There's finding your calling.
Then there's banging your head against a wall trying to figure out your passion.
I've done both.
And yes, I know it may sound dramatic to say I've found My Calling when I'm still a professional baby. Even the idea of a "calling" at all is kind of dramatic, let's be real.
But yes. I do feel like I've found my thing, the vision that leads me through life. Although the fun (and crazy-making) part is that I don't know exactly what the next step needs to be, and I don't know where the road will lead.
Hell, I don't even know what the realization of this calling will actually look like.
I'm oddly okay with that though, because having finally figured out my big-picture thing is pretty powerful. And it took a lot of spinnin' my own wheels to get here.
So in the interest of saving you from going in circles and trying to find your passion, here are a few tips & techniques that have been invaluable for me. I hope they help you gain, at the very least, more clarity.
Ways to find your calling
- Start looking at your quirks as clues. The little things about you that seem weird—like your obsession with pretty websites or your knack for telling a really funny story—may actually be more than just idiosyncrasies. They could be clues. In fact, the things you're known for, no matter how small or seemingly trivial, can often turn out to be part of your gifts.
- Ask people close to you what they think you're skilled at. What people most often compliment you on is usually a good sign that you've got a talent waiting to be put to good use.
- Think of your flaws as boundaries, not barriers. Too often, we think our weaknesses are walls we need to crush on the way to success. Sometimes, this is true. But at other times, it's possible whatever weaknesses or aversions you have are simply part of your personality, and can be worked into your dream job or career. The key is to find these flaws—like a head-in-the-clouds dreamer mind, or a chatty and hyper demeanor—and start thinking of them not as things that must be changed, but valid parameters that define what your calling may look like.
- Learn to listen to your body. Making decisions based on your emotions leads to disaster, like that time you rebelled against school and booked a flight to Dublin during finals week (no? that just me? okay, then). But making decisions based on your gut feelings is the way to go. Finding your calling isn't a linear path; it's a game of hot-and-cold where you take one step and feel for anything that tells you whether you're warmer or colder. So think back to jobs and internships you've done, projects you've worked on, and potential career choices ahead of you and feel for what's right.
- Imagine the most "you" thing you could possibly do. Is there a fun dream job you could think up right now that just screams you? That your friends would probably describe if they could place you in any job they think you'll be the perfect person for? Is there a position that could only ever belong to you? Describe that. Write it down. This may just be your best fit, even if this job doesn't exist yet. Which brings me to...
- Free yourself from existing job descriptions. For the coolest jobs, no openings on LinkedIn exist. That's because some perfect jobs had to be designed, not filled. Don't limit yourself to what's out there. Whether by creating your own project or business, or by pitching your perfect role within an existing company, you can design your dream job instead of settling for close seconds.
- Find your heartbreak. Figure out what makes you angry, protective, passionate. Very often, the things that hurt us most to see others go through are things we are not only passionate about but able to contribute something useful to. Don't discount the things that fire you up.
- Remember that patience is a virtue. The full picture of your calling and exactly what, when, where, and how will not reveal itself to you in one fell swoop, if you're like the rest of us. Instead, you'll get nudges. You'll have patterns. You'll start to see themes emerge. And you'll find that you have some very strong likes and some very strong aversions. Keep noticing, keep iterating, and keep pursuing, but with a light touch. It will unfold in time.
- Notice your curiosities. "Passion" is a big word. "Calling" is an even bigger one. If you get too fixed on these words, you'll miss the point, or get stage fright (or a mental block). What you want to do instead if you feel stuck is to know what makes you curious and to just take the first step towards that. Because first steps usually lead to second steps.
- Ask yourself what problem you want to solve. This is especially true for entrepreneurs: is there a problem you can solve that is not already being solved? Do you care about this problem and fixing its pain points?
- What do you wish someone would create? If there's a book you want to read that isn't out there, write it. If there's a product you wish would just program itself, but you've never heard of it, it's yours for the taking. And if there's some sort of website or community that you'd LOVE someone to create, chances are there are other people who'd love it too. Serve them. And serve yourself in the process. Make the thing you wish was out there.
- Don't limit yourself to doing just one thing. A calling can be manifold; or it can be one large vision with several manifestations throughout many different careers. Either way, beware of thinking you only need to be about one thing. Not everyone has their one thing. Some people have many. If you think there's only one thing for you out there, that's a ton of pressure! And it can get you stuck figuring it out. Don't think there's just one. You're allowed to express your gifts in all sorts of ways.
- Just start doing something. Anything that feels interesting or exciting or curious. Especially if it's an idea that's been emerging again and again. Just do it—and iterate. If it's the right thing, you'll feel it and it'll be a joyful feeling. If it's wrong, you will also feel it. And you will learn a ton from it.