Finding and fulfilling your calling can be confusing, disheartening, anxiety-provoking, disappointing, and frustrating, but it can also lead to the greatest feelings of deep fulfillment you’ve ever experienced. When you know—youjust know—that you’re here to be an instrument of sacred service for the Divine to use you as a vessel of love amidst a world in crisis, you’ll find yourself on just such a hero’s journey—because your calling will reach out for you like a magnet draws forth metal. This kind of journey is not for the faint of heart, which is why I wrote my new book The Anatomy of a Calling. Consider it a sort of field manual for anyone on the hero’s or heroine’s journey of embodying your soul’s purpose. (The book trailer just dropped today! You can watch it here.) I wrote this book for anyone who just knows that you’re here on a sort of spiritual mission, one that your soul has been preparing for your whole life, which may be quite mysterious, filled with unexpected twists and turns.
You may have already heard the Call to Adventure, and you’re now on the Road of Trials, where things don’t always go quite as you planned. Or maybe you’ve heard the Call, but you’re Refusing the Call. Or maybe you’re in the Ordeal in the Innermost Cave, experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul, which always happens just before you Find the Holy Grail that you bring back to the Ordinary World on the Road Back. Maybe you’ve already completed one hero’s journey and now you just got called to another, because most of us are in the midst of multiple hero’s journeys all at once! Wherever you are,The Anatomy of a Calling is meant to offer you comfort, reassurance, tools, and practices that can facilitate whatever phase of the journey you find yourself navigating.
One of the ways in which heroes and heroines get off tracks is that people get seduced by myths about what it means to find and fulfill your calling. As I wrote about in 8 Myths About Finding Your Calling, your true soul’s purpose may not be what you think. So how can you tell if you’re on the right track? Here are a few signs.
1. You’re terrified when you first hear the call.
Caroline Myss warns, “God never calls you to something that doesn’t challenge you on the earth level. Why? You have to be tested, you have to be broken, you have to choose which voice you will listen to.” Everyone wants to feel the deep fulfillment of doing what you’re here on this earth to do, but most of us want that fulfillment without sacrificing our comfort zone. Yet most callings beckon you out of your comfort zone. We might try to compromise. “Can I please keep my comfort zone and still find and fulfill my calling?” The Universe probably giggles a little bit before saying, “No love. At some point, you have to choose. Are you all in? Or not?”
2. Your true calling activates your life force.
When you’re tuned into your real calling, you’ll feel filled with “Shakti,” that creative force of love that leaps you out of your chair into inspired actions that ignite your passion and burn a fire inside your soul. It’s not that you won’t get tired or feel drained sometimes. But you’ll feel as if Something Larger is taking you over and using you to fulfill a mission, and that feeling of getting used feels yummier than any regular old achievement. You may even find that your health improves, you attract a new love relationship, or you become an amazing person magnet, because this kind of life force is the very stuff that moves mountains, works miracles, and changes the world.
3. Your calling doesn’t fit in a box.
You can’t find a role model for anyone who is doing exactly what you’re being called to do. Usually, your calling will be perfectly unique, just for you. Someone else might offer you inspiration or share a similar calling to yours. But the way you will navigate the hero’s journey of your calling will be as unique as a fingerprint. After I had quit my job as a doctor, back when I was still trying to figure out what in the world I was supposed to do next, I was searching for something I could join—some preexisting thing that would fit me like a glove. My mentor Kitchen Table Wisdom author Rachel Naomi Remen, MD said, “Don’t join something. Build something.” If your perfect job doesn’t exist, create it.
4. You’ll realize that you’ve spent your whole life training for JUST THIS.
Even what seemed like dismal failures and ginormous life mistakes turned out to inform what your soul is here on this earth to express. The addiction you recovered from, the divorce that failed to close your heart, the cancer you survived, the child you almost abused during your postpartum depression, the job that required you to sell your soul—all of it becomes grist for the mill and bench presses your compassion muscles, making youjust the perfect person to do what you’re here to do.
5. Some people feel threatened by what you feel called to do.
Many true callings will beckon you to disrupt the status quo. For those who are comfortable with things as they are, you may ruffle inner feathers and shine a light on things they may not want to see within themselves. We can be very sneaky about the ways in which we compromise our souls. When one of us starts living fully aligned with the soul’s integrity, other people who aren’t doing the same tend to get uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean you should let what everybody thinks hold you back from saying a big “Hell Yeah” to your calling. It may not feel like it, but you’re doing those people a favor by illuminating something true within them, even if they feel triggered by the illumination.
6. Your calling seems to be a moving target.
You may think callings are some black and white thing, and if only you could pick the right answer out of a catalog, you’d like happily ever after, feeling deeply fulfilled by the inner knowing that you’re contributing your gifts just as you’re meant to. But true callings don’t tend to work that way. Your calling may look like ten different professions in one lifetime. Or it could mean total loyalty to one job, during which you change evolve you personally show up for that job a dozen times. I once thought it was my calling to go to medical school and practice medicine as a doctor. Then I felt like I had missed my calling because I felt very strongly called to leave medicine. Then I felt called to make art about my patients with breast cancer. Then I felt called to write a book—or five. Then I felt called to found the Whole Health Medicine Institute, a training program for conscious health care providers, therapists, coaches, and healers. It’s not that I got my calling wrong. It’s just that callings are a journey, and sometimes, we’re only given one bread crumb at a time. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
7. You can only see your calling one clear step into the future.
Callings don’t usually come with business plans, so you may feel called to make one inspired move—like quitting the wrong job or applying for a domain name or signing up for more education. But you may discover that after you’ve been brave enough to take that initial step, you feel a bit lost because the next step hasn’t been revealed yet. Don’t despair. You can’t rush your calling. Trust Divine timing and know that when the time is right for you to leap, you will be shown what to do—and you will recognize it.
8. Callings don’t go away.
You can quit your job, but you can’t quit your calling. You may find that you left behind what you thought was once a calling, but no longer feels like one. And yet, your calling keeps trailing you like a shadow. You don’t find callings. Callings find you—and like a true love, they won’t let you go. You may deny your calling for a long, long time, but callings are patient. They wear you down like a persistent two-year old, until you finally fall to your knees, bow down, and say, “I’m in.”
9. You feel like an instrument of the Divine in the world.
When you’ve really found your calling, you know it’s not YOU who’s doing that thing you do in the world. It’s an organizing intelligence, a Universal Love, a Benevolent Presence, God/Goddess—whatever you want to call this Thing That Takes You Over and uses you for sacred service. Your work begins to feel not like an act of ambition, but an offering of love. You care less about money (though there’s nothing wrong with a calling that offers you a comfortable living!) and more about living in alignment with your soul’s truth.
10. Your calling opens your heart.
You start noticing that your calling becomes your spiritual practice. Your growth edges get pushed. Your shadows get illuminated. Your relationships get tested. Your comfort zone gets threatened. Your ego gets stripped bare as onion layer after onion later of That Which Is Not Your True Nature gets peeled back. What you find at the core is your authentic self, your soul, or what I call in my new book The Anatomy of a Calling “Your Inner Pilot Light.” (Learn more about how to cultivate a relationship with your Inner Pilot Light here.) Your heart opens. Your capacity for compassion expands. The love within you overflows. You realize that really, your calling is all about showing you how to love.
To learn more tips and tools for finding and fulfilling your calling, visit TheAnatomyOfACalling.com.
Trusting your journey,
PS. To film my book trailer, a film crew followed me all around my favorite haunts in the Bay Area—everywhere from the Muir Beach Overlook to Grace Cathedral. Watch it here if you’re curious. Also, the preorder bonuses are still available until December 28, in case you feel the uprising of shakti leaping you out of your chair to preorder this book. This will be the kind of book you’ll want to talk about in your book club, so buy several copies to share with friends who are also on a hero’s journey. You can check out the preorder bonuses and place your order here.