Just wanted to give you heads up that you’ve got a stalker. But don’t get too worried – I can assure you, it’s completely benevolent. Who or what is it, you might ask? It’s your calling. And it’s going to politely and lovingly follow you until you decide to engage with it. No restraining orders necessary, metaphoric or otherwise.
So what exactly is a calling, you might be wondering? I personally like the way Dr. Martin Seligman, commonly known as the founder of Positive Psychology, explains it in his book “Authentic Happiness.” The gist of it goes something like this: A job is something you do solely for a paycheck. A career has a deeper level of personal investment, with promotions and achievements that bring more prestige and money (for example, moving from associate to partner at a law firm). But at some point, you will hit a ceiling and top out, at which time you will have to look elsewhere for meaning and gratification. A calling, however, is done for its own sake, rather than the material benefits. It’s the most satisfying form of work, where individuals see themselves as contributing to the greater good.
Although Dr. Seligman’s descriptions relate more to work done for compensation, a calling can certainly extend to other things. You may feel called to raise amazing kiddos, cleanup your local community, or help end world hunger. And it is also possible that you may have more than one calling over the course of your lifetime. Heck, your callings might change and expand from year to year.
The point is, callings come in all shapes and sizes. And the bottom line is, the more plugged in you are to yours, the more passionate and fulfilled you’re going to be.*
I bring all of this up because I am seeing more and more clients who want to find their purpose. As industries crumble, educational systems and workplaces change dramatically, societal expectations cease to carry the same weight, and cultural norms are questioned, the ground is shifting beneath our feet. Amidst the chaos, it’s as if something has been awakened in us, and there’s a deep desire to come home to who we really are underneath it all, and to connect to something larger than ourselves. Your calling is a part of that.
So how do you know if you’re on the right track? There are many ways, but one of my favorites is simply to pay attention to the inner spanda. In Sanskrit, this term refers to an inner leap or tremor of absolute joy. You know the feeling (or at least I hope you’ve experienced it before). It’s that jolt of recognition letting you know that you’re onto something really good.
And maybe an even better gauge to follow is how much resistance you have to something. I love Steven Pressfield’s rule of thumb on this: “the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” He recommends actually using our resistance as a compass that will “unfailingly point to true north” and “guide us to that calling or action that we must follow over all others.”
So is your day-to-day activity more of a job, a career, or a calling? If it feels like you’ve got a job or a career, but you are more in the market for a calling, never fear. Remember your benevolent stalker? It’s still there, watching and waiting in a totally non-creepy way. As Rumi so eloquently put it, “what you seek is seeking you.”
Bring this stalker out of the shadows by first setting an intention to connect with it. And by that, I mean literally say it or write it, or even just think it. From there, simply be open to any synchronicities (or breadcrumbs from the Universe, as I like to call them) that start to arise. Is it all going to be this easy? Hell no. There’s a reason it’s called the hero’s journey. But more on that later. For now, though, just start following the breadcrumbs that will bring you face to face with your very own benevolent stalker of a calling.
* If you’re interested in learning more about callings, check out Dr. Lissa Rankin’s new book, “The Anatomy of a Calling.” She was a doctor who walked away from a successful medical practice (much to the dismay of her family, friends and colleagues) in order to pursue her true work in the world. She’s done some great research on truth and myth when it comes to callings – check it out for some serious inspiration, especially if you’re looking for an exit strategy from your current life to pursue what you really want to do!