More now than ever before, we are entering a time when people are realizing that it’s not ultimately fulfilling to just find a stable job, hunker down and serve a company that doesn’t feed your soul, build up your retirement account, and delay gratification until you retire at 65, when you can golf and lie on beaches in Florida until you kick the bucket. Not only do fewer and fewer stable jobs exist; even those who have seemingly stable jobs are finding that something even more important is beckoning them—a way to do soul-uplifting work you love that serves others and benefits our planet.
More than anyone I know, my beloved friend Scott Dinsmore believed in doing work that you love. In addition to starting Live Your Legend, he also gave a TEDx talk that over 3 million people have watched—How to Find and Do Work You Love. In a tragic accident while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Scott just passed into the spirit realm in September, but his legacy lives on, in the hearts of all who knew him. We can’t help ask ourselves, are we living our legends NOW?
The Anatomy of a Calling
While Scott talked about “living your legend,” I’ve always been attracted to the notion of a “calling.” As a doctor, I felt like I was called to medicine the way some are called to the priesthood, as a sort of spiritual mission. But what is a “calling?” A “calling” is a call from the soul that guides you to create a more beautiful world in your own exquisitely unique way. A calling is not your ego fantasizing about working remotely from beaches anywhere while getting big book deals and fat paychecks (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). It’s a deeper thing, a yearning to serve a Divine purpose that arises from the heart, usually in ways that ease the suffering of other people or animals or rainforests.
My personal journey towards finding and fulfilling my own calling was painful and confusing. I thought I was called to medicine, but then I felt betrayed by medicine, as if I couldn’t stay in alignment with my soul’s integrity within a system that required me to see 40 patients per day. I wound up quaking in my surgeon’s clogs and leaving my stable job as a medical doctor in 2007 to embark upon a journey from the head to the heart, one that took me straight into the gut-wrenching unknown, where mystery awaited me, alongside dragons and miracles. In my new book The Anatomy of a Calling, I tell the whole crazy, tragic, miraculous story of how I left the operating room, wound up $200,000 in debt, and somehow—through what I can only call GRACE—wound up writing books, starring in PBS specials, and running a training program for health care providers called the Whole Health Medicine Institute. Although The Anatomy of a Calling is about me and my story, it’s really about you and your story. Finding and fulfilling your calling is a hero’s journey, just like Joseph Campbell spelled out in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a model I use as the map by which I help you can track and follow your own progress along the path of finding and fulfilling one’s calling. I firmly believe every single one of us is a hero. Some people just don’t know it yet.
So what does it even mean to find and fulfill your calling? There seems to be a whole misguided mythology around life purpose, and since I’ve been teaching doctors and other visionaries about Divine purpose for five years now, I know that a lot of it is total hogwash. So let’s bust a few myths together so you can feel into the truth of why you’re here and what you may be called to do.
8 Myths about Finding Your Calling
Myth #1 Callings come with business plans.
I could never have written a business plan for the shocking and unexpected ways in which I’ve been called to serve on this planet, and most people I know who are living smack dab in the center of their purpose couldn’t either. All you can do is follow one small breadcrumb at a time, mustering up the moxie to say “YES” when that breadcrumb shows up, even though you may have no idea where you’re being led.
Myth #2 You only get one calling.
Sometimes you’re called to one act of service, but that calling may have an expiration date. You do what you’re here to do. You complete it. And then you’re called to do something else. You may even be called to more than one act of service simultaneously. This doesn’t mean you’re flaky or a branding nightmare. It just means you’re multi-passionate and your services may be needed in seemingly disparate areas of your genius.
Myth #3 Only chosen people have callings.
Callings are not a luxury reserved for divinely appointed extraordinary people. Every single one of us is called to play our instrument of divinity in the cosmic orchestra, in our own unique way.
Myth #4 Callings must come with paychecks.
Some people are called to be stay-home moms. Others are called to volunteer to do food distribution at a refugee camp in Africa. You don’t have to get paid for fulfilling your calling, though people who find and fulfill their calling tend to find that money is a natural byproduct of contributing your gifts and service towards something that lights up your soul.
Myth #5 If you’re following your calling, life is easy all the time.
Finding and fulfilling your calling is a hero’s journey. That means you’re going to get the call—and refuse to answer it for a while. Then when you’re finally brave enough to say yes, you’ll embark upon the Road of Trials, where you’ll bump into obstacles, get your conviction and commitment tested, and meet both allies who lift you up and enemies that push you down. You’ll approach the Innermost Cave, where you’ll endure the Ordeal and find the holy grail. But you’ll still need to find the courage to bring the holy grail back home, as true heroes always do. Finding and fulfilling your calling may not be easy, but it’s likely to be the most deeply nourishing, rewarding experience you’ll ever have in this human life.
Myth #6 Finding your calling means you have to quit your stable job.
Sometimes finding your calling requires you to take a leap of faith and quit the job that isn’t your calling. But callings aren’t all or nothing. There’s no reason you can’t pay the bills with a stable job that doesn’t necessarily light your fire while fulfilling your calling on the side. There may even be a way to make your current job into a calling in ways that are simpler than you thought.
Myth #7 You must have a breakdown to find your calling.
For many, myself included, a breakdown precedes a breakthrough. I had to go through what I came to call my “Perfect Storm” before I found my true calling. But you don’t have to wait for things to fall apart in order to say yes to that which is calling you. People often ask me “How do you know when it’s time to take a leap of faith?” I answer, “When the pain of staying put exceeds your fear of the unknown, you leap.” That’s when the hero’s journey really accelerates.
Myth #8 Callings have to be grand.
You don’t have to get up on stage or give a TED talk or write a book or start a nonprofit organization in order to find and fulfill a calling. Some callings may seem humble but are equally significant to raising the vibration of the planet. Your calling may ask you to quit your stable job to stay home and take care of your sick grandmother. You may be asked to raise conscious children. You might be the janitor who hugs everyone in the office and spreads a virus of love through a culture of greed. You might be the woman who walks the beach every night and picks up trash. Every small act of love for another human, animal, plant or aspect of nature contributes to the revolution of love that will help us heal globally.
Have You Found Your Calling?
How might you serve this revolution of love in your own big or small ways? How will you live your legend? Are you brave enough to say yes when the phone rings? Are you listening for the spiritual guidance that will show you the way through the dark unknown of your Divine purpose? Are you willing to let your heart take the lead as you navigate your hero’s journey?
If you need support on your hero’s journey, you can preorder The Anatomy of a Calling here.
You can also tune in at no cost when Lewis Howes is the first person to interview me specifically about finding and fulfilling your calling. Register for the School of Greatness Summit here so you can tune into our interview on Monday.
Just know that you are not alone as you venture into this scary territory of that which you are called to do. Blessings on your journey!