Photo credit: Anton Glavas www.antonglavas.com
Ever feel like you have a higher purpose?
Something you're meant to do with your life—a calling you’re destined to fulfil?
You're not alone.
It's no wonder so many of us feel like this. In this day and age, we're constantly being fed the message that we must find our calling, our ultimate purpose.
From the philosophizing of public figures like Oprah, Steve Jobs, and Simon Sinek, to college ads, numerous religions, and a zillion online videos, TED talks, and articles.... (phew!), the message that there's an ultimate meaning or calling to our lives is practically shoved down our throats.
And guess what? That message is gobbled up. In fact, “what is the meaning of my life?” gets anywhere from 100,000 to 1 million searches on Google every single month!
As a career coach, many of my clients come to me frustrated by this idea. They feel inadequate for not having found their calling and afraid of failing to fulfil their purpose.
Even I grew up believing we all have a greater calling to fulfil. In fact, it's one of the reasons I became a career coach—to help people find that calling.
But what if I told you there isn't one single thing you're meant to do with your life? What if I told you there is no greater purpose and you have no calling?
How does that make you feel? Does it take a bit of the pressure off?
A story we tell ourselves...
The more I learn, the more I realize the idea of a calling is probably a fiction—a story we tell ourselves to help us get through the day and make sense of the world.
As we look over the course of history, we can see the types of stories humans tell have shifted and molded over time. What was once considered ultimate truth—such as kings being endowed with divine powers—is now considered to be ludicrous in educated societies.
The same may be true of our belief in a calling. There is no proof of a purpose or a calling in objective reality, so we cannot know it is true.
Of course, believing in things we cannot see isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Believing in stories is one of the reasons humans thrive as the dominant species on our planet—we’ve developed stories around politics, religion, history, and economics that help to create win-win situations for large amounts of people.
However, whether the belief that we have a calling is true or not (which we have no way of knowing), at the end of the day, it is a story. Which means, we should be asking ourselves—is this story helping or hindering us?
The idea of a calling suggests there's a right way and a wrong way to live our lives. Take the right path, and you'll serve a higher purpose. Take the wrong path, and you're a failure.
But with so many career options available, I've found this idea has become more of a burden than a helpful tool—which is why I think it’s time to let it go
And let's be totally honest—are our lives really that important? Do we really matter that much when you consider all other human life, the stars, the planets, the galaxies, and the universe (...or even possible universes)?
Perhaps the idea of a calling is just our egos telling us that we matter more than we do, telling us that we have a higher purpose to fulfil—because the alternative is too frightening.
I'll leave that up to you to decide.
A distraction that does more harm than good...
I believe the idea we all have a calling does more harm than good. In fact, I believe it's dangerous, breeding discontent, restlessness, and dissatisfaction.
Meanwhile, our search for the perfect purpose, the one true calling, the thing we’re “meant” to do, distracts us from what is already good and meaningful in our lives right now.
Why not take some pressure off, appreciate our reality, and embrace more of life's possibilities instead?
Freeing ourselves of the burden of finding our purpose allows us to create the space to simply find something that brings us joy.
We can find something that fulfils us, that gives our lives meaning, and that we enjoy—without all the damn pressure.
We can relax, let go, and step into what makes us happy now, and trust ourselves to continue seeking out that feeling into the future.
We can stop fretting about whether or not we're doing the right thing with our lives and allow for multiple possibilities, multiple careers, and multiple paths.
So let's try a new way of working...
There are so many ways we can live our lives. There is no right or wrong path. There is no ultimate purpose for our lives. We don't have a calling.
And that is a beautiful thing. It allows us to apply purpose and meaning to anything we do, rather than frantically seeking some objective purpose or meaning that probably doesn't even exist.
If you don't like your job, find one thing about your work that does give you a sense of meaning, no matter how small.
There may not be an ultimate meaning to our lives, but there is an opportunity to attribute meaning to any situation—it could be an opportunity for growth, a stepping stone to something else, or simply spreading small kindnesses to the people you work with.
Do this and I guarantee you'll be happier.
Even if you do think you've found your calling, as soon as circumstances change, you'll likely feel completely lost again, wondering where your sense of purpose went.
So my advice to you is to give up on finding your calling—there's no ultimate calling for you to find and fulfil.
Instead, decide what is meaningful to you, determine what you're good at, and find work that aligns with those things.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.