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Discover Your Calling

23 August 2016

Barbara read The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna and learned you don’t have to give up your day job to follow your calling.

Tags: barbara read, careers, happiness, writing

Ella Luna’s definition of should is what other people want you to do. Her definition of must is what you are called to do, want to do, feel is your gift from the Universe.

At first I had trouble with the word must because to me it has always meant the same as should but only stronger. I listened to an audiotape behavioral change program in the 80s that told me to substitute "it would be preferable if" whenever I thought I must do something. But after a few chapters I could say to myself—when Luna uses the word must, she means the activities that give you energy, that make you feel happy, that use the talents given to you at birth.

But it can take a long time to find out what those yearnings are because we spend our first 20 or so years getting educated and learning to behave well enough in our families, at school, and work to be accepted. And those two tasks often ask us to be other than we truly are. For many of us, it takes some time to reconnect with our calling. Once you find out what calls to you, you need to find some time to do it. It could be writing, painting, cooking, running, dancing, teaching, serving the underprivileged.

Luna has some great thoughts about how our musts need financial support. They are frightened if you are depending on them for food and shelter. She didn’t mince words—"If you want to get by on this planet, you must make money. If you have obligations or a family or a mortgage, you must make more money. If doing what you love doesn’t pay the bills, then you must find another way to make money.…there is dignity in all work. Just because you have a job to pay the bills does not make it dirty. And just because you want to find your calling does not mean you need to quit your job."

She gave examples that knocked that point home to me. T.S. Eliot was also a banker. Kurt Vonnegut sold cars. Composer Philip Glass was a plumber. Einstein worked in a patent office. They answered their call in the early morning, evening, and weekends. Even ten minutes a day doing what you feel called to do will nurture and satisfy the gift you were given.

Every time I ask myself—what must I do, the answer is—write whether anyone ever sees what I write or not. I write ten minutes every morning in a freewriting style (means you don’t worry about anything, you just write non stop). I have been doing that since it was an assignment in my graduate program in 1977. At the time I was raising young children. Then later I had a demanding full time job for 22 years, but those ten minutes in the morning helped me organize my day, get centered again if I felt scattered, write several books, and feel like I received guidance from a mysterious source outside myself. (I call that God.)

The last part of Luna's book says we must serve. Once you do some of your musts and follow your call, you will learn or make things that need to be shared with others. She refers to Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey—you go on a quest to follow your bliss and find your gift, and you must bring what you learn back to serve your community in some way.

What must you do? What can you do each day to answer your call? Try writing about the question. I’d love to see your answer in the comments section.


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