by Shay Gleeson
“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive.” Oprah
Each and every one of us has a purpose, a function, a meaningful reason why we are on this planet. But sadly most of us never find it, choosing not to search, listen or simply ignore it. Instead we sell ourselves short, accept our limits and other people’s expectations of us, coast through our day to day lives while engaging in meaningless activities and wasting our precious energy. Not living the life that you should be living is the greatest disservice that you can do to yourself.
Oprah tells us in her writings that her calling is to teach. A friend recently told me that his calling in his own words is “to spread a little sunshine in peoples’ lives”. My calling is to give people the tools they need to help them find their calling.
I found my purpose after a long search lasting many years. I started out in college studying the social sciences and on graduation my first job was a telephone customer care representation in an IT company. I held various IT roles, all the time picking up valuable skills but not quite knowing why I was there. I never fully committed. To my mind, it was always a stop gap to something ‘better’. The ‘better’ was something I never gave serious thought or consideration, rather it was more a feeling. How it might manifest itself or happen I gave even less thought. Maybe if I had, I might have arrived sooner. However, I always kept my options open. In hindsight, deep down I was preparing. On a practical level I was saving, keeping my overheads minimal for the day when I would need to cut the ties with full time employment. In tandem I was learning about myself, figuring out the direction I should take. I’m glad that I afforded myself the time and space to do so as had I saddled myself with responsibilities and commitments I may never have found my purpose. There was no epiphany or defining moment – rather a gradual entering into the life that I wanted to live. Only once I knew what my vocation was could my life’s work begin.
When you find your calling, you find meaning to your life. The weight of expectation by others and peers lifts off your shoulders. All that pent up pressure releases. You no longer feel you need to do the stuff that you shouldn’t be doing or living to other people’s expectations. It streamlines and simplifies your life. Overnight your anxiety levels fall. Why wouldn’t they? Imagine for the first time in your life you know exactly what you should be doing. All the anxiousness attributed to not knowing what you’re doing or where you are going in live – simply disappears. A peace of mind enters, from knowing you’re on the right path. You have true direction. Once called, you enter into your role by doing – it’s your call to action. Once doing, you move with haste and purpose and a new found motivation.
There is no one fixed path for all. Each and every one of us comes to our calling in a different way. Some have a burning talent or passion, an itch that’s got be scratched, while others arrive through the guidance and counsel of others – the help of a mentor, friend or parent.
To me it was a case of affording myself the time and space to find it. I tried many different jobs and roles and sized up many more. After quitting my full time IT job, I booked an open end ticket around the world. I spend 6 months travelling, working on farms, helping in back packer hostels and volunteering teaching. Most of the roles involved me exchanging a few hours’ help for accommodation and board. All the time, those experiences gained and people encountered were guiding and enlightening me to my future path. It was by a process of elimination that I arrived at that something that I genuinely wanted to do. On finding my vocation, I immediately knew I could add value to people’s lives. There’s no greater reward than seeing people’s lives being influenced and enriched by your actions. To me, your calling is the thing that you want to do with genuine goodness, kindness and to the best of your ability. It’s where you want to park yourself.
You start on your journey of discovery by affording yourself the time and space to explore. It can take one of two approaches. You can completely step out of your existing life as I did by quitting my job and travelling, or you can edge into your journey within your current lifestyle. For example by making use of your free time, weekends and holidays – using it to plan and explore different options. If your inclination is to explore working with the underprivileged, there are ample opportunities in your local community – all in need of desperate volunteer help. You start by reaching out and take it from there.
Choosing a more severed or blunt route as I did, requires preparation. If you’re not lucky enough to have a patron or nest egg, you need to have resources. Start a saving plan, get your funds in order. You have to make provisions – you need to eat, sleep and live. Finding your calling doesn’t need to involve personal sacrifice and hardship. Rather it’s a time of great excitement. You’re letting go of the crutches of the past and journeying into your known unknown. Remember it’s already in you, the journey is to coax it out.
Time and space is key. There are many options to be explored. Prepare to shop around, try different things. If you don’t like one thing, try another. Explore all your inclinations, hobbies and skills. Practice the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method. For example, you’ll know best if teaching is for you by actually doing it. Volunteer in your local school. You need to get solid real world experience before you know if it’s right for you.
Say yes to the things that intrigue you and try not to do something out of fear. If skydiving is your thing but yet you have a fear of heights. You’ll need to conquer your fear first or you’ll risk losing the chance of ever skydiving. You have to challenge your fears.
Keep an open mind and don’t be rigorous with plans. Plans are made to be broken. Ditch the dreams and expectations of others for you. Be greedy for your journey.
Find like minded people that are on the journey too. Talk to others, seek out advice, and ask those around you for direction. You don’t have to act on their advice but listen and evaluate. You never know, someone close to you may see something in you that you never saw within yourself. Start the conversation sooner rather than later – the journey might be long.
Spend ample time before you spend money. Don’t sign up for that $2,000/year course until you have given it the due consideration. Ask yourself is this the right course for your purpose, is it really necessary, if in doubt spend more time exploring. Don’t settle on a whim, keep trying, and keep evolving.
Don’t confuse a comfortable job and a fat pay cheque with your calling – ask yourself would you do this for free.
Don’t put a timeframe on your journey. You’ll find it when it’s ready to be found. Listen closely to your heart as it knows best – the secret to your calling is within you.
Shay Gleeson is the founder of the volunteering platform HelpStay.com. HelpStay is a community of people who like to travel and combine it with a purpose. Open to all – it makes it super easy, safe and affordable to travel and volunteer abroad.