What Is Calling You?©

A few months ago, I was having a conversation with several close friends (all business owners), and one of them asked this question: Who here considers what you do to be a calling? Of the seven business owners, I was the only one who said “I do.” I was initially surprised and somewhat disappointed, but I didn’t have much time to think about the answers because I was immediately challenged when one owner asked me if I would still do what I’m doing if he gave me $1 million. When I said “Yes,” the offer went up to $5 million and then up to $10 million. I finally told him to stop asking because, to me, there is no amount of money that would cause me to stop doing what I’m doing. It’s a calling, which to me means it’s the thing that I’m meant to do and is literally the reason that I exist. Thus, having a calling is a powerful motivator and activator for me every day.

I was reminded of this story this past weekend when the leader of a retreat where I was on staff said that mission is important, but he’s always been in search of his “calling” first because your calling is the thing that motivates and guides you as you pursue your outcome‑focused (even if visionary) mission. I loved hearing someone else talk about having a calling because it seems to me that life, business and the world would be better if more people were connected to and living their calling (rather than just getting by, having a life, owning a business, or having a career).

Since I don’t hear much talk about callings, I decided to do some research—and the results were a bit shocking. First, I looked up the definition of “calling,” and here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say:

  1. a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action, especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence;
  2. the vocation or profession in which one customarily engages.

The first definition sounds like my definition, but (to my surprise) the second definition sounds like pretty much everyone is already living out a calling (assuming you either have a job or have something that you customarily do for a job when you are employed). Frankly, that’s not much of a goal or inspiration to me, so I’m going to stick with my definition.

Think about how the world would change if more people were living, working and leading based upon a “strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action.” Too often we equate callings with religious endeavors or vocations, but I see it as simply that which you are meant to do. I believe everyone has one or more things that they are meant to do, so why don’t we all have a clearly identified calling that we’re living?

My list of answers to this question is the following:

  • We’ve never thought about a calling;
  • We don’t know what a calling is;
  • We don’t believe in callings (or their importance);
  • We believe that callings are for other people (or perhaps just a very small group of special people);
  • We are focused on survival and the idea of having a calling is not realistic;

OR the final and perhaps the biggest reason: We don’t want to identify a calling because if/when we do, then we’d actually have to live it. After all, a calling is something that must be done, a strong inner impulse. Thus, avoiding having a calling is a great way to avoid living it.

Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said: “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Notice that he said something, not someone. This sounds rather harsh, but perhaps all he was saying is that the purpose of living is finding something that matters more than life itself – a calling.

If you’ve found your calling, then rock on! However, if you don’t have a calling, are you willing to shift your perspective in order to possibly identify a calling? Your family, your business, your community and your world could use a few more people living their calling – that would change things for the better. So I ask you, what is calling you?



  1. Thanks for challenging our thinking with this. I have struggled with this for a long time.

    I believe in callings. I know people who have definitely been called to do something. Some of them believe it’s an internal voice calling them, some believe it’s God or the Universe, others believe it’s a need of humanity calling them. I don’t question the source. Some hear their calling as loud and clear as a voice from above. Others perceive it as a whisper or a feeling that just won’t go away.

    That said, I think there may be too much advice in the world to “go in search of your calling.” By literal definition, a calling is something that comes to YOU, not the other way around. You might have to take action or even pick up and move to FOLLOW a calling, but I don’t believe searching for it makes it happen any faster. If anything, it might even confuse you because it sure is easy to mistake a strong interest or aptitude for something as a calling. There are many things that interest us, or that we’re particularly good at doing, but they’re not our calling. They can actually be rabbit holes that keep us busy and may even keep us from hearing our calling.

    I’m sure some people do hear their calling by running around searching for it. For many of us, though, perhaps what we need instead is to stop searching, be ok with being still for a few moments of our life and simply LISTEN for it. Easier said than done, I know.

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