Posted on December 1st, 2009 by Colin and is posted in Lifestyle Design
Work is a huge part of our lives, not a separate entity. To live your ideal lifestyle requires you to choose work that leverages your unique talents and passions as a true expression of who you are.
You have a unique (like a thumb print) combination of talents, passions, skills and qualities that predisposes you to certain kinds of work. Life skill number three is about knowing yourself well enough to know what your talents and passions are and then finding an avenue where you can leverage them to serve others and do good in the world. This is about finding your life’s purpose or vocational calling.
Job or Vocation?
Many of us spend most of our waking hours on the job or doing work-related tasks. With so much time spent working, the way you view your professional life strongly impacts your sense of well-being and happiness. Your attitude toward work can generally be classified in 1 of 2 ways.
1. People who work as a means to an end (such as money or status) tend to view employment as a job. What they do and where they do it is irrelevant, since the job is only a means to earn money and pay the bills.
2. Whilst most workers understand jobs, few work in a way that reflects their true vocation. A vocation, Latin for ‘Calling’ is an occupation that manifests both personal gifts and passions to a common good.
While one classification of work is not necessarily ‘better’ than another, research suggests that the most satisfied amongst us are those whose jobs are part of an overall career that ultimately serves their vocation. Your vocation is tied to your sense of meaning and life-purpose.
Play to Your Strengths
Unfortunately for most of us, we’ve been conditioned to focus on trying to improve our weaknesses. It starts primarily in our families, then throughout our schooling years and eventually follows us into our careers. What’s been your experience? How does the conversation go in your performance review? Is it focused on improving your strengths or fixing weaknesses?
I think I know the answer!
According to a multinational survey conducted by Gallup, only 20 percent of people feel they get a chance to do what they’re best at whilst at work. In his best-selling book, ‘Now, Discover Your Strengths’ Marcus Buckingham writes that the idea of sticking to what you’re good at is the foundation for a meaningful and satisfying career.
One of the biggest myths in today’s world perpetuates the belief that improvement comes from working on weaknesses. Whilst we all need to work on our rough edges, it’s a total waste of time, talent, and opportunity to focus exclusively on fixing weaknesses. It’s also hugely energy draining!
Here’s a brutal fact: mavericks, as well as entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, athletes, entertainers, and leaders achieve greatness by focusing on their strengths. They understand what they’re good at and find ways to maximize their uniqueness. Each of us is ‘gifted’ in some way. I can do some things better than you and you can do some things better than I can.
Your strengths are the platform from which you can excel and add value to the world. Unfortunately, you might not have learned to recognize your strengths. You may discount them as unimportant because they are second nature or come easy.
Vocation – Part Time, Full Time?
I believe everyone has the potential to make a living from their passions and talents but I need to make an important distinction here. I see many mid-lifers made to feel bad because of messages like, “you should be doing what you love for a living” or “when you do what you love you’ll never work another day in your life.” These statements may be true for some but many feel like a failure because they’re not doing what they love for a living!
It’s perfectly legitimate to have a job that pays the bills, keeps a roof over your head and puts food on the table and also have a ‘calling’ that you do alongside, but don’t derive an income from. Don’t beat yourself up or feel like a failure because what you do for a living is not fulfilling your vocational calling – it doesn’t always have to. What I don’t advocate is spending long hours in a job that’s not leveraging your talents and passions. Just making a living and not making meaning is a recipe for inner stress.
Finding Your Vocational Calling
If joy is lacking in the area of work for you follow this simple (but not easy to do) three step process:
1. Figure what you are good at and enjoy (do what you love and what comes easy)
2. Align it with what people want or need (find people who need it)
3. Sell it to them (get people to pay for it)
Discovering Your Talents
Firstly ask yourself:
1. What am I good at?
2. What do I look forward to doing next week?
Spend time probing into your gifts and talents. Ask co-workers, friends and family what you are good at.
Uncovering Your Passion
Secondly ask yourself:
1. What am I passionate about?
2. What do I enjoy doing?
In order to be able to serve others you first have to do what brings you the most joy.
Provide Meaningful Service
Lastly, many vocational callings have a strong service element so if you want to derive an income from your ‘calling’ make sure you think about your talents and passions with other people in mind.
Look at your unique talents and passions that are valued by other people in the world (not just you!). If you give people something they value, they will be happy to pay you for it. To get some extra clarity around this get some answers to these questions:
1. Whom do you want to serve?
2. How can you use your gifts and talents to serve them?
3. What is the problem you can fix for them?
4. How much can you charge for your service?
Putting Your Talents and Passions into Play
Now that you know what your talents and passions are, it’s time to put them into play. To do this it’s much easier to start small and build from there. This week find two specific activities that bring your talents and passions into play.
Create a plan to add one to two strengths each week. As you add your strengths each week you can let go of activities that diminish your strengths and leave you feeling weak.
Investing your time and energy being great at something is a lifelong discipline but the changes will be profound and lasting. You’ll be happier and the recipients (work colleges and customers) will reward you for your superbness.
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