Finding Your Life’s True Vocation
Do you have a job, a career, or a vocation?
A job is something undertaken simply to put food on the table and a roof overhead. A career usually implies a skilled trade or profession reached after a significant period of training/education, often with scope for continuing progression. A vocation goes further than the above. It is the alignment of one’s efforts and achievements with their major life purpose.
In thinking of vocation examples of selfless philanthropists such as Mother Teresa and Albert Schweitzer spring to mind. Admirable though these individuals may be, finding and pursuing your vocation need not involve such extremes of sacrifice.
Work for Love, Money or Both
We all need certain material things for continued survival in this world; food, shelter, clothing… We mainly exist in societies, which while providing some benefits, demand monetary contributions in the form of taxation. So love it, loathe it, or somewhere in-between we all need money, and unless born to very rich and generous parents we need to work in some way to obtain it.
Furthermore money can buy us luxuries that help make our journey through this life a little smoother. Who wouldn’t prefer a nice home in a decent neighborhood to a run-down slum in crime-ridden surroundings?
The old saying goes: “work to live, don’t live to work,” and given our need for money there’s a certain logic in selling yourself for XX hours a week to pay the bills and spending the remainder having fun.
But given that work takes up such a significant part of our waking lives, isn’t it better if we can combine what we truly love with how we earn our living? This is what we do when we find our true vocation.
How to Find Your Vocation
The search for your true vocation begins with introspection, the development of self-knowledge. We may assume that we know ourselves intimately; after all we live through ourselves every waking moment of our lives. In fact much of what we do is done subconsciously. If we stop to analyze our drives, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, we may be surprised.
Take your time in building self-knowledge. True self-knowledge takes a lifetime, but of course that wouldn’t be much use in finding a vocation. But don’t rush. Re-visit the task, each time deepening and enriching your understanding of your true self. Ask others too, for how we appear on the outside may be different than how we feel inside.
We are each a unique individual, living with a particular purpose. If we come close to understanding that purpose we are able to discover a vocation that will bring both satisfaction and material reward.
In particular we need to understand both our strengths and our likes (and our weaknesses and dislikes). Where there is some overlap is where our true vocation lies.
If we love something but have no aptitude for it we are unable to progress sufficiently to be successful. That is not to say we should not pursue our true desires as hobbies.
Equally, if we are naturally talented at something we do not enjoy we are unlikely to be sufficiently motivated to push ourselves to our full potential. Though in this case if our talent produces enough profit to fund a lifestyle that we do enjoy a degree of motivation will follow.
If you find your true vocation, its execution will not be a chore but a pleasure. Nothing will be too much trouble. And these are the attributes that ultimately lead to material success as well as enormous satisfaction.
Good Fortune or Wisdom?
How is it that some people manage to find a vocation that is both lucrative and they enjoy? Can it be just luck? Probably not. Before birth we all make choices for this particular lifetime. We also have free will that offers us choice from a multitude of options presented by circumstance. Some of those choices are instinctively right. These are provided by fate. Others are mere distracters, provided to test our discernment. Those that are able to hear the inner voice, to understand their true purpose, will make the right choices. It is not luck, but understanding of their true reason for being.
Employed or Self Employed
The modern era has seen the growth both of large-scale, often multinational, corporations, along with a burgeoning governmental sector offering employment to the masses. Yet a significant number continue to operate as self-employed small businesses. Which is better for the pursuit of vocation?
Working for a large employer does carry certain advantages. Not least it offers a degree of security. A guaranteed wage each week or month along with fringe benefits like health insurance, pension schemes, social clubs etc etc. Economies of scale mean that large employers are often better able to stay in business and prosper than smaller competitors. Working for an employer may well see you through life in something of a comfort zone.
Employment also allows your vocation to be extremely narrow. No need to worry about sales, marketing, finance, administration….. In a large corporation there’s whole departments to handle all of that. You can focus solely on what you do, and thus reach the highest possible standard of doing it. And if your vocation requires you to be part of a large organization, and/or with access to large budgets, being employed may the best, or only, means of fulfilling it.
But be under no illusion that employment is absolutely secure. Many thousands of employees lose their jobs every year. And as an employee you have absolutely no control over when you may be fired as such decisions are taken by other employees further up the hierarchy.
But that is not the main drawback to employment. Instead it is the fact that employee’s interests are different than those of their employer. Going the extra mile in an employed position will not reward you (at least materially), but someone else (ie your employer). Thus employees are tempted, nay encouraged, to operate within their comfort zone. Do the minimum required to justify your salary and continued employment. It may be easy, but hardly purposeful or satisfying.
That is why, if their vocation at all allows, individuals should aim to develop their own businesses. This has never been easier than now, in the technologically empowered age. By working for yourself you align your interests, efforts and rewards in the same direction. A powerful combination that will drive you to fulfill your highest potential.
Competition, Co-existence, Cooperation
It is human nature to compete. This is how, as a species, we survive and thrive in the physical world. Competition is a fundamental part of the societies in which we live.
But is competition fundamental to our true, Spiritual, nature? As Spiritual beings we are all distinct parts of one great unity. Just think what gives the greater inner glow – beating someone, or helping someone? If you’re one of the few that answer, “beating someone” I suggest you try helping people more just to see how god it feels.
The world of work is competitive. If employed, we apply for positions and compete to be the best person for the job among numerous other applicants. If self-employed we compete for business with our “competitors”. We strive to “keep up with the Joneses”, to do as well, or better than, our neighbors and peers.
This competitiveness does serve a purpose. It drives us to be our best. But it is ultimately illusory. It doesn’t matter if we make a few bucks less than the guy next door so long as we’re doing what we love to do, and doing some good in the process. And, if we’re really doing what we love to do, we’ll do it to the very best of our ability, we’ll go the extra mile, and in the end this will be rewarded materially as well as Spiritually.