Understanding your calling: Part Four
This is part of a series of blog posts about finding your calling, based on podcast episodes. If you're interested in this, you might like to listen to the podcast episode here, on which this blog post and the one that preceeds it, are based.
A number of years ago Sean Kennedy and I put together a course called Loved, Called, Gifted that helps people to understand their life calling. It's now available online and you can find it, if you’re interested, at lovedcalledgifted.com .
One of the things that we get people to do when they come on the course is to think about all the things they currently do and think about what those things do to their energy levels.
Some things that we do leave us feeling exhausted and drained. Others, even if they're tiring, leave us feeling invigorated and energised. They are life giving. Noticing the impact of the things that we do helps us to understand more about our calling.
On the course, we invite people to list all of things that they do and place each on in one of three categories:
this is something that gives me life
this is something that feel neutral about
these are things which leave me feeling drained and exhausted
The reason that this is helpful is that we have a tendency to go a little bit onto autopilot. There are some things which we simply have to do, and so we get on with doing them. We don’t necessarily notice what the impact of doing those things are on our energy levels. So actually taking a bit of time to imagine yourself doing something and then imagine how that thing makes you feel, can be really helpful. We can be incredibly good at having as part of our routine activities which we have done for potentially quite a long time, because we have felt that we should. It might be that we started off with great motives and a great amount of enthusiasm, but then as time has gone by, we have continued with them, not because they are particularly motivating to us, but because there is an obligation associated with them. Either because we feel faithful to them because we’ve been doing them for so long, or because we really think we ought to.
A personal example would be that a number of years ago now, I offered to help out with a kids club at the church that I was going to. I had a particular interest in engaging with the Mums and the Dads that came to take their kids. I thought that potentially there would be an opportunity to share something of faith with them. I spoke to the person who ran the kids club, who said “if you want to do that, then the thing that you need to do is to take the money from the kids at the beginning of the evening. That way you’ll get to meet all of the parents, and you can make the squash in the middle of the evening.” And so I began to do that. Over time, it became obvious that although I was performing a useful role, this was not creating opportunities to connect with the parents. They just wanted to drop their kids and run. But when that became evident, I didn’t stop. I continued for, actually a number of years, to sit at the front of the kids club taking the register and meeting the parents and meeting the kids as they came in.
I didn’t mind helping, but it absolutely wasn’t motivating for me. It was quite draining. I would come away from the evening feeling tired. It was a task which I had endured, rather than enjoyed. There were lots of other people who could have taken the money. My original reason for doing it didn’t really work out, but I had a sense of obligation. Once I had committed myself I kept going, and kept going, and kept going. It took me a really long time to take a step back from that and realise that this wasn’t something that I actually wanted to do.
I had lots of good motives for continuing. I thought that the person who was running the kids club was great, she was a friend and I really wanted to support her in her ministry, because I could see how passionate she was about it. But this was basically an admin task, and I am not great at admin tasks. There was quite a bit of paperwork involved, and I’m not great at paperwork. I find it soul destroying. Looking back, I'm interested that I never stopped to notice how badly suited I was to the role.
So one of the reasons for introducing you to the activity we do with people on the course is to give you permission to step back from the things that you’re doing and to think about what is it that actually gives you life? What are the things that you love and enjoy? What are the things that you’re still able to get up and do, even when you’ve got a horrible cold? What are the things that you are prepared to stay up late for? Or get up early to do? What is it that you’re doing when you realise that you’re operating absolutely at your best? What are the tasks that bring your ‘best self’ out of you? And, by contrast, what things do the opposite? Thinking about these things helps us to understand something of what our core purpose might be.
I would encourage you to spend some time, maybe with a good friend, or maybe prayerfully by yourself, thinking about, “what are the things that I spend my time doing?” and “How can I shift the balance away from the stuff which is draining me, towards the things which give me motivation and life?"