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5 Things to Know About Callings

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5 Things to Know About Callings

I’ve been questioning and exploring my life purpose for years: why am I really here? Who and how am I being called to be? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? In what ways am I supposed to be serving others?

These are big, important questions so I often find myself grasping for or demanding quick answers so I can get on with it. But our deepest callings and our true life purpose may take years to emerge. Each little calling we hear along the way is pulling us forward, preparing us for the next calling and then the next. I have found that understanding the topic of callings has presented a challenge for myself and some of my clients. What is a calling? How do we know when we are being called? How do we know if something is a true calling or just a whim? What if we don’t want to pursue a calling? The whole idea of finding your calling, let alone pursuing it, can feel overwhelming. In this post, I attempt to simplify it enough to get you started and share five things you need to know right now. 

1. Callings reveal the need for some kind of change in our life.

Gregg Levoy wrote in his book, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, that the purpose of calls is to summon us away from our daily grind to a new level of awareness. They signal that there is something we need to learn and/or something we need to change about what we are doing, how we are being, or the direction we are heading in our life. Callings are not just limited to our career or profession. The very nature of a calling is to call us forward in our personal and spiritual growth and to aide us in our progression and evolution toward our highest potential. Levoy wrote that callings can be big or small, and may invite us to move toward something or away from something. I’ve received many callings over the years, including some of the more “traditional” types of callings such as changing or leaving jobs, going back to school, starting a family, becoming a life coach, starting my own business, and moving to a new state. I’ve also received many calls that have invited me away from limiting, fear-based behaviors, toward more wholehearted behaviors that support my personal and spiritual growth. I’ve been called away from busyness and distraction toward presence. From striving for achievement to focusing on heart-centered action. From demanding perfection and control toward letting go and trusting the flow of life. From people pleasing toward devotion to my own needs. I’ve been called to move away from self-criticism, self-judgment, and self-sabotage, toward self-forgiveness, self-compassion, and self-love. 

2. When a calling is trying to get your attention, you’ll receive signs from a variety of sources in a variety of ways.

I have received clues to my calls during meditation, while out on a walk, while immersed in nature, while reading, in my dreams and daydreams, in messages from people, from ideas that come in a moment of stillness, and by paying attention to my longings, desires, and even my fears. When we are open to noticing the clues, part of us perks up and invites us to pay attention so we can connect the dots. I have found it very helpful to keep track of the signs and synchronicities in my journal. Over time, I can review what I’ve written and see the patterns and themes that keep showing up. When I see on paper how frequently a particular topic or need has emerged, I know I’m on the right path. 

3. Callings may become apparent in an instant, but more likely they will take months, years, or decades to emerge.

Sometimes we’ll hear whispers in our heart or will experience feelings that we can’t explain long before we know we are being called. I remember feelings starting to emerge almost ten full years before I understood that I needed to make some pretty significant life changes. The bigger and more important a calling is, the longer it may take for you to become clear on what you are being called to do. We may have some more work to do or some preparation we need to do complete before we’re ready to tackle our biggest calls. And those biggest callings may unfold slowly over the span of our entire life. We need to be patient and allow this natural unfolding. If we get in too big of a hurry, we may find that we’ve misunderstood our call and have pursued the wrong path. 

4. If a calling is truly ours, we will feel something stirring deep inside.

There will be a deep desire or longing in our heart and we may feel full of energy or enthusiasm. Some callings will not only generate excitement, but will also stir up great anxiety or fear. We’ll feel a deep longing to pursue the call, and a strong desire to avoid it altogether. The bigger or more important a calling is, the more we may want to run and hide in the safety of our comfort zone. But we have to be willing to leave our comfort zone in order to evolve into our highest potential. Our callings will shake us up and disrupt our status quo. There will be discomfort and challenge and we will surely experience growing pains. We need to trust that everything will work out in the end and be open to our life changing in unimaginable ways. 

5. We get to decide whether or not to act on a calling.

We can say yes and begin taking action, or we can say no and choose to ignore it. Both choices will require sacrifice. Both will have consequences. The consequences of saying yes may be discomfort and uncertainty in the short-term, but we are almost sure to experience joy and fulfillment in the long-run. The consequences of saying no may be relief and safety in the short-term, but could be confusion, chaos, and even despair in the long-run. Even though we can choose not to pursue them, our most important callings will continue to tug at our heart until we heed them. My experiences with avoiding or saying no to a calling have led to confusion, bewilderment, restlessness, agitation, and despair. But each time I have chosen to follow a call, I have become stronger, more courageous, more genuine, and have moved further along in my growth process.

We will be invited to participate in a variety of calls over the course of our lives. Some will feel easier than others. Some will be downright terrifying. Sometimes we’ll say ‘yes,’ sometimes we’ll say ‘no,’ and sometimes we’ll say, ‘not yet.’ Each time we say yes, we’ll stretch more, grow more, and move that much closer to evolving to our highest potential. My hope for you is that you be open, be curious, and be willing to explore the possibilities of your calls. 

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