When you’ve found the right line of work for you, you’ll probably know it. You’ll feel a deep compatibility with your role. Your emotional and personal connection to your vocation will be strong and your career inherently more satisfying. You can work longer without feeling significantly depleted, your sense of purpose and vision will be clear and robust, and your natural enthusiasm will percolate simply from carrying out your work. This passion indicates that you have found - and are actively pursuing - your calling.
Your calling usually aligns with the values and ambitions that you hold deepest. Most of the time, it’s something inherent and immutable. Consider, for example, someone who cares deeply about the environment and climate change: this person may find their calling in work that aids large organisations in reducing their carbon footprint. It's fulfilling, purposeful work that stimulates your very core.
Interestingly, this passion can be created if enough investment of energy is put into a venture and if progress is made – however, there must exist an element of free choice for passion to flourish. In other words, the individual must be able to choose their own path in which they can dedicate their time and effort.
For some, callings may even develop a little earlier in life thereby informing the direction of one’s future studies and/or career. In a study in 2015, researchers Shoshana Dobrow Riza and Daniel Heller followed adolescents who each expressed a passion for music and the desire to pursue a career as a musician. This calling bolstered them against setbacks on their career path, translated into perseverance and grit to achieve their goals, and even numbed any negative effects of the economic hardships and struggles that amateur musicians often face.
So, the virtues of having a calling have been well-established at this point, but what happens if we don’t have a calling? Is there something wrong? Absolutely not. There are two solutions as to why some of us may not have experienced this; either we haven’t explored and identified our calling that has been laying dormant and waiting to be found, or we simply don’t have a strong enough passion for something to qualify it as a calling. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either way. In fact, those having no calling at all in life are actually better off than those who haven’t answered their calling. Those with unanswered callings reported lower life fulfilment, work engagement, career commitment and life satisfaction, while also being prone to more physical and psychological stress.
As is usually the case, having and achieving one’s calling can also have its perils. Those with a strong calling may not only be resistant to setbacks, but can be consumed so much by their passion to the point of being oblivious to dangers and warning signs around them. Let’s return to our adolescent musicians and their career pursuit. The researchers observed that many of the musicians had overestimated their own ability as a result of their unabating passion, impelling them to persist despite evidence suggesting that it would be either an unattainable or unstable and hazardous career. In other words, having a strong calling can greatly distort our perspective on what is realistic and what isn’t.
Even with this considered, it’s evident that those with a clear calling in life are gifted with a direction in which they ought to be headed. Pursuing one’s calling can be motivating, fulfilling, and hugely satisfying. Having a calling that is unanswered, on the other hand, can be hugely harmful for wellbeing and life satisfaction in the long-run. And for those without a calling, fret not: it may develop one day. Until then, working in a vocation that’s enjoyable, rewarding and progressive can be just as advantageous, with an added splash of realism and pragmatism to keep on track.