Finding Your Calling: What Is a Vocation?

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is he that has found his work! Let him ask no other blessedness.”
~ Carlye

There are two
great decisions in a man’s life, two poles around which the
first quarter of his typically life revolve: whom to marry and which
occupation to pursue.

The latter
is a question we face as soon as we are old enough to talk. “What
do you want to be when you grow up?” is a query put to us by
parents, teachers, and friends. In our teen years we are content
to keep our plans vague and nebulous. But in college the pressure
builds – we want to choose a major related to our future career. But
we may still not know what career we’re aiming for. So we change
majors once, twice, and maybe more.

And then we
graduate. Society says we have now entered the world of work and
should be diving into our chosen profession. But even then, many
of us aren’t sure what profession that’s supposed to be.

We typically
have a better idea of what we don’t want in a job than
what we do. Not something mundane, something like what our dads
did – long hours stuck in a cubicle feeling like a cog in a corporate
machine, Maalox and scotch hidden in a desk drawer. After all, a
third of our lives will be spent working; we’ll probably spend
more time at work than we do with our spouse and kids. It’s
no wonder we agonize over “what to be when we grow up”…even
when we’re all grown up.

We want a job
that doesn’t actually feel like a job. Something that uses
our talents and brings us great satisfaction.

What we really
want isn’t a job at all; we want a vocation, a calling.

Three Perspectives
on Work

There are three
ways people look at what they do for work:

A Job.
Those who see their work as a job are those who belt out “Everybody’s
Working for the Weekend
” with great gusto. They live for
breaks, for vacation. The job is simply a means to the end: a paycheck.
They need to support their family/pay their rent, and this is the
ticket they punch to do it. The job may not be terrible, but it
offers the worker very little real satisfaction.

A Career.
The careerist derives meaning not from the nature of the work itself
but the gratification that comes from advancing through the ranks
and earning promotions and raises. This motivates the careerist
to put in extra time; work doesn’t necessarily stop when they
punch out. However, once this forward progress stops, the careerist
becomes unsatisfied and frustrated.

A Vocation/Calling.
A vocation is work you do for its own sake; you almost feel like
you’d do it even if you didn’t get paid. The rewards of
wages and prestige are peripheral to getting to use one’s passion
in a satisfying way. Those in a vocation feel that their work has
an effect on the greater good and an impact beyond themselves. They
believe that their work truly utilizes their unique gifts and talents.
This is what they were meant to do.

When it comes
to life satisfaction and happiness, those with a job are the least
satisfied, then those with a career, and those with a vocation feel
the most satisfied. No surprises there. A vocation encompasses more
than the work you are paid for; it taps into your whole life purpose.
When you’ve found your calling, you know it – your life is full
of of joy, satisfaction, and true fulfillment. Conversely, if you’re
living a life at odds with your vocation, there’s no doubt
about that either. You’re indescribably restless;
you wake up in the middle of the night feeling like you can’t
breathe, like there’s a great weight on your chest; life seems
to be passing you by and you have no idea what to do about it.

the rest of the article

26, 2010

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