5 Steps that Give Me Clarity in Finding My Calling

5 Steps that Give Me Clarity in Finding My Calling6 min read

A calling can be defined as what you were meant to do–your ultimate purpose. The problem is, there are many of us wandering around, wondering what that ultimate purpose is–confused and looking for clarity in finding our calling.

I know what that’s like.

Searching for My Calling

My high school yearbook lists my future profession as “Graphic Designer.” I enrolled in college in a major called “Recreation”

It’s true!

Near the end of my freshman year, my advisor called me into his office. Coach Windemuth broke it to me gently. The university was dropping the recreation major. On the coach’s advice, I changed my major to physical education.

After my sophomore year, I took a year off from my studies to work in youth ministry. After that, I decided to change my major to social work. That’s the major I graduated with.

After graduation, I started a job as an assistant boys dean at a boarding high school. I took the job thinking it was my calling.

About half way through the school year the principal called me into his office. It was the day after I lost my temper with one of my students. The boy had stolen the head dean’s birthday cake while we waited for him to arrive for a surprise party. When I discovered the theft, I called the boy a name I won’t repeat here.

By the end of the school year I realized that being a dormitory dean wasn’t for me. I applied for jobs managing retirement homes, and applied to graduate school. By the time summer arrived I decided to return to school for a master of social work degree.

After earning my master’s, I took a job as a substance abuse counselor. A few years later I went to work at a mental health clinic. After that I took a job in customer service in a health insurance company.

I’ve gone through a few career changes since then.

Clarifying My Calling

I’ve often been haunted by the question, “Is this all there is?”

I’ve often been challenged by the question, “Why am I here?”

Have I found my calling?

Some people find a calling that lasts a lifetime. Others have callings that change with the seasons of life. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that I’m part of this latter group.

I’ve also realized that my calling transcends my career and what my job might be at any particular time.

My calling is a way of life.

My calling is a a state of mind that affects how I do whatever work is in front of me. It’s a lifestyle.

Here are 5 steps I’ve used to clarify my calling, and make it my lifestyle:

1. Trusting in God’s Guidance

I’m learning to see God leading in my life. As I look back in my life to the point where I chose to follow Jesus, I see how God has prepared me for what I’m doing today. I trust that God’s also preparing me for work He has lined up for me today tomorrow.

I keep in mind that God often uses difficult experiences in our lives to prepare us for His calling. Trusting in God during these times makes it possible for me to be hopeful, happy and thankful.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV).

2. Learning to Recognize God’s Voice

Reading the Bible, and putting its words to memory, I learn to recognize God’s voice.

When my wife Tami and I were dating each other before we married we wrote love letters to each other. When I got a letter from Tami, I’d hear her voice in my mind as I read the words on each page. It was almost as if she was in the room talking to me.

God’s Word expressed in the Bible is a reflection of His voice. As I read the words He spoke to the Old Testament prophets I become acquainted with His voice. Reading Jesus’ words recorded in the New Testament, I hear Him speaking to me.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of God (Romans 10:17 NKJV).

3. Listening for God’s Voice

I’m learning to keep my mind open to God’s voice. He speaks to me first through the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I also hear God’s voice in nature, music, impressions, my conscience, and the counsel of other believers.

I cultivate an attitude of humility and make room for quiet time. My stubbornness and the noise of life can drown out the quiet voice of God’s Spirit.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left (Isaiah 30:21 ESV).

4. Committing to Glorifying God

Jesus called His followers to let their light shine.

When Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai, God’s glory left a glow on Moses. God’s glory is His character (Exodus 33:18-23; 34:5-7, 29-30).

When Jesus tells us to let our light shine, it’s a call to spend time with God, let His character rub off on us, and to reflect God’s character in our work (Matthew 5:16).

God’s character is revealed by the fruit of the Spirit in our words and actions: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV).

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:31‬ ‭ESV‬‬).

5. Exercising Signature Strengths

Researchers are gathering a growing amount of evidence that exercising your top 5 character strengths makes it possible to thrive in our work. Researchers call these top 5 strengths our “signature strengths.”

It’s now known that people who practice their signature strengths at work see their job as a calling, much more than those who don’t practice their signature strengths at work.

 

My signature strengths are humility, honesty, spirituality, perseverance and forgiveness. I practice these character strengths daily in my work. People who know me well, recognize these as my character strength. When they hear my name, aspects of these strengths often come to mind.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).

Do you have clarity about your calling? What’s helped you achieve that clarity? What steps can you take to achieve greater clarity about your calling?


 

References:

Harzer C & Ruch W. When the job is a calling: The role of applying one’s signature strengths at work. The Journal of Positive Psychology
Vol. 7, No. 5, September 2012, 362–371

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jon Beaty

I'm a counselor, writer and believer in the power of God to help you thrive in your marriage and family. I live with my family, a small herd of Boer goats, and thousands of honeybees near Portland, Oregon.

  • This is such a great article Jon. As someone who’s life has taken a number of unexpected twists and turns, I can attest to the incredible value of the five steps that you list. It’s interesting, throughout all of the different careers and life changes I’ve had, I don’t feel like my calling has changed. However, the way that I live out that calling has been very different.

    I’m a huge fan of Barna’s Strength Finder Inventory, and am excited about checking out your Character Strength’s Report. I love assessments like this. They are such a great reminder that even when life throws a curve-ball or two our way, we still have value that we can add to others. It’s taken me some time to learn, but I’ve come to the conclusion that my calling is not dictated by my career.

    I love that each of the five steps that you outline, can be done regardless of one’s job. This is some powerful stuff!

    • Jon Beaty says:

      Hey, Jed! Thanks for your comment. There are several good personality assessments. I’ve used Strengths Finder too. I think the VIA Character Strengths Survey is unique in its assessment of character traits that are aligned with virtues that are common across cultures. I’ll be doing more posts on these in the future. Stay tuned!

  • Kirby Ingles says:

    John I certainly do have clarity in my calling. It has been there all along, just took me some time to see it. We are born with the ability to see our calling we just haven’t learned to recognize it and see it. To find it I had to explore a little bit. I refer to life like a pinball machine – sometimes you get bounced around until you find that synergy. We get so wrapped up in having to know everything right at this moment we never give ourselves time to explore options and figure out what we are truly called to. Most of the time we aren’t using all the tools we have been given. We have to recognize it in our stomach where our feelings are. You know those butterflies and inner nudges, our heart where we own our views and realize we do not posses the whole truth but remain open to other views and then the head where we are logical. When all these three are in sync we have clarity. Our emotions are God given and simply there to use which is what the mind, heart and stomach for. We just need to learn to trust them.

    • Jon Beaty says:

      Kirby,

      Thanks for your comment. Once of the things you said that stuck out for me is “We get so wrapped up in having to know everything right at this moment we never give ourselves time to explore options and figure out what we are truly called to.” It reminded me of the importance of living in the moment and looking for where God is at work in the present and how we can be a part of that work. We’re often looking for God to do something in our future, but He’s wanting our attention to be in the present. To paraphrase what Jesus said, tomorrow will take care of its self.

      • Kirby Ingles says:

        Well said. I realize that we are always looking for God to do something for us. But we do forget He is right here the whole time. We fail to realize He is always present and working in our lives if we just open our eyes and see it. I think this is where having that in the moment, mindfulness and gratitude really comes into play. I mean authentic gratitude not going through the motions. Then do we really see God at work in our lives. know we get caught up in gratitude exercises because it is the right thing to do and we should be teaching and leading by example. There is a huge difference in the spontaneous gratitude and the forced gratitude. The exercises are great because it helped me get to that authentic place and now I see more than I could before. It takes some practice and before you know it. Its working in our lives and we see more clearly.

    • Kirby,
      I like the pin-ball machine analogy. I feel like I’ve been there & done that myself. Yet, in the end, the bumps were worth it 🙂 Very well said!

      • Kirby Ingles says:

        Jed another way to look at the bounce or pinball machine is the bounce is the resilience you have. Sometimes we bounce back a little harder than others. So as we get flicked and swatted in life, it is really up to us how hard we bounce back and we can build up that resilience with certain behaviors and habits. We can also help build it with others by our own actions.

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