I was raised as a preacher’s kid in a growing area of Columbus, Ohio. Being the oldest of four, I quickly learned to take the lead. It also helped that our home was a nurturing environment for a young woman with big dreams. At a young age, my dad took over a small organization that provided food and clothing to people trapped in poverty. Forty years later, this food pantry has expanded into a multifaceted family-resource center providing critically needed services across central Ohio. The best part? It inspires hope. My upbringing shaped a strong desire in me to want to help people. For nearly two decades, I threw myself into vocational pastoral ministry and investing in people, especially students, was one of the greatest joys of my early years.
Working with students and families provided hundreds of opportunities to listen to stories. Without fail, each story would lead to a conversation around their search for purpose, met with big eyes wondering what it could be. Regardless of gender or age, we all have one thing in common: We are searching for that spark. A purpose that lights your heart on fire. It fuels your adrenaline, helps you jump out of bed excited in the morning, but at the same time makes it hard to switch off your brain at night. Your heart rate increases thinking of it even now. This is your “why.” It’s a huge part of who you are and what you’re meant to do with your life. It is your calling.
Recently, I spoke with a dear friend who has the most beautiful brown eyes and the kind of smile that pulls you in for endearing conversation (we’ll call her Samantha for this article). On this occasion, something felt different. There was no smiling behind the mask, and she seemed numb to the commotion around us. I listened as she talked about feeling stuck – trapped even – as her full-time mom role came to an end. Dropping her youngest off to an out-of-state university officially made her an empty nester. Samantha’s internal dialogue began to seep out as she shared deep sadness for negating most opportunities to explore her own purpose and dreams. Her time had expired.
My why behind this article is simply this:
Too many people live life believing that finding their true purpose has an expiration date. Countless women fall prey to false belief systems attached to their age, when life doesn’t go as planned or when Mt. Everest stands in the way. These perspectives lead to thousands living life in a way that feels invisible. Living the life of a ghost, with a story never realized. On the reverse lives the leading lady who finds it. There is nothing more extraordinary than when a woman finds clarity around her unique, gifting and “why.”
DeW friends, I am honored to begin a conversation with you centered around why we must pursue the calling in our lives and the significance behind discovering it.
“What you seek is seeking you.” – Rumi
Career Versus Calling
After the birth of my daughter, I worked for a nonprofit organization dear to my heart. The job provided me the flexibility to work at the office and from home, giving me time to be with my baby. After a few years, I started to feel this deep longing for more. The passion I felt for the work I was doing was waning, and my heart was telling me my journey of working with students and families wasn’t finished. A lot of soul searching led me to a story about the founder of The Dream Center in Los Angeles, Matthew Barnett. He talked about his walk toward finding the cause within and said it this way:
“A transforming cause is never about you promoting yourself, achieving greater fame or fortune, experiencing more pleasure or comfort, amassing greater power. It is always about using the resources you’ve been given – skills, relationships, experiences, time, money, intelligence and all the rest to make a positive impact in the lives of others.”
After realizing that my current role was not fully maximizing the gifts inside of me, I resigned. Within weeks of this decision, my phone rang and I was offered a new, exciting role which led to one of the most challenging and yet rewarding seasons of my professional life. From this moment forward, I decided to only invest my time, talents and resources in places where my deep gladness meets the world’s deepest need. What if we started pursuing vocations and opportunities that fuel the spark inside us? Living life in pursuit of what lights your soul on fire will change everything.
“Finding your calling is like f inding your why; the reason you exist, your purpose for l iving.” – John Maxwell
Check out this one minute video (https://youtu.be/bCfoUnuiig) with a Pro Tip called the Ten Year Test
A couple of weeks ago, I worked on a collaborative project with dentistry’s story-driven marketing agency, Studio EightyEight. Four interviews with four different doctors led to a discussion on mental health and wellness as it relates to dentistry. One of my favorite ways to introduce someone on a podcast, Zoom call or Facebook Live is to tell the story of how we met and also share with the audience qualities and characteristics that describe who they are as a human. Most people are surprised when I introduce them this way, but to me, it’s everything.
A person’s values, beliefs, communication style, personality and character should match their purpose or calling. The faster we discover ourselves, the closer we are to identifying our purpose. Finding simple ways to help individuals discover the clarity they need when on the path is extremely important and just happens to light me up. Here are a few of my favorite ways to begin your discovery process.
My Favorite Tools for Self-Discovery
The global strengths movement started six decades ago when Don Clifton posed a simple question: “What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what’s wrong with people?” You will love this short assessment identifying individuals’ top five strengths.
An ancient personality typing system that identifies nine types of people and how they relate to one another and the world. The Enneagram is a powerful tool for understanding why we behave the way we do and how our personalities are powerfully influenced by our motivations. I am an Enneagram 8, and it has set me free to embrace who I am in a new way while working towards the healthiest version of “me” that I can be.
Another tool in moving towards clarity is in answering these three questions. I encourage you to take as long as you need. Go find a quiet space and reflect on the change you were meant to create in this world.
- What do I sing about? What fills my heart?
- What do I cry about? What breaks my heart?
- What do I dream about? What lifts my heart?
Bias Towards Action
Admittedly, I am a podcast junkie and short video podcasts are the best. Donald Miller is an author and the founder of a marketing company called Storybrand, and he recently released a video describing the one thing all successful people have in common. He shares how people can be wildly successful and yet operate so differently. The single common denominator among all successful people is a bias towards action. They don’t live in a daydream all day long, and they get things done. They are always moving forward. ProTip: Make a to-do list every day of the highest priority things you can do to move towards success, and do them every day. Even if you’re still working on clarifying your calling, finding tangible ways to move toward it will help you make a determination faster.
My dear DeW friends… You may already know your calling, and, if you do, I applaud you for doing the work it takes to get there. Live freely, take up space and speak your truth. Our world needs you, and we need you too. If you are in a season of transition or have never truly felt as if you have come alive with purpose, then these words are for you:
You are not past your due date. It’s not too late. Your dreams are waiting for you, so don’t give up. Go be captivated by what you were meant to do. I can’t wait to hear about your fearless story.