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Does something deep inside whisper to you that you’re not leading the kind of life you really want to lead?
Do you feel compelled to make changes and find your calling?
You’re not alone. Many people will experience this at some point in their lives.
But how do you go about it?
Let’s start by determining what a calling is, and then dive into how to find yours.
What is a calling?
In simplest terms, it’s the pursuit that a person chooses that will bring the most meaning to their life, and will make the entire life experience fulfilling and worthwhile.
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
Many people go through life feeling rather lost. They feel that they “should” be doing something, but aren’t sure what it is.
They might feel unfulfilled with the Groundhog Day type situation that they’re living, day in and day out, but aren’t sure how to change it. Or what they really want to change in order to be happy.
A calling is the antidote to these feelings.
How to find your calling.
To help you find your calling, we’re going to explore a Japanese concept called Ikigai.
If you’re not familiar with Japanese, know that Ikigai is comprised of two words: “iki” which means “to live” and “gai” which means “reason.”
As you can see, the compound word really does mean “reason to live.” In other words, one’s life calling.
Ikigai is the point at which four essential things overlap: what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can get paid for.
Take a look at this handy Ikigai diagram to better understand:
So, to discover what your calling in life is, we’re going to ask four questions that relate to the four overlapping circles in the above diagram. Then, we’ll look further within those answers to find the common points.
Let’s go through them one by one.
What do you love to do?
What are some of the pursuits, hobbies, and interests that make you happiest? How do you feel when you take part in them?
And furthermore, do those interests correspond with things you dreamt about doing before the age of 10 or so? Can you remember why you felt so passionate about that subject back then?
When did you stop feeling passion for it? Did you actually lose your passion? Or were you continually facing resistance or even mockery from the people around you?
Would you still pursue this passion if you actually had the support – both financial and emotional – that you need?
What are you good at?
Are you aware of your greatest strengths and skills? What are you best at?
What do people often ask you to help them out with? Do people turn to you for advice in these subjects? Do you consider yourself skilled in these subjects?
To help you, why not read our article: 10 Effective Ways To Find Out What You’re Good At
What does the world need that you can offer?
Which aspects of the world as it is now make you feel the most frustrated. Do you feel that you could help these issues or situations?
Do you have the skills that the world needs to improve, even if your efforts are small and local rather than grandiose and world-shattering?
What can you be paid for, in this vein?
Are there products or services that you could be paid for that would correspond with the answers above?
Is there a job that already fits in with these categories? Or would you need to create something completely new?
Putting it all together.
The key to this exercise is to look across all of your answers and find the commonalities. Or, if those are not immediately obvious, do some even deeper thinking to asses where there is a gap and whether it could be filled.
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
Say that you love basketball, both watching and playing. Let’s also imagine that your current job involves training, managing, and motivating people. Perhaps you are frustrated by gangs or youth crime in your local area. Bring this all together and is there a way for you to earn a living by creating a place where young people can come to learn and play basketball?
Or perhaps you feel a great unease at the mounting problem of waste in the world. You happen to be quite creative and good with your hands too. And you love the beauty to be found in old things and antiques. Where might this all lead? Perhaps to a business upcycling old pieces of furniture that would have otherwise ended up in landfill and selling them in a store or online.
Of course, there may be other signs that are making themselves known to you about your life’s calling…
What are your dreams telling you?
Quite often, we’ll be subconsciously aware of our life’s calling because there are many signs and omens that reveal themselves. These can often be found in our dreams.
If you haven’t been keeping a dream journal up until now, start doing so. Upon waking, don’t even think about looking at your phone. This is the time to grab your journal and write down as many details about the dreams you had that night as possible.
Over time, reflect back upon these journal entries to see if there are any repeated symbols or patterns.
Which images or situations keep coming up?
How do you feel about them?
Then, cross-reference these signs with what you truly loved when you were a child. If your calling is something that’s been with you since childhood, chances are that this Truth has been making itself known time and time again over the course of your life.
What would you be doing if you knew your time was limited?
Alternatively, your personal calling might be a more recent thing. Some people have epiphanies or directional changes after experiencing something that shakes up their lives in a major way. Near-death experiences, health scares, and intense traumas are really good for doing this.
When we experience these things, we often ask ourselves what we would want to do with the time left to us if we knew, with complete certainty, that we only had a year or two left to live.
It might make you nervous to think about the fact that none of us ever know how much longer we’ll be around, but our inevitable mortality can be a great motivator for change in your life.
A lot of people talk about all the things they’d do if they knew their end was approaching.
They might devote themselves to animal rescue and rehabilitation, or go on a pilgrimage through India. Or any other number of things that they have put on the back burner for the sake of a regular job, or fitting in with their social circle.
So… if you are fully aware that your time is limited, what do you want to do with it?
Follow a path that’s calling you on a molecular level? Or keep maintaining the status quo?
How specific do you have to be with your calling?
You can start with a general sense of what it is you’d like to do (such as “be an entrepreneur,” or “help people who have suffered trauma”). But then you need to get specific about the path you want to take.
You can approach this by asking yourself a ton of questions about your calling or path, and then even more to determine how you’d like to go about pursuing it.
Think of it kind of like preparing a meal.
You might start off with saying “I’m aching for Italian food tonight.” Okay, but what kind? Do you want pasta or polenta? Meat or vegetarian? Tomato sauce or creamy?
Once you know exactly what you’d like to make, you write a list of the ingredients you’ll need to buy. Do you need any specific tools or equipment to prepare this stuff? Like tongs for long noodles or a grater for cheese?
Just like that, take every aspect into consideration. Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to get there.
Let’s say that you feel called to help people who have suffered trauma.
Okay, what kind of trauma? Are we talking about childhood abuse? Physical damage like experiencing a fire or a life-threatening illness? Pregnancy loss?
Be very clear about exactly the type of trauma you want to assist others to process and heal from.
Sort out what you need to make it happen.
Once you’ve established the specifics of the subject – in this example, helping people through X type of trauma – figure out what you’ll need to do in order to manifest it.
Do you want to become a licensed therapist? Determine what kind of education you’d need to get your qualifications.
Do you want to start a support group or charity? How can you secure funding for this? Who else might you need to bring on board?
What personal support will you need to follow your calling?
Is this an endeavor that can support you financially? What about if you need to go back to school or college? Do you have a spouse or partner who can help with financial stability as you’re reestablishing yourself?
What about education costs? Will you need to take out a loan to make this happen?
Do you have enough savings to cover rent/mortgage, food, etc? What about your family members? Will you need to establish child or elder care?
What about organizations or mentors who might help you get started. What external help can you get?
How will it all work in practical terms?
Will you rent an office somewhere? Or do you have a spare room in your house that you’d convert into a therapy room?
Would you like to work in a prison? Or shelter? Do you have connections in these places? Or do you need to do outreach in order to connect with the people who can help you make this calling a reality?
These are the types of questions you should ask yourself when it comes to actually living your calling once you have found it.
By being very specific about what, exactly, you’re being summoned to do, you’ll be able to move in that direction much more smoothly.
Do you really need to earn a living from your calling?
Listen, we understand that not every calling is going to pay the bills. That’s the one slight difference between your Ikigai and your calling – your calling may not always be something you can earn a living from.
The basketball-loving coach from our earlier example might not be able to have that as a job or make that a business, but if they feel so strongly about the need to get kids off the street and they enjoy bringing out the best in these youngsters, it can be considered a calling in life.
They might have to work another job to cover life’s costs, but they may offer up nearly all their free time to their love of coaching basketball. If they feel utterly compelled to do it, like they simply cannot not do it, it’s a calling.
Can your calling change as you go through life?
Of course! In fact, one key aspect of Ikigai is that this “calling” happens spontaneously.
You may experience a life-changing event that turns your entire perception of existence around.
You might have spent years absolutely flourishing as a stockbroker, but suddenly just KNOW that you need to go volunteer in a Tibetan orphanage for a while. This could happen in any direction, at any time.
Just as an example, there’s a book called The Quantum and the Lotus that was written by Matthieu Ricard and Trinh Thuan.
Ricard was a molecular biologist who had a spiritual awakening after reading some Buddhist philosophy. He left his life in a science lab to become a Buddhist Monk in Nepal, working as a translator for the Dalai Lama.
In contrast, Thuan was a Buddhist monk who became fascinated with astronomy. He left Vietnam to pursue education in California, and became an astrophysicist.
There are countless stories out there about people who have changed their lives dramatically – sometimes several times over the course of their lifetimes – to pursue what their calling was at the time.
Check in with yourself regularly to make sure that your calling is still ringing true to you. If it isn’t, make some subtle – or even major – adjustments until you’re back on track.
The great thing about forward momentum is that once you’re in motion, you can always change direction.
So, now that you have a solid idea about your life’s calling, what will you do about it?
Hopefully you’re brave enough to dive in and make these dreams a reality.
Still not sure what your calling is? Want some help to find it? Speak to a life coach today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one.
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