One of the most hit-and-miss adventures people endure in life is trying to figure out what they were designed to do. Each person has unique talents and passions that make him or her suited to a specific type of work. The difficulty comes in weeding through the myriad opportunities and possibilities to discover what that specific type of work may be. But the alternative, doing something you are not designed to do, creates grudging compliance and resentment.
Interestingly, a common snag in discovering what you were meant to do comes from parents or social situations. In other words, if “dad” works as a manager in a factory, then practically from birth, “son” is often groomed to the idea of working in the factory, too. The same goes for doctor, lawyer, or any other profession.
Additional pressure comes from what “class” we were born into. A lower-middle-class factory worker may feel insulted that his children want to work in a white collar field. An upper class parent may feel insulted that his child finds his passion in geology.
These mindsets can be difficult to overcome. The pressure to “stay in the mold” and not rock the boat can be enormous. Lucky is the child whose parents and/or social situations encourage him or her to seek the profession that brings the most fulfillment to that child.
Perhaps you saw the movie, While You Were Sleeping, starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman. Pullman plays Jack Callaghan, son of Ox Callaghan (Peter Boyle), who owns Callaghan and Sons, and they buy and sell estates of the dearly departed. Even though Jack has a passion for making furniture, his dad views it as a side business. Eventually Jack musters the courage to tell his father that making furniture is what he really wants to do, and that it would be a good stand-alone business. Fortunately, the scuffle is very short and the dad gives in.
If only real life were as easy as the movies.
As it has been said, “people of genius do not excel in any profession because they work in it, they work in it because they excel in it.”
To find out what you excel in, pay attention to the fit between your essential self and your situations. If what you are doing doesn’t get easier and easier, then you are probably not doing what you were designed to do. We are supposed to continually grow, increase our competence and connection to our chosen endeavor, and become ever more capable of facing new challenges. If these things are not true, then you may be doing the wrong thing.
As a former San Diego School District Teacher of the Year commented at a workshop some years ago:
The first ten years I went to school in the morning all enthusiastic and then trudged home in the afternoon feeling like a drained battery. Now, it’s the reverse, I go to school to get reinvigorated.
It’s my guess that although the teacher was working in the area of his calling, he still wasn’t sure. Then, after years of soul-searching, he realized that teaching was, indeed, his calling. If this is the case, then it’s proof that sometimes it takes a long time for us to “figure out” what we’re supposed to be doing, even if we’re already doing it!
Sometimes the job that’s right for you can be identified with the help of an assessment. Interest Inventories and other Career Planning Assessments can be quite beneficial. Bryan, an acquaintance of mine in California, worked in the construction field for years, but was never really happy. After taking an Interest Inventory, he discovered he had an aptitude for being an accountant. Bryan decided to test the waters. He attended a few night classes and found he truly loved accounting. Eventually he made the switch and now loves his work.
We have only so many years on this planet. It makes little sense to spend one’s life working in a job simply because it provides good income. Life is much better if you can find a way to work in the area of your calling—the field you’re passionate about—and still make a living at the same time. If you’re not there yet, it can be risky, frightening, and even uncomfortable as you make the switch; but the payoff will be quite worth it.