Oprah devoted the opening moments of her final show on Wednesday to an idea at the heart of her personal philosophy: Follow your calling.
Reflecting on her 25-year journey pursuing her own calling, she asked her viewers to step up in finding their own. "Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it."
The question that comes up next for many of us is, "What is my calling?"
This is a sacred, difficult question. In my own journey to discover my calling, and in the conversations I've had with friends, clients, and students to help them discover theirs, I've seen seven common qualities of callings, signposts that tell us our calling is near. You can use these seven qualities to help you recognize your own calling. All seven qualities won't show up in every calling, but often, several of them will be present.
Seven Qualities of A Calling
1. You feel an unusually vivid pain or frustration around the status quo of a particular issue or topic. You feel or see what's lacking. Maybe there's a particular problem in the world -- climate change, homelessness in your own, or the lack of arts education for kids, that keeps tugging at your heart, popping up in your mind. What need or problem in the world -- or as close as on your own neighborhood block -- is whispering to you?
2. You see a powerful vision -- vague or clear -- about what could be. One of my clients has a long-held vision for a community garden in her city. Another has a strong vision -- and insight -- about how parents can more effectively deal with troubled teens. What vision keeps showing up in your mind's eye? What future possibility do you see? What if you could put aside the voices of self-doubt, of judging that vision, and trust that it is your work to bring it into the world?
3. You feel as if you've received an assignment, rather than that you chose the particular task or cause. Callings are "assignments to bring a particular kind of light into the world." You feel called, pulled. You have a mysterious sense of "this work is mine to do."
4. Doing the calling is a magical, strengthening process. You receive an incredible energy and a sense of meaning, rightness, from doing the work. You feel a kind of flow while working on it. As Oprah put it, our callings "light a spark" within us, and that spark allows us to "illuminate the world."
Callings have some surprising qualities too:
5. You feel resistance to going for your calling. It brings up a kind of fear. A part of you wants to run the other direction. It may feel like your calling upends your ego's plans for your life. In the archetypal hero's journey, Step 1 of the journey is "hearing the call". Step 2? "Resisting the call!" It's a normal part of the process. The key is surrendering the resistance and stepping into the calling.
6. You don't -- yet -- have everything you need to have to complete it. There are resources you don't possess now -- perhaps money or the team team -- that you need to do the calling well. Many of us delay work on our callings because we see we don't have everything we need to complete them. But not having everything you need is actually one of the defining characteristics of a calling. Begin. You will gather and be met by what you need as you move forward.
7. You aren't -- yet -- the person you need to be to complete the calling. It's not just your inner critic talking! It's the truth: you aren't quite up to the task. You don't have the strengths and courage and skills you'll need. But you will grow into them by doing the calling. Callings always grow us in some meaningful way. In fact, that is their dual function: to grow us and to enrich the world. You will evolve, develop new capacities, and show up to life in new ways in order to fulfill your calling, and that is a blessing.
What do these seven qualities illuminate about your own calling? What has your journey discovering your calling been like? I hope you'll share in the comments.
Tara Sophia Mohr is a writer, teacher and speaker whose work focuses on helping women create more freedom, peace, and contribution in their work and lives. She received her MBA from Stanford University. To receive Tara's free workbook, "10 Rules for Brilliant Women," sign up here.