Your job (we are fond of saving) is not your calling. Bussing tables after class is a job. Working as the head chef is a calling. Sometimes, however, your job can turn into your calling.
As Caroline Beaton writes in “The Psychology of Professional Purpose: How to Follow Your Calling,” you can turn your job into your calling, “sometimes without even changing occupations.” The trick is how. And she gives some great tips. Interacting with new research by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth, Beaton shares advice that every calling-seeker should keep in mind.
1. One man’s job can be another man’s calling, and vice versa. “How you see your work is more important than the job title,” says Duckworth. For one person, working as head chef might be a mere stepping stone to their true calling while for another it’s a dream come true. Part of the uncanny magic of your calling is that its value is not measured merely by what you give back to the world, but also by how you view the work you do. When you follow your calling, you don’t just know that you’re making a difference. You feel it too.
2. “We fantasize that callings fall from the sky,” writes Beaton. “In truth, we fall into our callings over time.” This requires action. Your calling isn’t going to find itself. And since your calling stems from “intrinsic motivation,” you need to put some real sweat into developing your own interests. This should feel like “following a trail of breadcrumbs without knowing exactly where they’ll take you.” A lot of faith goes into finding your calling.
3. Following the breadcrumb trail necessarily requires ignoring other breadcrumbs. It means choosing one interest and not choosing another, which is challenging for many people (including me!). In order to give an interest an honest go, you have to ignore the other options in your life for a while. Be fair to yourself and your calling. Elect something. Say yes. Say no.
4. If picking a breadcrumb trail is too hard, compare the trails side by side. Which one looks most promising? “[Consider] the potential outcomes,” Beaton writes. “Study where other people’s interests have taken them.”
5. How do you know when your job has become a calling? When your work transcends you. Beaton says: “A calling is feeling that the work ‘has to be done.’ It connects us to something great than ourselves.” Duckworth puts it this way: “The long days and evenings of toil…the sacrifice, all this is worth it because [our] efforts pay dividends to other people.”
Start with these tips, and you might be the bricklayer described by Duckworth: “A bricklayer who one day says, ‘I am laying bricks’ might at some point become the brick layer who recognizes, ‘I am building the house of God.'”