Dear Young Leader:
Have you found your calling?
If you’re like me, you’ve spent some time thinking about this question. And if you’re like I was a while back, you aren’t sure how to answer. You may find yourself in circumstances you’ve largely fallen into, not sure exactly how you came to be there, how you’ve been there for as long as you have, and whether you really belong. And if you’re like a lot of my coaching clients, you haven’t found a satisfactory answer to the question of what you are meant to do. You’d like to live with purpose, but you’re not sure what your specific and unique purpose is.
As someone who has worked through these questions, and as a professional who helps others discover their purpose and pursue it, let me encourage you with a little demystification. Purpose and calling are not as mysterious as we sometimes believe they are. They are with us from the beginning of our lives, and they unfold as we grow and change. The most important thing to understand about your calling is that who you are is always far more important than what you do. And what you do will never fulfill your calling by itself.
Your purpose is not specific to your professional work or any of the other roles you play. You were created with intentionality that transcends your circumstances. You were not put here simply to do anything—you were put here to be you. And you are a specialist at doing just that. In fact, you’re the only one with the necessary qualifications.
While you may be called to different roles or relationships at various points in your life, ultimately your calling is not something to do. It is someone to be. It is rooted in the person you are at your core. And here’s even better news: you don’t really have to find it. It’s already with you.
Now, even though you have been you since the day you were born, you may not be entirely sure who that person is. After all, our true selves can be easily buried under a mountain of expectations, a cloak of shame, a deluge of self-protection and second guessing and crushing self-doubt. You may have spent nearly every day of your life trying to be someone else. You may be so good at it, you actually think that person you’re trying to be really is you. You may be tremendously out of touch with your true self, and you may need some help to find her.
Let me point you in one potentially helpful direction. Chances are, you have already found your calling, and you have seen glimpses of your true self, whether you know it or not. You can find clues to it by looking back to moments in your life when you have felt fully alive.
Consider a few times when you have felt your full power as a human being made in the image of God. Your body and mind were in the same brilliant zone, working together seamlessly. You weren’t thinking about what other people thought of you. Almost electrified, you were so engrossed in what you were doing, time nearly stopped.
Maybe you were running through the grass on your front lawn. Exploring the creek on Grandma’s farm. Painting what your imagination saw, building a model airplane, writing a poem, listening to music or making it, hosting a party, helping a friend, swimming laps, preaching a sermon. Maybe you were all alone, or surrounded by people. Maybe you were very small, maybe you were two weeks younger than you are today. Perhaps you were full of joy, or your heart was at peace, or you felt a deep connection to God. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the time in your life, that zone tells you something about you. It points to the person you were made to be.
That person is you. Do you know her?
Rather than get caught up in figuring out what you should do, I encourage you to get back in touch with your true self, then to ask yourself how you can best be the person you have discovered in those “in the zone” moments. That’s what you’re here for—and let me assure you, you will never do a great job of being anyone else.
Your calling requires you to be you. And the world needs you to be you. You can do this regardless of the specific role you play. When you walk around this world, you make an impression and an impact, whether or not you do so with intention. God has claimed you so you can do the good things he planned for you long ago (Ephesians 2:10). The very best way to start is by embracing the way he created you.
So what is your calling? To be the unique person God made you to be, in growing relationship with him. To express this identity in what you do—professionally and otherwise.
To find your calling, go inward. Then get out there and be you.
Amy Simpson is an inner strength coach, a popular speaker, and the award-winning author of Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission and Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry (both InterVarsity Press). You can find her at AmySimpsonOnline.com, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @aresimpson.