be a career-limiting move to say this on my own blog, but a funny thing happened while I was looking at other things–I was contacted for an interview for a dream job in my current field. It was something I had no idea existed in my city or that I would have a shot at at this point in my career. I transferred all my energy and focus to making something out of this opportunity. I got through all the interviews…and I didn’t get the job.

Disappointing as that was, I realized that it’s just my current job that has me feeling so out of sorts. I am still excited about the career path I chose for myself seven years ago. Is it my passion though? No. I think the work I am in neatly packages up little samplers of things that make me feel alive–the chance to be a leader, to write/communicate, do creative problem solving and provide consultation and advice to clients. I can do those things in other jobs/careers but the quantity of those ingredients in my happiness mix would look different in each choice. I know what I want and I am open to it looking different from what I have now. I’m hoping my preparedness and open mind meets the right opportunity very soon because spending eight hours a day at a desk feeling frustrated is exhausting.

#2 Clint Cora Motivational Speaker on 10, Jan, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Great article about true calling. I always say, there’s a big difference about what you ‘can’ do and what you ‘want’ to do.

#3 Jerry Personal Growth Resources on 06, Feb, 2011 at 9:38 am

Regarding finding life purpose, I think what holds people back the most is a subconscious fear of getting to know themselves intimately. Self-reflection is difficult for those who aren’t sure they’ll like what they see inside, so they focus outside on material stuff and the latest buzz.

I like this technique for finding life purpose – Imagine you’ve died and you’re invisible but present at your wake. What are people privately saying about you? What legacy have you left? Not the public statements, what they’re thinking about you and whispering about you. Is this the way you want to be remembered? Are you living your life in a way that will cause people to think of you the way you’d want them to?

#4 Jay on 08, Feb, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Thanks for this post, keep writing.

#5 Lulle on 16, Jan, 2012 at 7:47 am

Thank you for writing the quote by Jim Manton. Every single word in it relate exactly to how I am feeling, when I am walking somewhere in the magnificent Scottish landscape. I totally feel at one with the beauty around me… I feel alive and simply just happy.

I smiled, I couldn’t stop smiling and then I started crying because of the deep longing I have to live my life there.
What prevents me from making it a reality, you would say! Well, complete lack of financial opportunity first and foremost, middle-aged and in poor health, no real qualifications in any line of work so would have difficulty finding a job. Old pets who probably won’t be able to make the move….. etc.

Excuses, just bad excuses you would say! Well, then tell me what to do and how to make my dream come true because I don’t know.
I am stuck in a daily routine, that has never had anything to do with what I can imagine could be my calling.
I would love to write, to study, to live on a plot of land with sheep and make a living from working the wool.
I would love to work with flowers and plants… most of all I would love to live in that country I love more than any other place on this planet.

The reality will probably never change because I simply don’t know what to do or how to do it… everything requires money that I haven’t got. I need ideas, self-confidence that I too am worth a wonderful life… I need help but have no money to pay for coaching, so I am stuck and can’t see a way out of the darkness.

But I would love to live my calling.

#6 Ayush on 29, Sep, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Well, to be truthful I found this article of yours while I was googling about ‘my true calling’. I thought I am stupid to do that but still was hopeful. I really have not been able to figure out my true calling but this article of yours surely has given me an insight of how I really should start looking. Still I would be really thankful if you can suggest me something regarding this pursuit. Thanks.

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