I want to propose a radical idea: you choose your calling as much as it chooses you. You get to take all the things you’ve lived and craft your story.
Many of us think that our calling and purpose will suddenly get revealed to us like a lightening rod. In my experience, it’s about connecting the dots and seeing the clues. Then it’s about sitting to write the story, while keeping in mind that it’s evolving and ever changing.
Why it matters
Let’s start with why writing your story matters in both your personal and professional journey. The first reason is that we get to give our life events meaning. Research shows most generative people (defined as people who improve the lives of future generations) make "lemonade from their lemons," which means they basically see the gifts in their greatest challenges. The second reason is that we can choose the roles that most matter. In life, we’re also given many roles to play (some of which we did not necessarily choose but are born into): daughter, sister, career woman, mother, colleague, friend, girlfriend, wife etc. Some of these roles serve us beautifully, and some don't serve us at all. When we decide our own story, we are able to choose the role we want to embody – a path that nourishes and energizes us.
3 Step Process to Crafting Your Story
Get out a piece of paper (journal is best) and pen and clear away all distractions. If you’re not in a place to do this now, I recommend you pause now to put a 30 minute date in your calendar to revisit this.
This process will ask you to free-write, which basically means writing without thinking and letting your pen lift off the page. It’s important to keep your hand moving, otherwise your mind and inner critic will hijack the whole process, and we want the answers to come from a deeper place.
Step 1. Start with WHY
Complete these sentences by free-writing:
I believe in a world in which … (you could keep this broad, like "people live in harmony with the planet" or if you have this level of clarity, go more specific such as "more people have access to nutritious healthy food.")
If we want to create real change, I believe we must …
What really matters in life is …
Above all else, I personally value …
Step 2. Move onto HOW
How did you come to believe #1 and #2 above? You could talk about how you were raised, parents/family, realizations, insights, or life challenges that happened to you. There are probably many reasons why you believe what you believe. Do your best to capture the greatest influences.
Zoom into a specific moment in your life when you knew #2 was true for you. Free-write to the following: What triggered this belief? How were you feeling? What were you wearing? What/who was around you? What were you doing? Where were you at the time? Use as many sensory details as possible for this one. Really paint a picture of your “aha” moment.
Step 3. Make meaning
Take some time to reread what you wrote and jot down any important moments or thoughts.
Pull out a blank sheet of paper in your journal. Start broadly and talk about "HOW" your life has unfolded into your "WHY" and then zoom into the specific instance, challenge, or turning point that really drove home the truth about your "WHY."
End your story with greater explanation about WHY you've decided to dedicate your life to this calling and cause.
Note: If you're feeling awkward or shy about this step, consider using 3rd person instead of 1st person.
Keep in mind whatever you’ve written is a first draft and it does not need to be perfect. As you could tell, you could have taken it in many different ways. In one version of the story, you talk about a world where animals have as many rights as humans, and your “aha” is about how your pet Jackson rescued your brother from drowning in the river. In a completely different version of your story, you talk about how you believe conscious business will create social change, and your “aha” is the time you spent six months in Africa after you graduated from school.
The point is this: you get to choose and zoom into what you want. You get to craft. You get to create yourself.
We create ourselves as much as we “find” ourselves. It’s through engaging in the creative process that we find who we truly are. So, no more waiting for insight and genius to strike. Work with the raw ingredients of your story and see what feels most true. Avanti!