The following is an extract from my upcoming book, Champion of the Soul.
In recent decades there has been a great enthusiasm for the idea of “following your bliss”. This is another subject I have written about in depth (in Discover Your Soul Template) and in the three years since I published that book I have contemplated and researched further on the subject area.
The essential question I have been considering is: “Is there any such thing as finding your calling?”
My answer is… it depends upon the individual, and also on how you define the term “a calling”.
For some people there is a strong urge within the soul to actualise an innate gift or ability. This may be true of piano players, football players or entrepreneurs, for example. It seems as though they were put here on this earth to express themselves through that innate talent.
Einstein took a non-demanding job as a patent clerk for several years simply so he could have the time to manifest his passion – to be a physicist. By the age of twenty-six he became world-famous when he produced his theory of relativity. The fame and fortune that followed enabled one of the great minds of modern science to explore the secrets of the universe with tremendous freedom.
Mahatma Gandhi was so convinced by his destiny to be a future political and spiritual leader, that when he was a young man and a stretcher bearer in the Boar War in South Africa, observers noted that he seemed to have almost no fear of death. This was despite the treacherous nature of life on the battle field.
Actor Jim Carey’s innate wackiness and comic genius was ideal for a career in Hollywood. He was well aware of this, and before he became one of the biggest names in Hollywood, he would drive his car up to the hills above Los Angeles and creatively visualise and affirm his future success in that hyper-competitive city.
These three men’s lives are typical of the dream scenarios that we read about in magazines and in biographies of the rich and famous. Such stories also get write-ups in popular self-help and new age books.
But there is a catch here of course. Nobody ever writes the biography of those who went bust in Los Angeles without having “made it”, or those who got shot up in a war last century and were never heard of again.
So we have to be a little careful in extrapolating that all of us have this kind of “calling”.
There are two major distinctions to note here.
The first is that – and sorry to tell you this – not everybody is destined to be rich, powerful and famous.
Secondly, many people – perhaps most – do not have a specific calling centred around one skill, ability or profession.
The good news is, though, that this does not have to stop you being passionate and joyful in your chosen field of work.
If you are a person who cannot readily identify a passion that can be easily expressed as a money-making profession, it might “pay” you to stop thinking of a calling as a specific destiny involving one profession. After all, if you cannot identify such a calling, it is logical to consider the likelihood that there may no bleedingly obvious single destiny for you! If “God” had such a purpose for you I suspect that she would have made your destination a little clearer.
In fact it is common for people to try several different career paths before they identify something that they are passionate about. And the research into this area is very revealing. People generally become passionate about work they are good at (or become good at), and where they have a strong sense of responsibility and control. And these things tend to increase with time on the job, as long as the right mind-set is adhered to.
Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford commencement speech has nearly nine million hits on Youtube. This talk, where Jobs implores his audience to follow their passion, is often cited when the idea of living your dream is discussed.
However, as Cal Newport has pointed out in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, it is interesting to note that Jobs’ early life indicated little of his ultimate destiny as an entrepreneur and Apple CEO. Jobs attended Reed College, a well-known liberal Arts school. We can assume that he was initially passionate about literature, poetry and physics, because that is what he studied – before dropping out. He was also intrigued by the spiritual dimensions of life, experimenting with LSD and travelling to India on a pilgrimage.
Later Jobs combined wits with a more capable programmer, Steve Wozniak, and they set up Apple Computers in Jobs’ parent’s garage. Cal Newport suggests that Jobs’ early life indicates that Jobs’ destiny at Apple was effectively ad-hoc, a result of random experimentation with the world. Such an analysis misses the obvious point that Job’s had a strong entrepreneurial spirit and was passionate about both design and human potential. Throughout the ups and downs of his career at Apple – and his decade away from the company – he stuck to the ideals of beauty, simplicity and functionality. These values were effectively an expression of his soul.
Nonetheless, my perception is that these values – and Jobs’ passion to go out in the world and create- could have been expressed in a number of different ways. I doubt that before his soul entred this realm of existence that God had ordained that “Though shalt found Apple computers and crank out the iPhone, iPad and iPhone for mass consumption!”
What this means for your calling
For many of you reading this book, your “calling” is more likely to be found in a general domain related to your innate passions, rather than a divinely ordained career as a butcher, baker or candlestick maker.
For example, you may love writing, but you may not be quite certain what line of work to pursue which can express that passion.
Perhaps you want to teach, but the precise expression of that skill may not be obvious to you.
Or maybe you love math and physics, and nothing else fills you with such excitement, and are wondering how to turn that into ongoing professional work.
It is perfectly possible that there may be no precise love or calling that is “meant” for you. My strong recommendation is for you to follow your intuitive pull to train in a profession or practice that is related to your passion, and which has a strong value in the market place. Build skills and reputation in that domain before you jump headlong into any very narrow specific work that may not have clear value to others. In the end, you have to be of service to society, or you do not have a “calling” – you have a pastime.
A higher “calling”
There’s yet another important distinction that I would like to introduce to you that is vital when thinking about the idea of living your bliss. It is the failure to realise the importance of this point which leads to a lot of misunderstanding.
When contemplating your calling it is helpful to focus upon being true to your soul. This means fully honouring and expressing the innate beauty and courage that lies within you. And this happens naturally whenever you are present to life. You don’t even have to try. In fact “trying” to be present retards presence.
In practical terms, this necessitates that whatever career or work you are currently doing – or plan to do in the future – you look for opportunities to express your innate power and beauty.
So, an alternative to seeking your calling might be to ask the following questions of your current life and work situation.
• In this moment, how can I bring joy to what I do?
• What is it that brings me great joy??
• Can I bring such joyful activities and skills into fruition in the world of money and markets? Or perhaps merely as a hobby or service that is for free?
Love the one you’re with…
Perhaps it is, though, that you cannot do your preferred work at this time.
This could be for any number of reasons. Perhaps you need to wait some time while building up skills and reputation before you quit your job. Maybe you are still figuring out how to monetise your passion and have to dabble in it part-time while working the night shift. Or you might not yet know what it is you are really passionate about.
In such a scenario I have the following suggestion.
Instead of waiting for your passion to find you, bring your passion to your work by being passionate about it!
In this case be present with – and love – what you do.
To take from an old song, “If you can’t have the job you love, love the job you have.”
Almost any act of creation – including any “job” – can be an act of love.
Again, the key to this is mindfulness. In any job, no matter how “mundane”, you bring divinity to the moment by being fully present. The shelf-stacker at the supermarket brings light to his soul and that of the customer when he joyfully guides that inquisitive person to find the mint sauce in aisle three. The teacher brings divinity to chaos when she is fully present and forgiving when she enters her year eight lower-stream class, last period Friday afternoon. This may include being forgiving of her own anger and fear at her powerlessness to discipline a rowdy group of hormone-fuelled teenagers. The street cleaner brings love to an unkempt street as he passes his humble broom back and forth across the dusty pavement, smiling at passes by.
Presence illuminates the darkness. In the end, your calling is to light the darkness in your own soul. For this in turn is what helps to enlighten the world, little by little.
To accept such a calling necessitates becoming a champion of the soul; and in particular a champion of the inner child. You honour your highest self and express your calling when you simply embody your true love and power.
Notice that there is nothing in this job description about actual nine-to-five duties.
By all means, seek to do work that is intrinsically joyful to your nature. I believe this is for the greater good of all. But even more important is bringing your joyful nature to your work.
Love the boss too
It is mostly the layers of pain contained within the emotional body – including the layers of distracting stories and false beliefs – which occlude our light. This is what clouds our days at the office.
It isn’t the boss’ fault.
Nonetheless, because life tends to reflect back to us the innate beliefs and stories that we hold within our psyches, the boss is likely to be a reflection of your soul story. Yet even if he or she is a psychopath, that reflection offers an opportunity for you to see yourself at a deeper level.
I’m not suggesting you need to hang around a toxic work environment and get beaten up for ten years to learn a soul lesson.
Perhaps you need to trust the universe enough to let him go and re-enter the job market.
But be careful. The universe can be a harsh mistress. If you try to run away from a situation that is merely a mirror to your soul, that scenario will most likely reappear in your life story, and in short time.
Ultimately there may be an opportunity to transform your relationship with Psycho Boss by stepping more fully into your soul power, and without turning the whole episode into a huge drama – as so many do. This is where being a champion off relationships is of great value. Having advanced social intelligence and great spiritual maturity, you may be able to subtly “work” your boss.
If the story that your mind is bringing forth is that “The boss is a bitch and I’m a victim!”, chaos and suffering will quickly evolve and you will not learn a great deal at a soul level.