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Episode 36: Questions to help you find your calling



Welcome to the Loved Called Gifted podcast. This is your place to come for musings about spirituality, identity and purpose.


I'm your host, Catherine Cowell.




Sometimes we get to a point in life where we're wondering what to do next. We're looking for a sense of purpose and direction. The question 'what now?' can be quite a daunting one. So in this episode I want to suggest some questions to ponder and some ways of looking at this that might give you some clues.


Life calling and purpose, as you may have noticed if you've been following the podcast for a while, is one of our core themes. It's something that we come back to quite a lot, partly because it's about putting together a sort of jigsaw of different pieces and insights and other episodes of the podcast may well help you to find other jigsaw pieces and there will be some links to some of those in the notes that accompany the podcast.


Some of the episodes are connected quite closely to the Loved Called Gifted course, which is actually a course designed to help you to think through 'what is my life calling?' And if the questions and the thoughts in this episode really resonate with you, then it may be that it would be helpful to you to have a look on the website at the Loved Called Gifted course and see if that's something that would be interesting and helpful to you.


So calling is often seen as quite a great and mysterious thing that sort of falls out of the sky and that's reserved for a small number of special people. So vicars, nuns, teachers, missionaries, doctors, people like that; others of us just have jobs. Or sometimes it's seen as this kind of assignment from God that all Christians get and that you have to discover and that can be really pressurizing and I don't think it necessarily works in either of those ways.


I think that finding purpose is more about spotting when you get that alchemy that happens when who you are, your natural ability and drive and your passion meets something in the world that resonates with you, with who you are and sort of calls to you.


It's not necessarily a lifelong thing.


Usually as we grow and as we have different life experiences, the things that we're called to, that we're drawn to, the things which really give us purpose kind of shift. As we grow and mature, so do those things grow and mature and change. Sometimes things that we are called to that give us a sense of purpose are really, really very brief. It might be that you've just got a few weeks over the summer and you want to think about, well what is it that I'd really like to do? Sometimes it's briefer than that.


So I think I had one of those moments quite a number of years ago now when I was attending as a speech and language therapist a day conference about supporting people with Huntington's disease. And I noticed that there weren't any speech and language therapists on the programme and then many of the speakers who had been due to speak couldn't get there because there was dreadful snow. And actually most of the delegates got there but quite a number of the speakers couldn't get there. And I realised that there was something that I was quite passionate about sharing with people who were helping folks with Huntington's disease, namely things around communication. And I also had things I could usefully share around eating and swallowing. And I knew that those were things that people often missed out on. And alongside that I quite like the thrill and the challenge of doing something a bit last minute and off the cuff.


So there was an issue that needed sorting. I knew that I had something to offer. And I went to the people who were organising the conference and said, “I realise that there are a number of people who can't get here. I've got these things which I could offer if you would like.” And they said, ”Oh yes please, that would be great.” And so I did. So there was that moment of kind of alchemy between what I was passionate about and what the world was needing in that moment that really resonated. And I just share that to point out that something can be really brief and still have that sense of meaning.


So some of these questions and thoughts might be useful for kind of really short term things. Just because something is brief, it doesn't make it any less valuable. We live a life that is made up of lots of moments. And so sometimes those moments can be really significant.


I would say that finding your calling is largely about having the courage to do two things, to answer two questions.


Firstly, it's about having the courage and the freedom to answer the question, what do I want to do?


And secondly, it's about having the courage and the freedom to honestly answer the question, what do I not want to do?


It can be really easy to get ourselves stuck doing things that don't particularly suit us for all sorts of reasons. It might be for a sense of duty. It might be that this was something that really did suit us five years ago and it doesn't now, but we don't know who would do it if we didn't. Sometimes somebody else has persuaded us. Sometimes it's something that has cultural prestige but doesn't suit who we are. All sorts of reasons that can make disentangling ourselves from what we're doing in order to be able to stand back far enough to answer honestly the question, “do I want to do this?” quite difficult.


I'm not saying that there aren't good reasons sometimes, very good reasons sometimes for doing things that we don't like doing, but I still think that being free to answer the question honestly, do I want to do this and what do I not want to do really helps.


So you might still decide to carry on doing something that doesn't suit you, but at least you will have thought things through and you will know why and that might help you in the future to look for opportunities to step away from the things that you don't want to do and towards the things that you do want to do.


In this episode I'm going to suggest some questions and some thoughts to help you to answer the question, what do I want to do?


Particularly for if you're at a bit of a crossroads and you're wondering what to do next.


It might not necessarily be about wondering what to do next, it might be that this is just useful to help you to reflect on the reasons that you are doing the things that you are doing right now.


If you are someone of faith it might be that you are listening to me now and thinking that I am asking completely the wrong question and that the question I should be helping you to answer is, “what is it that God wants me to do?”


Actually I think that these two things are much more closely aligned than we think.


If we think that God created us then our truest desires are part of who God made us to be and so connecting with what we want to do, what suits us, what fits with how we were made can be really helpful and I would say that if you think these things through prayerfully then you can allow God to speak to you as you do that.


Okay so let me introduce you to some thought exercises and some questions that might help you.


The first one is to think about what would you like your life's legacy to be?


So when you are looking back on your life, what are the things that would help you to think “I did things that were meaningful to me”?


So here are a few questions that might help you to think about that.


So imagine you are 95 and you're sitting in your rocking chair – or if you're already 95 imagine that you're 108 and you're sitting in your rocking chair – looking back on your life to this point in time. You're feeling a huge satisfaction and joy at how you lived your life. What would you be proud of?


What would you like to look back and say that you did?


Another way of thinking about that would be to think if you were to write your own obituary the way that you would like someone else to write about it, what would you like them to be able to say about you and about the things that you did and that you gave your life to?


Or if you could be remembered for making the world better in one single way what might that be?


So those are kind of looking back questions and I don't think you'll have any particular immediate answers to that but that can be really helpful.


Another way of looking at it would be to think, if you only had two more years to live, if you knew that, what would you do to make sure that you lived your life to the full and made a positive difference to the world?


And I think those are questions which sometimes help you to get to the core of “what are the things that are really really important to me? When push comes to shove, what are the things that I really, really care about? If I was having to prioritize and get rid of some of the fluff, what is the stuff that would stay, and what is the stuff that would be meaningful enough to me at the moment that if I imagined looking back on them and thinking I'd done these things, that they would give me a sense of real satisfaction and I would feel proud of them?”


Another way of thinking about this is to think about what might your message to the world be? If I could give you a microphone and three minutes to talk to the world about anything at all, what would be the things that would come to mind? What would you want to tell people? And this can be about whatever you want.


Another question which I think can be really helpful is to answer the question, “what makes you angry? What do you get really really cross about?” Now there are two categories of things that we get really cross about.There are things that we get cross about that are not particularly about our calling and our sense of purpose. They're just things that naff us off. That might be things like people parking on the pavement, but sometimes there are big clues in the things that make us angry.


So just because something makes you angry doesn't mean that it's a clue to things that would give you some energy to do something about. But quite often there are things that are broken that we want to fix. There are injustices that we would like to see put right or there are things that we passionately believe should be different. So asking yourself the question, “what makes you angry, and why?” can be really helpful.


And what do you think should be done about it? How should things be different in your view? How would you like to see things different? And actually I did an interview with Katie Moritz quite a number of episodes ago and part of the thing which motivated her to do the things that she's doing now was feeling really angry about issues around women. So you might want to go back and have a listen to that. And what she was able to do was to channel her anger into something that's been really really positive.


The caution that I would have is that just because you've identified a particular issue or cause that that doesn't necessarily mean that that's something that you have to take action around now. It might be that you want to direct your energies elsewhere but you still have a sense of righteous anger about something. So either is fine but it's worth thinking about it like this: “Is there something that you're angry about, that you want to make a difference to, that you would like to see different?” But then take a moment to kind of look inside and think, “how much energy and motivation do I sense I have to commit to this thing at this point in my life?”


So on a scale of naught to ten how much energy do you feel that you have and how much motivation do you feel that you have to put towards this? Where zero is well kind of none and ten would be I would give everything to change this and I'd do it now. And that will be telling you something. It will either be telling you, “yes this is something to explore and to think about” or it will be telling you “well this naffs me off but it's not something to do anything with at this moment.”


Changing tack a bit, the complete opposite of that is just to think about, “well what do you love? What do you really love? What do you like to do? What raises in you a sense of affection and passion?” For me, which is one of the reasons that I do this podcast, is that one of the things that I really love is hearing people talk about the things that they are passionate about and hearing people's stories of how they ended up doing the thing that they are passionate about doing, and seeing people doing stuff and making a difference in the world that really, really aligns with who they are. I find it just joyous to see that happening.


So I'm at the moment I'm thinking about the conversation that I had with Joy from Create Bolton and just hearing her story of how all the different pieces of her life have kind of come together and what God has done with those things, Just hearing the love that she has for people, and the way that she is able to creatively create opportunities for them to discover their own creativity and express that in the world; the way that that can also be healing and helpful to them as people, and listening to her talk about, that was really, really inspiring.


So that might be one that you want to go back and listen to, but equally listening to Alana talking about why she cuts people's hair, and how she's ended up using her little salon in her garden; I loved hearing her story about that, and when I heard her story I really wanted to share it. So that's one of the ways in which what I love kind of pours into what I do.


If you are somebody of faith then another good question to go back to and to ponder is, “what has God already said to you? So there may well be times in the past when you have had a real sense of what God is saying to you and sometimes there are clues from the past or things that have kind of been hanging around for us for a while, or that we've not thought about for a bit, but that give us a clue as to the things where who we are connects with who God is. One of the questions that I quite often ask people is “what are your sticky verses? So are there particular Bible verses that keep coming back to you repeatedly, over time?” If you're not a Christian, it might not be Bible verses, but there might be a particular book or particular poem or a particular thing that kind of keeps coming back to you that remains meaningful to you.


Another way of looking at it is to think about “who is God for you”? So in the Bible there are lots and lots of different names that people give to God. People often gave God names that reflected who he was to them and what they were called to do in their lives. So for David who's a shepherd, he really related to God the good shepherd. Joshua, who was called to conquer the promised land often referred to God as the Lord of Heaven's armies. I have a particularly creative friend who particularly identifies with God the creator and so would often talk about God the creator. So if you were to give God a name what would it be?


And I know that when I started learning how to be a life coach one of the things that I kept noticing about Jesus was the number of questions he asked people and that really reminded me of the skill of coaching. So seeing God as a coach or a counselor was something that was really resonant for me. In more recent years, as I have been a parent to my two boys, seeing God as an adoptive parent has been really meaningful to me. Again, there are lots and lots of verses and things in the Bible where God is referred to as a parent and as the one who has adopted us. For me that's been really resonant because that's something that I've been called to do. 


And your name for God doesn't necessarily [need] to be one that's already in the Bible. The fact that there are many names for God in the Bible is because there are lots of different people in the Bible who found ways of relating to God and you can relate to God in your own way. So it may be that you have a way of seeing God that kind of connects with that.


Another way of looking at it would be to think about what you would do if there really were no limits?


Sometimes it's helpful to sit down and draw a picture of it, to actually sit and draw. If I could just draw the thing I would love to do what might that be? Quite often if I'm doing courses with people, then I will invite them to draw their dreams. I invite them to sit down and draw a picture of what they'd like to do. And quite often people have got no idea what they're going to draw before they start drawing it. But the reason for doing that is that it helps you to tap into the more creative side of your brain, your more creative ways of thinking. And quite often that doesn't happen if you're thinking in words. That can be really helpful. Sometimes you end up drawing a picture that doesn't make sense to you for a little while and you kind of have to come back to it later. But that can be really helpful to do.


Other questions as you're thinking about “well, what would I be dreaming of if I gave myself permission to just dream?” would be “what would you do if you weren't afraid? If I could give you one of my imaginary bravery pills what would you do? What would you do if you couldn't fail? What would you do if you knew you had the support of your friends and family? What would you do if somebody paid your wages for the next three years, and you didn't have to think about the money?” In there, there might be some clues as to what you'd really like to do.


The other thing to think about as you're pondering these questions is, “what are you good at that you love to do?” And I add the “what are you good at that you love to do?” because quite often there are things which we're good at that don't really actually float our boat. You end up doing stuff because you're the one who's got the ability to do it. And it might be something that you really used to enjoy, or it might be something that you kind of just have a bit of accidental competence at and then everybody gets you to do it because they know that you're good at it, and you just think "ah, well yes, I can do this, but I don't particularly like doing it".


So taking a bit of time to think about “well, what is it that I'm doing when I feel really competent?” again can be really helpful in terms of answering this question.


The other thing to do, I mean those are all great questions, the other thing to do is just to take the pressure off and think, “what do I fancy doing at the moment?”


Not particularly what's meaningful, what do I feel called to, but what do I fancy doing?


Because at the end of the day, just doing with love and enthusiasm the thing that you would quite like to do at the moment or you fancy having a go at, sometimes that can give you a bit of a push on the way to sort of work out what's next. So it's not always the case that there is a straight line between our ‘beginning to think about what we want to do’ and kind of making a grand plan for the future and getting a sense of our purpose, but that's sort of okay too.


So just asking the question, what do I fancy doing? What would I like to do at the moment? It might not seem like it has any particular purpose or meaning behind it, it might just be something that you'd like. Because one of the things that I think we often forget is that God gives us choice. So just doing the thing that you would like to do that is in front of you, that you can turn your hand to, might be fine for now.


And as you do that, you may discover that there are things that you particularly enjoy or that that kind of opens doors towards something which actually suits you a bit better than the thing that you're doing now. You're kind of heading in a direction that you've got a sense of being drawn towards. There is a saying, isn't there, that we make the path by walking, so sometimes it's just a matter of getting on with it.


So I hope that in those sort of questions and thoughts there might be something which helps you to begin to think about “what is it that I want to do?” Sometimes we kind of get to a place where there is a gap between what we have been doing and what we're going to be doing next, and we need a bit of time to sort of think those things through. So I hope that's been helpful.


If you have any thoughts or comments then you might like to email us. We also have a Facebook page if you'd like to get in touch that way. You just need to search for Loved Called Gifted on Facebook and you'd find us there and it would be delightful to hear from you.


Thank you very much.




Hope you enjoyed this episode of the Loved Called Gifted podcast.


If you'd like to get in touch you can email


You can find a transcript of this podcast at and that's also the place to go if you're interested in the Loved Called Gifted course or if you'd like to find out about spiritual direction or coaching.


Thank you for listening.



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