Knowing with certainty what you are called to do
When I was 16 I got my first job at a waterpark. Why? Because I was tired of being broke and all my friends were doing it.
When I was 20, I got my first grown up job interning at an insurance agency. Why? Because I needed a summer job that would provide some legitimate work experience and my dad had connections in the industry.
When I was 22, I took my first full time job at Dell selling computers. Why? Because I had a degree in business and they were one of the best companies to work for at the time.
When I was 22 and a half, I left Dell because I was offered a job at a different company selling different stuff. Why? Because they paid more.
From age 22 to age 31, I bounced around different sales jobs looking for ways to make more and more money so I could buy crap that I would end up giving away for almost nothing.
At age 32, I decided it was time to pursue something I was passionate about and went into full time ministry.
At age 35, I decided to stop throwing darts at the wall when it came to my focus in life, learn from my past mistakes and finally take some risks that I should have been taking at 21.
So here I am at age 41 and I can tell you that I know with certainty what I am called to do. My specific assignments can and will likely change, but I know what I am here to do on this Earth and I enjoy doing it (most of the time). What’s a tad frustrating is that I strongly believe I could have experienced this same level of certainty at 21 had I been given a little more guidance by anyone who would have taken the time to guide me.
Lucky for you, I’m going to summarize 20 years worth of learning the hard way and give you a formula you can use right now to determine your own level of certainty when it comes to your specific calling in life.
How Specific Callings Work
A ‘calling’ is simply an urge toward some specific purpose. It’s like a gut feeling but one that is often accompanied by some sort of evidence to confirm that what you feel you should do is actually what you should do.
There are 2 types of callings in biblical literature: General and Specific.
General callings are those given to large groups of people like the general calling we have to love God and love others. A specific calling defines a general calling even further to answer the question - How should I specifically live out my general calling?
When we find ourselves frustrated, on our knees, asking God what He wants from our lives, it is the specific calling that we are asking him to define for us.
While God can (and has in the past) define specific callings for individuals throughout history (see Moses, Jesus, Paul and just about anyone who wrote part of the bible), he has left the majority of us with the freedom to pursue this on our own.
The new testament writers consistently emphasize this freedom we have been given to pursue our gifts and passions as we apply Jesus’ teachings to every aspect of society. Such amount of open ended, freedom can; however, be paralyzing at times. Too many options can create an anxiety that we might pick the wrong path.
Here is a little secret if you have ever felt anxious about making a choice that could turn out to be bad:
When you choose a path that stays within the guidelines of your general calling, there are no wrong paths! Some paths will be more fruitful than others but they will all be fruitful.
Let’s say you decide to pursue photography on your own as an entrepreneur but end up having to quit 12 months later because you couldn’t make enough money to pay the bills. You now find yourself $8,000 in debt and the experiment feels like a failure. The reality;however, is that God gave you the freedom and the passion to venture down that path in the first place and you did so knowing you wanted to honor him with your gifts and passions. You may have underestimated a few aspects that you needed to have in place first, like understanding what it takes to run a small business and having enough savings to give yourself time to develop a client base. We call that learning by doing.
Your first attempt at photography wasn’t as fruitful as you hoped it would be but it was still fruitful because it taught you some valuable lessons about what other skills you need to develop should you choose to go at it again.
How to Get Confirmation Regarding Your Specific Calling
Risk is a part of everything we do. It’s risky to pursue a specific calling, it’s also risky not to. The sting of regret due to missed opportunities is not a fun thing to live with. So instead of a life filled with shoulda-coulda-woulda, allow me to offer a way you can discover your specific calling with confidence while reducing the amount of risk you are a little anxious about taking.
The process has two steps. You can download this free worksheet to use for the exercise ----->
Write out 3 Purpose Statements using this format:
I can see myself doing ________________ for _____________________ because I would love to see ____________________________________.
I can see myself creating a non-profit organization for at-risk teens and young adults because I would love to see them discover their true identity, purpose and belonging on this Earth.
Purpose statements define the what, who and why of your specific calling. The how, when and where need to be part of the plan eventually too but you don’t have to cram all that in right now.
Rank your Purpose Statements with this Purpose Project Scale:
On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the lowest score and 10 being the highest….answer these 5 questions for each purpose statement you have written out.
#1 Passion - How excited do you get when you envision this purpose statement becoming a reality?
Hint: Don’t mark all three purpose statements with the same score. Even if you are equally jacked about all of them, give one an 8, one a 9 and one a 10.
#2 Opportunity - Do you have the resources you need to get started on this and has a pathway emerged for you to begin pursuing this purpose statement?
Hint: Anything you pursue will require time, money and skill. These are resources that you might need to work on putting together first. Your purpose statement should receive a high score if the resources you need to get started are all in place. Reduce the score if some of the resources are in place but others you need to work on attaining.
#3 Skill - Do you have the natural talents and personality type needed to succeed at this?
Hint: If you want to be a singer but you don’t sing very well, your score here should reflect that. You don’t have to be naturally talented at everything you pursue but it helps. The other factor to consider is your personality type. Take the test at www.16personalities.com and see if the career or path you outline in your purpose statement meshes with your personality type.
#4 Regret - How much will you regret never pursuing this purpose statement?
Hint: Everyone has regret to some level. Your goal is to reduce regret as much as possible. Read your purpose statements and score them lower if you feel you may have some regret by never pursuing that particular path and score higher for purpose statements that you feel you would have a larger amount of regret by not pursuing.
#5 Sacrifice - To what level are you willing to endure hardship and make sacrifices as you pursue this calling?
Hint: This ties back into the first question as we generally are willing to sacrifice more for the things that we are most passionate about. As you read each purpose statement, do your best to envision the difficulty you will likely encounter. If you are not sure, you should probably ask someone who is already doing what you want to be doing. Again, don’t give each purpose statement the same score here. Whichever one you are willing to bleed for the most gets the top score.
Now add up your scores and the highest number wins. At this point in your life, this is the purpose statement you should be going after because it’s specific and you have the strongest urge, or ‘calling’, to do it. You can know this with certainty because
God has created you with emotion (passion) and it is pointing you in this direction.
God has provided most, if not all, of the resources you need get started.
God has embedded in you a large part of the talent and personality type it will take to make this happen.
God has nudged you with the reality of regret you will likely face if you don’t take action on this.
God has been preparing you to travel down a narrow path and has given you the freedom to choose a direction you are willing to endure hardship over.
That is about as much certainty as you can possibly have in this life. It will still take a large degree of faith to venture out in your calling but that was always supposed to be part of the equation because without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)
Measuring your level of passion, opportunity, skill, regret and sacrifice provides the evidence that your specific calling, or urge, is not just some exciting new dream to chase but something that is tangible and doable. What comes next is knowing where and how to begin. For that, I suggest you leverage our Purpose Project Course online at www.catalystpurposeproject.com.
Freedom is a beautiful thing. It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s taken for granted and it’s at the core of who our creator is. The ultimate freedom of love cannot be forced on anyone. It’s a choice that carries its own risks. The choice God gave us to pursue him, choose to love him back and to pursue what he gave us the gifts, passions and opportunities to do is amazing. Not everyone has these freedoms that we do here in America which is why we will be held more accountable to how we decide to leverage them.
It’s important to remember a few more things. Specific callings can and often do have seasons. Some last for months, others for years or decades. You have the freedom to follow a number of different callings over your lifetime. Many are shocked to hear that specific callings are not a guarantee of success. In heaven, we will each have a job, or calling, that God has prepared for us to do and we will be very successful at it. In this life; however, sin and evil have been set loose. Things are not operating as God had originally created them to and as a result, plans have a tendency to fall apart at times.
If or when you fall short as you attempt to bring your chosen purpose statement to life, cling to gratitude as your weapon against disappointment. Thank God for the time you did have on this path and for what you were able to do and learn in the process. .
Stay mindful of your general calling, continue to take risks with your specific calling and do your best to enjoy the ride. Do these things and you will know with certainty that in the end, you maximized the desires, opportunities, skills and freedoms you were given to be exactly who God made you to be.