Figuring out our calling in life is often portrayed as an effortless, all-knowing event. It’s depicted as something that we’ll just know, something we’ll stumble upon or have been called to do since birth.
For some people, that does seem to be how it happens. They’ll cite early memories of playing their toy piano, doing mock trials in high school, or running their own business from a young age, declaring that that was when they figured out their passion in life.
But for most of us, the path to our “calling” is a much rockier one.
We may hop from one thing to the next, never really finding something that fits. We may launch down one path, only to discover later on that it was the wrong path entirely. Or we may suffer from total indecision and float along without a path, or even force ourselves into making a decision before we’re truly ready.
Whichever one of these applies to you, and whether you’re just starting out or are looking for a mid-career switch, there are some effective ways to figure out a career trajectory that will be fulfilling and fitting for your truest self.
Here are seven methods for discovering what your calling really is.
1. Go back to the beginning
The truth is that, even if you aren’t one of those people who knew what you wanted to do since you were five, the signs of our true calling are often buried in our past. So, take some time and think about what it was that you wanted to be or do when you were a kid. What did you dream of before you became jaded or had so many outside influences?
This doesn’t always provide a final answer, but it often does. And regardless, it can give some pretty good insights into where our passions lie.
2. Follow your curiosity
What are you most curious about? What makes you tick?
The things that you’re curious about or want to learn more about our great indications of what your true interests are. Pursue your curiosities relentlessly until they take you somewhere.
3. How do you spend your free time?
On a weekend day or an evening after work, how are you spending your time? Our choices outside of work or school hours are pretty telling when it comes to figuring out what we’re most passionate about.
Spend a few weeks writing down all of the things you do during your time off. Then take a look at the list and see what you learn about yourself.
Though we usually think of envy as a negative emotion, it’s actually an incredibly useful tool for finding out what we want most in life. Are there certain friends, acquaintances, or famous individuals whom you envy? Do you look at others and wish you could have their jobs? If so, remember that this is one of the best clues for pursuing work that you truly love.
The next time you feel envious, pause and think about whether your own mind is trying to tell you something.
5. Joy and energy
Two questions: Which activities in life give you the most joy? And which activities energize you the most?
Even things that might not seem like indicators of career dreams can be telling. For example, if you feel most joyful when talking to people, maybe you need to find a career in which the majority of your energy is devoted to interacting with others. Just like envy, joy and feeling energized are emotions that can point us in the right direction.
6. Forget about what others want or think you should do
Sometimes our dreams and callings get lost in what others expect of us. If you’re trying to figure out what to pursue in life and in your career, you have to be willing to let go of others’ expectations of you. Forget what your mom or dad wants. Forget what your partner wants. Forget what your boss wants. Forget what society expects of you.
Only you can know what you should do with your life, so forget about the rest.
7. Let it come to you
Sometimes the best thing to do is wait and be patient. Forcing ourselves into “finding” our calling can result in us mistakenly choosing the wrong path. If you are truly unsure, lost, and unclear about a direction, that’s okay. Let time do its thing. There’s no need to rush it.
Don’t be dismayed by the idea that finding your calling is easy. Because often, it just isn’t. Sometimes, we need to put in the real, long-term effort to figure out what we can and should do with our lives.
So, take the steps above, reflect on what you find out, be patient, and listen to the only person who matters when it comes to your calling: you.