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#53: How to Discover Your Calling with Jeff Goins

March 31, 2015

Today’s topic is very near and dear to my heart.

We are talking about how to find your calling–what you were put on this earth to do.

Even those of us with jobs we love can sometimes feel unclear on whether we're really making the best use of our talents and utilizing our passions to the fullest. Even I find myself in this place sometimes, wondering if I'm on the right track or if certain decisions or circumstances are causing me to veer off course.

I know there are a lot of you out there who feel this way. You have talent to burn, and dreams of putting your best out into the world. Some of you are hustling hard every day to make those dreams a reality. Others of you haven't found the right opportunity yet, and are maybe working hard at a job that…well, let's just say a job that you don't really love, that doesn't quite fit the size of your aspirations.

Whether you're an entrepreneur, a 9-to-5'er, happy in your work or desperate to get out, my interviewee on the podcast today has a tremendously empowering message about finding your calling no matter where you are, and taking steps toward doing the work that you are built to do.

His name is Jeff Goins, and he just released a fantastic new book called The Art of Work.

Art of Work image

Take a minute to look through it by clicking here.

There are lots of books out there about how to find fulfilling work. You've probably read a few of them. Jeff's book really stands alone, though, because he's not delivering his message from a pedestal of wealth or prestige. Instead, he offers beautiful stories of real-life people that have found their calling in a multitude of different ways. He gets into the day-to-day stuff that, if you pay attention, helps you discover what your calling is.

This was such a great interview, you should really just listen to it on the podcast. But I'll give you a few highlights from my talk with Jeff:

What Is a “Calling,” Exactly?

Contrary to popular belief, your calling is not the same thing as your passion. Passions change as we mature, learn what really matters to us, and refine our understanding of what kind of impact we want to have on the world.

Calling has more to do with purpose. Jeff says it's not a single moment of sudden understanding; it's more a lifestyle, a constant evolution of understanding what you're here for.

It's Never Too Late

…Or, as some of you may be dreading to ask, when is it too late for a person to find their calling?

If you've been in the same line of work for a while, it's easy to think that you're stuck in the track you've created, and that your current job is simply your “default” calling. Maybe you feel like you wasted your past, that the opportunity to really take hold of your purpose has passed you by.

Jeff says that couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, he tells me the story of how he found his calling as a writer after being quite well established in a marketing career.

I wanted to change my life. I was one of those people who had one job, and it was a good job. I kind of felt guilty for not loving it. But I wanted something else.

Jeff says that one of the biggest things he learned from the interviews in The Art of Work is that your past prepares you for what is to come. You can use everything as an apprenticeship for what is coming next. He calls this listening to your life. Everything about where you've been up to now–the passions you've had, the failures you've experienced, the opportunities you did or didn't take–can help you figure out the larger purpose is in your life. Pay attention to what came before, and use it to fuel your next move.

The Biggest Factor in Achieving Your Calling

The idea of a self-made man or woman, Jeff says, is simply not true.

I think every story of success is really a story of community.

As he wrote The Art of Work, he found again and again that people who felt a strong sense of purpose in their lives had discovered that purpose through the help of others who believed in them…and even one or two who didn't support them, but gave them an opportunity to say “Yes, I can!” and prove the doubters wrong.

This, by the way, is particularly true for people in the online business world. Jeff pointed out that all online marketing is based off of relationship–building trust with your clients and audience, and partnering with your peers in the business world.

The more I understand the principles of success and what it takes to achieve a dream and what it takes to make it, it always takes community.

Start Where You Stand

There's no single road map to finding your calling and achieving your purpose. This can be daunting for a lot of us, who feel overwhelmed and just want someone to tell us what to do. And there are plenty of people out there, Jeff says, who “sanitize” their story after they've achieved success. They only tell us the cleaned-up version that comes with hindsight, and leave out all the dead ends, the wrong turns, and the times they went in circles.

Finding your calling takes practice. It involves a lot of learning as you go, because nobody else has the exact same calling as you, so there's no one who can tell you exactly what to do.

To start with, Jeff advises to examine wherever you are. Don't assume that because your current situation or circumstance is less than ideal that the time you've spent there was wasted. Even if it's not where you want to stay, there is something in that situation that you have been practicing. Use that practice and knowledge to your advantage.

This is the first part of listening to your life. The second part, Jeff says, is taking a few steps forward. Clarity on your calling comes with action. Most of us are waiting to just know what we are supposed to do, but you won’t just know. Jeff says he was surprised to find that most of the people he interviewed who are doing meaningful, remarkable work never saw it coming.

I would ask if they knew they wanted to do “this” when they were a kid. They all answered, “No, I didn’t. I had no idea.” But now that they are here, they can look back and understand all of it makes sense, as it was all preparing them for what they are doing.

Start thinking about what you love doing, and what you're really good at. Connect with others to get their take on what you're good at. Find people doing the kind of work you admire, take them out to coffee, and ask them how they got there. And learn to be both purposeful and flexible with the things life throws at you. You have to be really intentional, Jeff says, to make the most of whatever is happening right now. This is how life gives you clues as to what you should take action on.

Jeff Goins quote

What You Can Do Right Now

A study I read not too long ago said 87% of the world’s workers are disengaged with their jobs. They either absolutely hate their job or they are indifferent about it and are punching the clock and work is a means to make a living but is certainly not a way to make a life.

This, Jeff points out, is a big problem. If work is our means of making an impact on the world, we can't simply disengage from it until something better comes along. Because, Jeff says, what happens when something better does come along? If we haven't cultivated the habit of adding value to the world no matter where we are, we aren't going to be in shape to make the most of those opportunities.

What needs to happen, Jeff says, is a pivot–a turn of direction. Yes, it might mean a pivot in your external circumstances–changing the job you hate for one you love, take your career in an entirely different direction.

Sometimes, though, that kind of pivot takes years. In the meantime, your other option is to do an internal pivot: learning to orient yourself in your work toward a greater good of serving other people. 

If you are really going to move the direction of your life’s purpose, it may not happen overnight. The internal pivot is the first way to change your job from drudge work to a higher purpose. This is how you first become attuned to what your calling is.

You do have control. You have some control over your situation right now. So as you get an idea of what you might want to do try, use your current situation to practice for what’s to come. I don’t think you will regret it.

Visit The Art of Work to learn more about Jeff's book. And remember, if you order it now, you will get a bunch of bonuses including a freebie from Jeff himself that deals with these mindset shifts we talked about here.

Results are not guaranteed. Please see earnings disclaimer for more detail.

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