Discovering Your Calling: What Your Passion Can Tell You About the Right Path in Life

5 Mins read

If you’re like many people, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to the question of what you truly want to do with your life as well as what you would like your impact on the world to be. You may have wondered about your calling or vocation in the world and about the process involved in discovering your true talent. Above all, you may have wondered about how your particular gifts will potentially enable you to serve the common good of humanity.

Answering questions such as these is by no means an easy or a straightforward process. In fact, many people feel a sense of anxiety concerning these issues. When considering the ramifications of choosing a particular vocation in this world, it is completely normal to feel some degree of apprehension: What if we get our vocation wrong? What if we fail to develop our talent to its full measure? What if we’re not even sure what our actual talents are or how to discover them?

Finding Personal Meaning in Life
Firstly, it is important to point out that there is no one right answer to these questions. Life itself is a process of discovery; it is only by making solid decisions and constantly moving forward that we learn more about ourselves and about our true role in the world. Making mistakes is a big part of the learning process of life and a big part of the process of self-discovery: You probably aren’t going to discover your true vocation or talent on your first try. But you will learn more about yourself as you begin to identify your true strengths. And doing so can bring immense joy to your existence on earth.

Vocations and Personal Fulfillment
Indeed, it is important to acknowledge that there appears to be a strong link between a person’s discovery of their vocation or calling in life and their sense of fulfillment and happiness in the pursuit of work that gives them a sense of meaning and purpose. This is not to say that the pursuit of our vocation or talent will not involve an immense number of challenges or stressors. But it is the pursuit of a vocation itself that seems to bring a sense of contentment to the lives of many people even in the face of dire hardships.

For example, when we examine the lives of those individuals who have pursued a particular purpose in life according to the unique strengths of their abilities, we will often note that these people display a sense of calm, fortitude, and joy as they go about their work. This is not to say that they are always happy or that life becomes necessarily easier for them. But it is true that their sense of purpose seems to imbue them with a kind of spiritual calm and joy that helps them to aid other human beings.

The Power of a Calling
Such people can include spiritual leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi or Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They can be scientists like Albert Einstein or television and film personalities like Mister Rogers or Robin Williams. They can be artists such as Bob Ross, Ludwig van Beethoven, or Vincent van Gogh.

What these individuals shared in common was a tangible sense that their unique strengths could be used to help the common cause of humanity. Fred Rogers used his ability to communicate with children to turn the medium of television into an educational platform. Robin Williams used his acting talent and gentle sense of humor to bring joy to millions of people. Albert Einstein used his lifelong love of physics to change the way in which we perceive the universe around us. Mahatma Gandhi and Desmond Tutu employed their strong moral convictions to defend the defenseless and spread the cause of peace.

Finding Our Strengths
So how do we discover our own personal strengths and put those strengths into action? It might help to firstly consider what scripture has to say about the concept of vocations. For example, our word “talent” is derived from a passage in the Gospel of Matthew: In verses 14 and 15 in chapter 25, Jesus tells us:

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability…

This “parable of the talents” as it is widely known is commonly thought of as one of Jesus’s viewpoints on developing a vocation in life. From the parable, we can see that God gives each individual a degree of talent that is in line with their natural abilities. In Jesus’s parable, each servant is expected to provide a return on their “talent” to their master.

Fulfilling a Talent
In other words, God might expect someone who is given great artistic talent to create a body of work that is commensurate with their abilities. Such a person is like the servant who has received “five talents” and is expected to provide his or her master with a good return on their investment.

An example of such an individual is Johann Sebastian Bach. Over the course of his short life, JS Bach produced an extraordinary amount of music designed to uplift his fellow human beings. Articulating his own moral philosophy with regard to music, Bach once said that, “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God.” In other words, Bach acknowledged that the pursuit of his talent should go hand in hand with the process of spiritually elevating his listeners to bring them closer to God.

The Artistic Temperament
Vincent van Gogh was another artist who regarded creative work as a kind of spiritual calling. Before becoming a painter, Van Gogh had actually aspired to become a priest. But the priesthood was not Van Gogh’s calling: His stormy temperament made him an uneven spiritual leader at best and often caused him problems in his work.

And yet that same fiery temperament provided Vincent with enormous artistic potential. Indeed, it was not until Van Gogh began drawing and painting in earnest that he found his calling in life. And what a body of work he produced! Van Gogh’s paintings have deeply affected the lives of millions of people. Van Gogh once said, “I think that everything that is really good and beautiful, the inner, moral, spiritual and sublime beauty in men and their works, comes from God.” For Vincent, in other words, creating art was a way of participating in God’s desire to bring beauty into the world.

Undertaking the Search
And truly, this concept is at the heart of any sincere search for a vocation. God has given each of us a unique set of gifts that we are able to use to help our fellow human beings. Our job is to truly discover what those gifts are.

A person gifted with the personality traits of kindness and calmness might find much satisfaction working as a nurse or doctor. A person gifted with a creative mindset might find life as an artist very fulfilling. A person gifted with natural leadership abilities and foresight might be able to do much good in politics. (If only more politicians went into the field for this reason!)

At the end of the day, our vocation in life should fulfill two criteria: Firstly, our calling should genuinely fit with our natural strengths. Secondly, the decision to pursue a particular vocation should fill us with a sense of joy and fulfillment: Indeed, many spiritual leaders have pointed out that a vocation should not feel like an undue burden; we should not conceive of God as a kind of controlling parent who forces one child to become a doctor and another to become a lawyer even if one child is interested in artistic work and the other child is interested in developing a career as a teacher. We each need to decide on our path in life for ourselves and for the sake of our happiness. After all, what good are we to others if we are not happy?

A Vocational Prayer
Dear Lord, please teach us through experience of the world around us about our natural strengths and about how we can use those strengths to help others. Please help our fellow human beings to also discover their callings.

Moreover, let us not be misled by self-interest or pride or greed when deciding on our true path through life; instead, let us seek out our life’s work with a pure heart and with empathy for all living beings. Amen.

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