Would a reasonable person say your basic human needs for food, clothing, and shelter are met on most days? (Yes or No).
Do you enjoy feeling good? (Yes or No).
Are you human and living on planet Earth? (Yes or No).
SCORING. If you answered YES to all three questions, your calling right now is to do what you do when you are being who you are.
Does this help? Probably not. Most people reading this article will have answered YES to all three questions. And most will also likely agree that once we have our basic needs met, our fundamental work is to be our authentic selves and do what we do when we’re being who we are.
But of course, this knowledge is not nearly enough. There is still a gnawing need to know, specifically, what each of us has to offer. It’s like we want to peek into the future to see what we will do when we are our authentic selves. That desire to peek into the future isn’t a problem, as long as we understand some basic concepts about what a calling is, and what it isn’t.
For the past twenty years or so, I’ve had a hobby of interviewing people about their callings. I’ve never heard of a calling that wasn’t touching, hilarious, delightful, or profound. I’ve never heard of a calling that felt like a mistake.
My sense is most people have a sense of their specific calling, but they struggle with the feeling that their calling isn’t enough; that it is somehow lacking. These struggles seem to relate to what I think are three very common myths about callings. I’d like to break them down here, in hopes you can recognize if you buy into any of them, and perhaps use this article as a second opinion.
My calling is why I’m here.
This is perhaps the most common myth in New Age culture, and it probably springs from a cross between the idea of reincarnation (the wheel of karma) and Western puritanical notions of work being central to goodness. I’d like to introduce the idea that believing our calling—our soul’s work, our true work in the world—is what we are “here to do” places very little faith in the love of the universe for us. No one can claim to know the “why” of human existence, but my vote is that we are completely and unconditionally loved without having to do the smallest lick of work. Take the lilies in the field. The idea that we are here to do specific work, and if we don’t do it, we fail or face hell or yet another lifetime seems like a projection of our deepest insecurities.
Here’s an alternative approach: We are here because we are here. We are loved because we are here. We do our soul’s work because we love to do it. Our callings are not why we are here—they are what we do while we are here, when we are allowing ourselves to feel loved.
My calling must be unique.
Once people realize their calling, they can sometimes get into a funk. When I talk with them about it, they tell me their fear is that their calling is too commonplace—not unique enough. The underlying question seems to be, “If my calling isn’t unique, what justifies my existence?” The hidden insecurity is that we don’t deserve to exist unless we offer something unique. While I do think it is the case that each of us has a unique, specific calling, what if that weren’t true? What if there’s some redundancy in the universe? Is that such a problem? It actually seems like a smart design, right? The only reason it would be a problem is because of a common and deep fear that who we are is not enough.
Try this other style of thinking: Whether our callings are unique or not is not really our business. Wiping off the sludge that has been caked onto our authentic selves over the years—that is our business. When we do this, we can freely and clearly see our soul’s work shine.
My calling must be productive.
A woman discovered that her calling is to relax, receive, and realize. But almost immediately after this joyful discovery, she was paralyzed with fear. She was concerned that either she was mistaken about her calling or that her calling was indeed just as she thought—but that it was not valuable. She was in a double bind; if she didn’t pursue her calling, she would not feel happy. But if she did pursue her calling, she would feel useless. It’s easy to see that her concern can be traced back to the belief that she is not enough—but there’s something more here. There’s also a belief that what we call “non-productive” behaviors, or actions in which no action seems to be happening, are not contributions.
If you feel similarly, try this on for size: There are no noncontributory callings. For instance, relaxing, receiving, and realizing can make profound contributions—ask any mystic. These actions are only what’s necessary to shift the world toward a more positive course, after all.
Final thought: Every moment spent allowing your calling to engage in the world is a contribution. It’s time for us to all learn to contribute in the most joyful way: by allowing ourselves to feel loved so our callings can be discovered, energized, and engaged in the world.
Julia Mossbridge, PhD, is a visiting scholar at Northwestern University, fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, science director at Focus@Will Labs, and associated professor of integral and transpersonal psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. The 2014 winner of the Charles Honorton Integrative Contributions Award, she is coauthor (with Imants Baruss) of Transcendent Mind, author of The Garden and Unfolding, as well as coauthor of The Premonition Code in addition to multiple scientific articles. She is also inventor of Choice Compass, a patented physiologically based decision-making app. Learn more about The Calling at the Mossbridge Institute website.