Ask any child what they’d like to be when they grow up, and they’ll tell you that they want to do something that is in service of others. Yes, most of the jobs they choose - firefighter or doctor - are often obvious choices, but there’s a definite theme running throughout: kids want to help people.
But as life wears on, more practical matters take over. There’s the issue of how to make money, and many people fall into the trap of believing that once money is coming in, that their job is done. Kids, however, never talk about their dreams to be a management consultant or a clerical administrator. These jobs just aren’t particularly fulfilling for most people (though there are exceptions).
The problem comes when your inner kid lives on. That part of you that would really like to do something worthwhile. It constantly sends you messages that you could be doing something better with your time, and by ignoring your true calling, you’re wasting your life.
Having a vocation is more than about making a living - although many provide plenty of income. It’s also about living with an authentic purpose, a desire to do something transformative that you believe in. Most people never get to the point where they feel as if their work is a vocation, and that’s a problem.
Here are some of the reasons why you might not be able to find your vocation and what you can do about it.
You’ve Not Yet Had Enough Life Experience
Finding your calling in life is not an easy task. You might think that you’ve got a good idea of what you’d like to do, and you may even have successfully bagged your dream job, but without a certain degree of life experience, finding your vocation can be elusive.
Why is this? It turns out that experiences are essential for informing us about how we should live our lives, and they’re nearly impossible to substitute. It’s our experiences that provide us with crystallized knowledge about our preferences and what we value.
It can also take time for our personalities to fully mature. For the first twenty-five to thirty years of our lives, our brains are still developing. They only stop changing in important ways many years into our adult lives.
Finally, what is most fulfilling to us in life can evolve over time. Whereas once it might have been the idea of helping strangers, it could quickly become about helping friends and family.
You Don’t Have A Mentor
Human beings are social creatures. We have always lived in communities and been guided by the people around us. But in the modern world, we’re expected to make far more decisions independently, and that can leave some people confused.
Mentors are people who have "been there and done that," and have enough life experience to be able to guide you in your decision-making. You might think that you have a particular calling to a vocation, but a mentor might think otherwise, based on your skills.
Mentors can also help to plant ideas in your head which grow with time. You might find the idea of a particular vocation unappealing, but that could change dramatically as you gain new perspectives. Mentors help enormously because they can provide an outside perspective on your life and character and advise you objectively and sensibly. Your decision-making could be fraught with emotions, whereas a mentor can take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Your Expectations Are Too High
The ideal vocation is something that pays you to do something you find fulfilling. But often, these opportunities are lacking. There are so few paid activities out there that provide a genuine sense of purpose.
Do you think your expectations are too high? Following a vocation full-time often takes years of behind-the-scenes groundwork. Not only do you have to know how to get your high school transcript, which people to build networks with, and the most relevant skills for the job, but also how to create value for others.
Many of the most successful people today began their vocations as side hobbies next to their main income-earning activities. Joe Rogan, the podcaster and radio host, began interviewing interesting people as a small after-work project. For years he continued to churn out content until enough people found what he was doing useful so that he could do it full time.
Vocations aren’t automatic. They grow organically with time. Success isn’t the end product - it’s a process, and one that should be enjoyed.
You’re Too Focused On Finding A Vocation
Having a single-minded focus on finding your vocation might sound like a good idea, but in reality, it can often be counterproductive. The reason for this is that the process of searching can lead you down all sorts of irrelevant paths and away from the things you find most enjoyable and relaxing.
In fact, the very process of focusing on finding something “fulfilling” may well be a contradiction. Vocations are things which feel good without you even having to try. Think about the last time you counseled somebody, or when you wrote something creative. Did you have to focus on these activities to feel fulfilled? Or did you enjoy the moment, and only afterward realized that you had a profound sense of joy? If these were vocational activities for you, then it’s likely you experienced the latter.
You Don’t Know What A Vocation Is
Money can confuse things, especially when it comes to vocations. Yes, it’s nice to be able to earn some coin by doing something that gives you a sense of purpose, but if your particular vocation doesn’t pay, then that’s no reason not to pursue it. Sure, you’ll have to think carefully about time management, but having a vocation alongside your main work can make your life far more enjoyable. Don’t think of a vocation as something which has to generate money - it’s something that should create joy and purpose in your life.