There’s much talk these days about finding your calling. Many people in the self-help world (myself included) sell books, products, and advice on how to do what you’re meant to do with your life. Many of us have a sense that we are meant to be doing something important, but we can’t seem to figure out exactly what.

This can lead to feelings of failure. A sense that if you haven’t found your calling by age twenty-five, you’re done. It’s like the dharma gods are going to come down from the sky to tell you that your life has been a complete waste. “Look at the gifts we’ve given you!” they’ll say. “Why aren’t you using them?”

In an effort to avoid feeling like a failure, many of us try to force our calling to be our career. You might go back to school to get a fine arts degree in order to somehow legitimize your creative gifts. You tell yourself that the degree will help you turn your calling into a career.

But what if I told you that calling does not always have to equal career?

In other words, maybe you aren’t meant to make millions with your gifts.

Maybe you’re meant to work part-time at McDonalds so that you can live out your true calling, which is to be of service to others by volunteering at a soup kitchen or coaching your daughter’s hockey team.

Marianne Williamson put it perfectly:

“Jobs come and go, but a calling is something you were given the moment you were born. You can lose a job, but you can’t lose your calling.”

Let’s face it. We live in a consumerist society. This money mindset often causes us to look into the financial implications of absolutely everything, especially the financial implications of how we spend our time. We’ve been taught to believe that we should all be striving for a situation in which we make money doing what we love. If your passion doesn’t lead to a hefty paycheck, it’s viewed as a waste of time. This unfortunate situation causes many people to forgo their passion for a more “practical” path, which ultimately leads to regret.

People often look at my career and say, “Wow, you are a perfect example of someone who is living their calling! You love yoga, you love science, and you’re getting paid to study the science of yoga.” While this is all very true, there are other things that I like to do. I love being in nature. I love riding my bike. I love music. I love poetry. I love movies. I love spending time with friends. I love writing blogs. I love talking about deep topics. I love helping people.

My career involves some of these things, but not all of them. From Monday to Friday, I spend most of my time at a computer, not outside. I don’t get to write blogs or poetry or ride my bike as often as I would like. Sometimes, I feel trapped in my office. I know that the work that I’m doing is important, but is it my calling?

I’m still not sure.

Perhaps my calling is to travel along this path of uncertainty, so that I can show others that it’s ok to do the same. A Vedic astrologer recently told me that I’m a trailblazer—that my life is meant to be intense and uncertain and that the intensity is probably never going to let up. She said that I need to learn to live with being somewhat uncomfortable, because my discomfort inspires other people to avoid using comfort as a crutch.

Maybe I’m meant to continue bucking against the nine-to-five grind and living with the uncertainty that comes with a non-nine-to-five lifestyle so that I can learn that my career doesn’t have to be my calling. Maybe my calling is to learn how to relax more, love more, and live more so that I can inspire others to do the same.

I encourage you to spend a bit of time contemplating your calling. A word of warning though: At first, try to completely release the idea that your calling has to bring you an income. Ask yourself a few questions, such as:

  • What do you love to do?
  • If you could do one thing for the rest of your life but never get paid for it, what would you do?
  • When do you get into a state of “flow?” (Flow involves a number of things, such as losing track of time and being completely enraptured by an activity.)
  • What do people often ask for your help with?
  • When you’re in a bad mood, what types of healthy activities make you feel better?
  • What lights you up?
  • What could you talk about for hours and hours?
  • What types of facts and information do you love learning about, even if no one pays you for it?
  • What gives you happy butterflies in your stomach?

When answering these questions, the conversation in your mind often goes something like this:

“What do I love to do? Hmmmm…”

“Well, I love traveling the world, sitting on patios in foreign places, and drinking sangria.”

“But wait. No one is ever going to pay me to do that. Who gets paid to travel and drink?”

Please, whatever you do, avoid the but wait part of this mental exercise. Because guess what? Lots of people get paid to travel the world and drink! Food critics, actors, and restaurant bloggers are just a few examples. Open your mind to alternative ways of living your calling and remember that money doesn’t have to factor into it. You can have a great career doing something that doesn’t light you up inside but that pays the bills so that you have the financial freedom to pursue your calling on the side.

What do you think? Does career = calling? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this dilemma!

As for me, I’m still treading the muddy waters of passion, paycheck, and purpose. Hopefully, as I learn from my path, you will, too.

Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.

If you’d like tips on the topic of manifesting your dream job, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.

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