3 Steps to Finding Life’s Purpose

May 17, 2016

 

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It seems like finding your life’s purpose, what you came here to do, should be easy. You look inside, think about what you most love to do, and do more of that.

I wish it had been that simple for me. In fact, it took me many decades to sort out what I was was destined to do with my life. If you are still defining this for yourself, maybe my story of how I finally found my calling will make your journey to find yours just a little easier, and hopefully shorter.

For as long as I can remember….

… I searched for my ideal career, one that would be deeply fulfilling, enjoyable and make a positive impact on the world. This seemed like simple criteria, but in a vast sea of choices, I was perpetually lost.

In pursuit of this ideal, I tried many occupations – park and recreation manager, hotel marketer, event planner, management consultant, corporate sales, career counselor, organizational development trainer, etc. Each subsequent position taught me what I wanted and didn’t want in a job, and ultimately I grew and moved on to what I always hoped would be the job of my dreams and what I was meant to do with my life.

Ironically, I began to discover my life’s purpose, or calling, while resisting a job I should have loved, one that I prepared many years to obtain.

When I was hired to direct a university career development center, I had finally achieved what I thought I wanted. However I quickly realized that this wasn’t “it” either. So I did what I had always done when faced with a less than optimal job situation (as they all had been) – I went about doing the best job I could for my employer, while wishing and preparing for a better job in the future.

However, without realizing it, I was resisting what I had been given, and thus recreating over and over the very thing I didn’t want.

After 6 ½ years of feeling stuck, occasionally loving my job, but usually resisting what I did on a day-to-day basis, a phrase suddenly popped into my head –

What you resist, persists.

And in that instant, I knew how to get off the merry-go-round of never being quite satisfied with the career (and life) I had created.

Here are the 3 steps I finally took to find my true calling.

First, I fell in love with where I was in every moment. 

No easy feat when my “reality” was sometimes unpleasant, stressful, boring, or all three! I had been taught years earlier that my “reality” was a direct reflection of my thoughts over time, but I didn’t see how this related to me. After all, I was a relatively positive spiritual woman, and complaining about simple stuff was “normal”, right?

I spent a lot of time identifying what I didn’t like about this job, repeating many versions of the following; I wish I didn’t have to… I hate when she does… Not ANOTHER meeting to… There are too many things on my to-do list… This policy is ridiculous… etc. And the Universe obediently responded by providing more situations that reflected what I had been complaining about, or resisting.

Without realizing it, my thoughts had created my reality, both positive and negative. So I decided it was about time to focus on the former, and minimize the latter!

I started by diligently monitoring my internal complaints. When I heard my brain begin its negative rattle about where I was, what I was doing, or who I was speaking to, I relaxed my shoulders and silently repeated the phrase…

  “This moment is my destiny”.

I would remind myself “I’m meant to be exactly where I am BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE I AM”. Then I immediately let go of the negative thought, no matter what the situation, and I gave my FULL attention to whomever or whatever was before me. And I did this over and over again for the first week.

By week three, I started viewing situations that had previously bugged the hell out of me, as sort of interesting, which turned into intrigue, then fun, and finally, a blessing.

Wow, what a change. I realized I was onto something big.

After about a month of replacing my habitual complaints with “this moment is my destiny”, I started to fall in love with my job. Not just a little crush, but BIG TIME LOVE! After so many years of quietly wishing this job away (and all previous jobs), I had stopped my pattern of resistance. I suddenly wanted THIS job.

This is when it all changed, and quickly.

Onto the second step – I named what I most wanted in a vocation, without getting attached to the details of how or when it would happen, or even what would manifest.

At the same time I was falling in love with my job, I was playing a fun little mind game. It started when a friend received an amazing job offer simply by answering the phone. From my vantage point, it appeared that she simply picked up the receiver and the job appeared. Heck, my job required that I answer the phone dozens of times each day. Why couldn’t one of those calls be from a new employer offering ME a cool new job. Even though I had recently fallen in love with my university gig, why couldn’t this great job turn into something even better?!

So I started to imagine that my dream job (something even more spectacular than I already had) was on the other end of the line EVERY time the phone rang. I did this over and over again for a couple months.

Then one day, out of the blue, a total stranger called and offered me my “dream job”, one that I had secretly fantasized about for years, but thought was too unrealistic to even say out loud.

Even though I had already fallen in love with my university job, I KNEW that this new position reflected my highest good, and contained everything I had always wished for in a career. So I reluctantly quit my beloved university job, and went for it.

Over the next few years, this new position turned into my blessed vocation, one that has been deeply meaningful as I made a profound difference in peoples lives, as well as transforming my own.  Along the way, I’ve had lots of fun traveling the country as I teach 1000’s of people a topic I dearly love. This is where I still work today.

However, in spite of being very happy in this job for the past 18 years, I have always known that this is my vocation, but not my calling.

The 3rd step was the charm that introduced me to what turned into what I had been searching for all along.

Soon after attaining my university job, and realizing that I once again landed in a less than optimal place, I started doing career development on myself to figure out what I REALLY wanted from a vocation. After completing a classic career exercise where I listed everything I loved to do as a child, I noticed that smack in the middle of the list was the word “collage”, sparking the memory of the 10-year-old me proudly holding my first piece of “art”. 10 year old collage -FINAL smaller

So on a whim (otherwise known as a flash of inspiration), I gathered up all of the magazines and catalogs I could find, tore out a bunch of images, and put the pieces back together into a simple, child-like collage. As I looked down at what I’d created, I realized: I was having FUN. My heart exploded with joy. I didn’t want to stop rearranging the pieces, ever.

Starting purely as a hobby, I created collages almost every day, and after 5 years of over-the-top fun, I realized I had finally found my calling –

To create sacred art for the purpose of inspiring myself and others to awaken to who we were meant to be, to who we’ve always been.

Today, my vocation and calling exist in two different worlds, accomplished at different times during my day.

The purpose of my vocation or career is to contribute to the world in a positive and meaningful way (teaching trainers and counselors to use the MBTI and other personality assessments), while earning an income and health insurance to support my life, which includes my calling.

My calling also contributes to the world in a meaningful and positive way, but it is MUCH more than that. My calling feels like my dearest friend, something I don’t want to live without. I pursue my calling because it is where my heart feels most alive and it is an essential way that I care for my soul.

I expect that one day my vocation and calling will merge into one. However until that fateful day, I am living in complete non-resistance to what is before me; loving EVERY part of my blessed vocation, and cherishing each moment that I get to spend in my sacred calling.

 

The next chapter of this story is still to be written, and YOU will be the first to know when it happens. Until then….

… I would love to hear how you define vocation and calling.

  • What have you discovered about each, and are they the same or different for you?

  • How did you go about finding each, or are you still searching?

  • What makes YOUR heart come alive?

Please share a comment about your journey to discover your vocation and calling  OR sign up for my newsletter for a chance to win a medium Art Print of any collage in my collection. Comment AND subscribe for 2 entries!!!  Random drawing of all new subscribers and commenters will take place on Monday, May 23 at 6pm.

There are millions of ways to find your heart’s calling. Your story will inspire us all, no matter where you are on the journey to manifest what your heart longs to do!

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16 Responses to “3 Steps to Finding Life’s Purpose”

  1. Angela Broome says:

    Great blog! My current job found me. I was not looking. And it is my current calling. I am supposed to be here. They needed me and I am satisfied and fulfilled by putting my skill set to work for the greater good.

    My calling may change down the road. In fact, I hope it does. I never want to feel stale or stop being relevant in my job. That means I need to keep being challenged.

    The journey awaits!

    Angela

    • catherine says:

      Hello my dear friend! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post AND join my newsletter. I am truly honored.

      I love that your job found you – pretty much how it happened to me with both my vocation and calling. You really know its “right” when it takes almost no effort, other than saying yes, to step into your highest good position. Yet another thing we have in common!

      Hugs, Catherine

    • kristina says:

      Indeed, considering all things: What you resist indeed persists and let’s not forget the meaning of insanity: Doing the same thing over and expecting something different, like a result or an expectation. I always knew I was a born writer and born to write but loved psychology — so after becoming a cynical — I mean, clinical — psychologist — after 20 years of practice in prisons and crisis intervention I knew….I had to make massive changes. But change is a laborious process — like giving birth but to yourself and the core of your psychological infrastructure, especially when you’re starting over and OVER 50 mumble mumble! Sometimes life has to sledgehammer the experience into you for you to really “get it,” right? Let’s hope that in the end, you get it — and lots of good gets!
      Follow your heart, soul, mind, spirit and higher source and meditate on the answers….they’re within, they really are. And then — pounce!!
      Be the change you really want to BE!! You’lll love yourself even more for it.
      Xo Kristina

  2. kristina says:

    Indeed, what you resist indeed persists and let’s not forget the meaning of insanity: Doing the same thing over and expecting something different, like an expectation or a result. I always knew I was a born writer and born to write but loved psychology — so after becoming a cynical — I mean, clinical — psychologist — after 20 years of practice in prisons and crisis intervention I knew….and I had to make massive changes. But change is laborious and incremental, like stages of birth– especially when you’re starting over and OVER 50 mumble mumble…. Sometimes life has to sledgehammer the experience into you for you to really “get it,” right?
    And let’s hope you get lots of good gets!
    Follow your heart, soul, mind, spirit and higher source and meditate on the answers….they’re within, they really are. The answers will find you and you’ll find your answers.
    Be the change you really want to BE!! And live with love and passion.
    Xo Kristina

  3. Jennifer Solomon says:

    Dear Catherine,
    I am so inspired by your words, your story, you! Dear, dear Catherine!
    I found my perfect job, career, calling after divorcing my “starter husband”. I enrolled in college at age 38, 20 years after I entered college right out of high school. I intended to finish my bachelor’s degree to find a job and support myself and my two children, who were teenagers at the time. I finished my B.A. (sociology major, psychology minor) and with the encouragement of my professors, I completed an M.S. and Ph.d. in sociology. I found my perfect job; I found myself. I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I had to be myself. What I do has to reflect who I am. I’ve always loved reading, writing, thinking, learning, imagining and creating. I need to be around people who love those same things. I became a college professor. I am a college professor. At least that’s one of the titles given to people that enjoy doing the things I love to do.

    I plan to retire next spring after 27 years at the same university. I’m in the process of figuring out how to keep all the things I love about being a college professor. I’m retiring from a job, but not from being who I am. I know I can still read, write, think, learn, imagine, and create. I can stay in touch with “my people”. However, I don’t know how all that comes together, but I will know.
    Love, Jennifer

    • catherine says:

      My dear Jennifer, I am so inspired by YOUR words, and story. Having known you during the past 26 years (I believe we came to Winthrop the same year, 1990?), it is fascinating to hear what went into you getting to where you are. I didn’t realize that you started college “late”, and went on to finding such an amazing path, and life. Thank you for sharing here, and with me. I’m honored to be traveling this path along side you. Looking forward to seeing what the next chapter in your life brings – looking forward to my own as well! Hugs, Catherine

  4. Melissa says:

    I’ve always loved art and aesthetics, and story-telling, and learning about the differences and complexities that make people unique. My mother is also a story teller but runs her own PR agency, and it was her stories about her work and my love of art that brought me to my vocation in marketing. Like you mentioned in your blog, other jobs I’ve had when I was younger helped me understand what I’m not great at and what I don’t enjoy doing. I’ve done marketing for an AMF probe company, an alcoholic ice cream company, a motion control company, and then stumbled upon my favorite company to market for yet – one that deals with psychology and who’s ultimate goal is to help people. I feel I’ve been very lucky to know early on what sort of vocation I really love – in marketing it’s the combination of the art and graphics and words that tell the story to draw people in that’s in combination with thinking in the perspective of someone else, trying to “get in their shoes” and think about their problems, what sort of things they’re looking for and then designing the content that will help (or them see how WE can help them). I don’t think I’d enjoy marketing something that I didn’t feel helped people (though ironically I see how personality assessments help people just as well as the right motion control components in a machine can help people by that machine working effectively in medical equipment, or cutting foam forms to bring a stage set to life for the audience, or using gyroscopic stabilization to help the military in rough terrain). Probably wouldn’t enjoy marketing a luxury brand good or what I consider junk food. Calling, I feel, is a lot harder to nail down. I’ve always felt like my purpose was to leave people better in some way than before they met me. To help people. Ironically some of the times I can look back and feel that I’ve helped people in the biggest ways have also felt the most taxing on me personally so that doesn’t seem quite right as a calling…but I’m sure time will make the picture of my calling more clear. Until then I’ll just smile at my luck finding a vocation that I love 95% of the time.

    • catherine says:

      Melissa,

      I love reading your self-aware and insightful comment. I devoured every word! I have absolutely no doubt that you will one day find your calling, one that will give you life, energy and joy. I’m thrilled that you have found a vocation that you love MOST of the time – few people can say that. Luckily, I’m along side you loving my day gig. I look forward to following YOUR journey as you continue to explore what gives you life, which will eventually turn into your calling, whether its combined or separate from your vocation.

      Thank you dear Melissa for being part of MY journey. I am honored that you are part of my life and community. Catherine

  5. Emily Currie says:

    Such a great, inspirational story! Thanks for sharing. My favorite line: “I pursue my calling because it is where my heart feels most alive.” I’m continually finding more aspects of my calling and vocation. I’ve had a few jobs in the past where I felt the two collide, but am not sure where they all fit at this point in my life. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying the journey!

    • catherine says:

      Emily,

      What a lovely reply back! For many of us, finding “calling” is not a one stop process, but rather a decades long journey! I hope that yours is shorter than mine, however, I couldn’t have done it any other way. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person and learning more about your vocation, calling, art and life!

      Catherine

  6. annie! says:

    My heart comes alive when I make art…and when I’m around the grandchildren. 🙂 I’m still figuring out calling. But, I am figuring it out. 🙂

    • catherine says:

      Annie,
      I’m totally with you with the art, and although I don’t have grandchildren, I do have nieces which have always been grandkids to me! Love that you are on a quest to find your calling. Maybe its closer than you think! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Love having you part of my community!
      Catherine

  7. Ellen Brown says:

    Thank you for reminding me to focus on the positive. After 30 years in business all I can think of is getting out, focusing on how the business has changed. This week I am trying to remember what I have loved for 30 years. I still want to get out of the business, but am trying to be happier until that happens. Now I just have to figure out what to do next.

    • catherine says:

      Ellen,

      How sweet to see your name pop up here! I was JUST thinking about you and the amazing business you developed, and raised your kids in the middle of. Always impressed me. However I can totally understand wanting to get out, do something new and grow in a new direction. That certainly what art is for me. I’m focused on loving my career, while also developing my art. Quite the balance of energy since I often have little energy to do what I most love, and I usually do it anyways.

      Would love to hear about what you are thinking about doing next. Too bad I rarely make it to MD these days, however, I am planning a couple VA trips in the next year. Maybe we can reconnect in person then.

      Thanks so much for following my journey, and reading my musings. I’m truly honored that you not only read my blog, but most of all commented.

      Love, Catherine (aka Cathy!)

  8. Grace says:

    For the last few weeks I keep asking myself what shall I do? How I should do my job-which I do like- while I am constantly hearing that inside calling…I tried sooo many jobs in my life,in same of them my heart was truelly happy…but after some time obstacles appeared and I quit. I also love art,as a little girl I could spent hours drawing…today I miss that.But I also like inspiring people,be on the staje and motivate them,working with drama methods of realising your body of stres…and I would love to have that all in my dream work as I feel it as my calling for today.Thank you for your inspiration, will try to cherish each moment waiting with antisipation of the world to open my heart and realise my calling ❤

    • catherine says:

      Grace, what a beautiful way to describe your sacred path to finding your calling. There is nothing more you need to do except FULLY appreciate where you now stand, and take SMALL steps when you feel inspired to follow that voice inside that says there is something else you need to do with your life. Being fully present in the life you now live is also your calling, and by being there, an even greater calling will gently reveal itself. My love to you as you follow your sacred voice, one small step at a time. Hugs, Catherine

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