Some of our proteges ask our mentors and especially our coaches about how to discover their sense of purpose i.e. the broader why which motivates them and which could offer more meaning if they align their work with it. Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big*, names our desires to contribute to the world 'callings', and says there are different types: community callings, career callings, and creative or vocational callings. She defines a calling as “an inner sense of longing or inspiration to fill a particular need in the world”.
We receive many callings over a lifetime. They begin and end. Often, we’ll be pursuing more than one calling at a given time…What callings are showing up in my life right now? And yet, while there is multiplicity and diversity across our callings, if you look at the many callings you’ve felt in your lifetime, you’ll see some threads and themes… The threads and themes that show up again and again in our diverse callings point us to our larger, lifelong callings.”
Read more to discover Tara’s calling driving her to create her Playing Big programme to inspire others to achieve their dreams, as well as explore ways to recognise our own callings, including some familiar to me in my passion for people development, and my yearning to found Protagion to help professionals actively manage our careers.
Through a number of her life experiences, Tara found herself longing for an environment more equally shaped by women and men. She describes her lifelong, overarching calling: “to recognise where women’s voices are missing and do what I can, in my corner of the world, to help bring them in.” This implies equality, participation, transformation, and collaboration with others. She also wants to spur a second kind of change, where our expertise about the external world can become integrated with wisdom about our inner lives i.e. our internal realities that shaped external events.
Ways to recognise our callings
There are a number of signs to recognise our potential callings, some of which may combine to amplify the feelings we sense:
In addition to acknowledging that we aren’t yet who we need to be, and that we don’t yet have everything we need, it’s also helpful to accept that we don’t need to be experts to make a worthwhile contribution. In fact, often our non-traditional perspective adds new context to the issue. For example, our personal experience of a topic (as someone who has lived it, rather than merely studied it) can give us unique insights to share, ones that can inspire with both passion and compassion i.e. our personal journeys can be particularly potent. Another way that outsiders can contribute is by bringing expertise from another field to bear. They can bring in new tools, paradigms, perspectives and questions to the existing experts’ deep knowledge. They can prompt new thinking, often seeing blindspots in the conventional thinking or identifying ingrained assumptions.
Tara challenges us to ask ourselves: “Based on my background and my life experience, what is my role in the ecosystem around this topic? What is my slice of the truth to tell? What is my right piece to add to the mosaic? What is the contribution I am uniquely qualified to make?”
To see Tara talk about qualities that help us identify our callings, watch this 4 minute video. While it covers the topics in a different order, it is a powerful summary that can help spur you to act. She ends with an action step to identify what calling is showing up in your heart right now.
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