The World is Counting on You to Go After Your Calling

I recently read Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, a beautiful meditation on trusting our experience to guide the way to our true calling. Rather than telling your life what you intend to do with it, Palmer suggests, you must “listen for what it intends to do with you.” Reflecting on his own encounters with self-doubt, deep depression, jubilant triumphs, and unrelenting inner inquiry, he paints a portrait of a personal journey that is far from easy but repeatedly rewarding.

Vocation is defined as, “a type of work that you feel you are suited to doing and to which you give much of your time and energy.” For many, this eschews our understanding of a true calling: something that we not only feel suited to doing, but something that is worthy of our talents, values, and greater sense of purpose.

While these two terms are often used interchangeably, one’s vocation may or may not be aligned with one’s calling. In fact, it’s not uncommon to arrive at a vocation only to realize after years of selfless devotion that we’re not on the path we desire: we discover that the work we’re doing is no longer fulfilling and depletes us of our energy rather than rejuvenates our spirit. Moreover, we frequently associate vocation with a competitive salary, robust benefits, and well-earned promotions, yet the definition makes no mention of these monetary domains.

So how do we reconcile our need for financial independence, or at the very least stability, with our desire to nurture our true calling?

Somewhere along our life’s journey, we were likely told to go after our passions with all our heart; that if we do what we love, we’ll never work a day in our lives; that by simply applying ourselves, we’ll go far. So we studied hard, worked odd jobs to make ends meet, got advanced degrees, and maxed out our résumés.

During this time, our passions might have shifted, or our dreams might have been deferred. We might have told ourselves that doing what we love would come after we’d proven ourselves, worked our way up the corporate ladder, achieved a certain net worth.

It’s so easy for our vision of vocation to become muddled by societal expectations and the harsh demands we place on ourselves. Suddenly, doing what we love each day is no longer enough. We must also make a name for ourselves, rise above the competition, gain an improbably high following, have the latest and greatest technology, and meet ever-increasing productivity standards until we no longer remember why we were called here in the first place.

Our vocation needn’t also be the greatest source of stress in our lives. If it is, it’s likely not our true calling. Work is undeniably stressful. It’s exhausting, time-consuming, frustrating, demanding, and at times, disappointing. But it should also be a means of frequent joy, hope, welcome challenge, vitality, self-growth, and uncompromising abundance.

If you’re fortunate to make your livelihood by answering to your calling each day, I am continually inspired by your dedication to your craft and your courage to meet the challenges that were inevitably a part of your path.

If you feel like your life’s work is at a crossroads with your values, your passions, your deepest motivations, and your undeniable gifts, I admire you also: for your bravery in recognizing that you are worthy of more and your commitment to devote yourself to work that is not always easy, sustainable, or enjoyable.

I encourage you to keep exploring how you can tap into your higher self through your work, be it a full-time job, a part-time job, a weekend gig, or a yet unborn idea. We are told frequently and loudly that our jobs are not the be-all and end-all; that as long as we have a roof over our heads and food on our table, we should be happy. While these are certainly blessings for which we should be grateful, clinging too tightly to this persistent narrative can put us on the fast-track to selling ourselves short.

Wherever you are in your vocational pursuits — just entering the workforce, considering a career change, returning to full-time work after a sabbatical, preparing for retirement, balancing three part-time jobs, transitioning to a new role, celebrating a recent promotion — the following is offered as a guide to help you navigate the often-complex, always worthwhile course of discovering or rediscovering your authentic livelihood.

Know who you are. Understanding the type of work to which we’re not only drawn but that aligns with the mark we want to leave on the world can only be achieved by intimately understanding ourselves. If we don’t, we’ll continually bump up against values conflicts, feelings of emptiness, restlessness, guilt, and burnout. Knowing who we are (and who we’re not) is critical to knowing what we want to do and how we want to do it. We also have to be prepared to come to terms with some things we may not like about ourselves. The journey into self is incomplete if we fail to take inventory of both our light and dark sides.

Drown out the noise. There’s a lot of superfluous noise that infiltrates our perceptions of success. We’re told that owning a certain car, having a large house, and working in a lucrative field define our value. Even if you don’t believe this, the heavy weight it carries can be hard to shake. If a traditional 9-5 job doesn’t suit your taste or talents, don’t be afraid to seek one that does. If you’ve dreamed of being a doctor your whole life but are starting to realize that it’s theater, not medicine, that gets you out of bed each morning, go after it with conviction and see where it takes you. If you have a Ph.D. in physics but are certain that being a bus driver will help you tap into your gift for cultivating community, don’t rule this option out simply because it doesn’t fit your original mold. The more you try to squeeze yourself into a vocation that amplifies the voice of society and ignores your own, the more you’ll struggle to find balance, engagement, and fulfillment.

Get creative, don’t compromise. Perhaps your dream of running a wildlife sanctuary isn’t feasible, or your freelance photography gig won’t pay the bills. This doesn’t mean that you should dismiss these pursuits. Life has a funny way of bringing us back to our calling despite our attempts to ignore it. No one said that identifying what makes your heart sing was easy and seeing it through can be even harder. But we’re often presented with opportunities to incorporate our passions in other ways, ones that may not appear how we desire on the surface. Be open to letting your interests take on a different shape than you originally intended, at least temporarily. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Pay attention. How many times have you heard someone talk about there being “signs” along their vocational path?

“Numbers were never my forte, but I was afraid to let my parents down.”

“I was always sketching or doodling — on napkins, in notebooks, in newspapers. Everyone kept telling me I should sell my art, but I never listened.”

“I’d catch myself daydreaming about starting an ethical fashion line, but then I’d have to get back to studying for my real estate exam.”

These messages may seem small, but they have a monumental point to get across. When you experience them, don’t roll your eyes and shoo them away. Listen to them; hear them out; talk about them with someone who knows you well and ask for their insights. These signs aren’t random but filled with purpose and potential. Don’t wait to act on them.

Trust yourself. Believing in yourself can be incredibly hard, especially in the face of societal pressures, expectations from loved ones, competing demands, unpredictable economies, and unknown futures. But it is key to awakening to your life’s purpose. Learn to trust yourself like you do your closest confidante. Know that you have your best interests at heart and that you will make every attempt to see your dreams come to fruition. If it feels scary, keep going. If you’re uncertain, dig deeper. If you want to give up, give it one more day. You are wholly, unapologetically worth every ounce of your effort. There are countless people who will benefit from your bringing your true vocation to life. Don’t abandon that gift.

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Free Self-Care Kit

Let’s take a self-care checkup: when was the last time you listened to your favorite song? Dressed up (or down) just for kicks? Went to bed on time, stopped eating before you felt full, or reached out to an old friend?

Self-care is a vital part of our well-being, but we often neglect it in favor of working, taking care of others, or feeling plain ol’ stressed out. While it’s easy to dismiss our body’s signals when we need a time-out, doing so can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health.

If your me-time has fallen by the wayside, it’s not too late to get back on track! I created this free Self-Care Kit that’s packed with goodies to help you start tapping into all the ways you can nourish your mind, body, and soul. Here’s what’s included:

30 of my favorite self-care practices to get you started,
A weekly calendar to help track your progress, AND
3 self-care mantras to help you connect with your most open-hearted self.

Establishing a regular self-care routine can help you keep your intention on the days when you’re struggling to get out the door on time, working late, or can’t even remember what day it is. (We’ve all been there.) And if you’re hesitant to invest a little extra in y-o-u because you think it’s selfish, I’ve got news for ya: the more you learn to tend to your own needs, the more of yourself you can bring to each of your exchanges.

So let’s get started! Click the links above to download or head on over to the Freebies page to see what all the fuss is about. Then pick a practice to try today or read the mantras aloud each morning to give yourself an extra boost. And while you’re at it, share ’em with a friend!

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Pausing for Peace

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” — Saint Francis de Sales

Tomorrow, September 21, is International Peace Day. According to the United Nations, “The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.” This year the theme is “Climate Action for Peace”, drawing attention to the importance of combatting climate change as a way to protect and promote peace worldwide.

In our complex, conflict-ridden world, peace can feel like a difficult objective to attain. From our interpersonal relationships to our international politics, division and discord too often characterize our ways of being. We’re quick to recognize our differences – in our skin color, our wealth, our body shapes, our aspirations – at the expense of that which unites us – our desire to connect, to be seen, to be heard, to be valued.

We rely on our external environment to bring us the inner peace we long for, but fill our surroundings with stimuli designed to ignite our senses and make us second-guess our self-worth. When our circumstances disrupt our sense of stability, we fail to recognize that the sense of calm we seek is readily available to us simply by turning inward.

Peace is not a one-time achievement but an ongoing reflection of how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us. It is present in our words and actions from the moment we rise to the moment we lay our head down to sleep. It is not an impossible aim, but a challenge for continued growth, understanding, and engagement.

We learn to be at peace with ourselves by practicing being at peace with others: with the driver who cuts us off; with the boss we can’t ever seem to please; with the partner who has let us down. We learn to be at peace with others by finding the deep well of peace within ourselves: on a crowded train; at a family gathering; in our messy home.

This International Peace Day, practice being a vessel of peace. Seek inner calm amidst outer chaos and let your peaceful presence be a source of comfort to those around you. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Pay attention to your self-talk. Our inner dialogue largely impacts how we move through the world, even when we don’t realize it. No matter our intentions, the way we relate to ourselves speaks volumes about how we are perceived by others. Be deliberate in how you respond to yourself throughout the day, particularly when you’re tempted to be hard on yourself. Look for patterns in your self-dialogue and see if you can observe their impact on how you engage with others.

Refresh your surroundings. Consider unplugging (from your phone, computer, tablet, television) for an extended period. Go about your day free from extraneous background noise and incessant notifications. Notice the impact this has on your mood and ability to be present. For an added challenge, begin clearing away the objects that detract from your sense of peace and calm. By eliminating the excess, you enhance what’s essential for your inner self to flourish.

Engage with strangers. We don’t always have a say in whom we interact with, but we do get to choose how we do so. Experiment with treating everyone you interact with as someone you deeply care for. Make eye contact. Smile. Say thank you. Ask, “How are you?” and really mean it. Set an example for others by bringing harmony to each of your exchanges.

Get involved. In 2015, the United Nation Member States adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Ranging from world hunger and healthcare to environment and education, the Goals address the global challenges we face. Read more about them by visiting the link above and identify one or two that most resonate with you. Consider how you might shed light on them within your own community: volunteer your time, join an advocacy group, attend a rally, make a monetary donation, or commit to learning more about their prevalence and impact.

Above all, recognize that your imprint matters. Our small actions add up. When we realize that, we can better pave the way toward peace.

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Autumn Awakening

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Soon Mother Nature will reveal her spectacular palette of reds, oranges, golds, and browns while we diligently swap out our shorts and tees for cashmeres and cable knits. Restless children will return to school and shortened daylight hours will signal winter’s approach. Many will give thanks around tables of food as brilliant in color as the season herself, celebrating another year of bounty and blessings.

Autumn has long held pride of place in my heart. I can’t help but anticipate her arrival each year, like that of a close friend who knows you deeply. Her timing impeccable, it’s no accident that she shows up right between summer and winter, a salve for the oppressive heat, a cushion for the cold nights to come.

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