December 5, 2011 | Barb Carr

Career Development: Do You Have a Calling?

Decide Upon Your Dreams and Goals

“Calling: to summon a career or pursuit; to awaken; to invoke as from Heaven; a claim on a person’s time or life.”

Have you ever encountered times in your life when you were not able to develop goals that were motivating and inspiring enough to set you in motion towards accomplishing them?  Times when you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take the time to even sit down and start writing them, regardless of how far-fetched they seemed?  Did you ever think that maybe that was because you did not or have not found a “calling” in your life.  Have you ever really asked yourself what it is that you were truly meant to do? What you really want to do? Your true passion? “What am I supposed to do…now?”

“Callings” as they are often referred, are often misunderstood. They can create the urge to do something significant in life – to contribute in ways that benefit others and in so doing, enhance the world in some way.  I have often heard a calling being called an “Epiphany”; when something or ‘someone’ sends us a message to make a significant detour in our life, often taking us to places or doing things we would only dream about. I know what a calling is not; it is not a lightning bolt from the sky.

I know what a calling can be: it can (and often is) a divine inspiration received in the most unlikely place and at the most unexpected time; serendipity; synchronicity; a “calling” can be a vision seen in a dream; an idea or suggestion planted by a friend or associate; a chance meeting with a stranger who inspires us to do more and to be more than we really are; or greater still for me, meeting and/or connecting with seven surviving family members whose fathers, (13 total) perished in the plane crash 4 May 1970 in which I was the sole survivor. The connections span from May 1970 until the most recent email, “out of the proverbial blue” late October 2012. “Amazing Grace” indeed!

Callings can be the proverbial “knock on the door” and if we open it, our life may detour to places we only dreamed about and doing things we never risked to imagine.

A calling may require a transition in career, or take a person much deeper into whatever roles they already have – turning doctors into healers, insurance salesman into advisers in financial security, business people into entrepreneurs, university professors into men of God, and plane crash and burn survivors into speakers, authors and writers (40 plus years ago, who would’ve thunk it, EH?).

“People go from thinking about making a living through their profession to thinking about giving back to the world through the positive impact their profession can make,” said John Schuster, author of “Answering Your Call.”

Personal tragedy and the innate desire to overcome adversity can also be a great internal motivator to inspire people to, “Pass the salt and make a difference in everything they do.” And in so doing, their Purpose (Mission) in life is to make every person they meet and every place they visit a teeny-weeny better from them having been there.

How do you discover your personal calling? Geez, I thought you’d never ‘ask.’

Some people just seem to have a genetic aptitude, talent or predisposition so obvious that their answer to their calling is to develop that talent, aptitude or predisposition to its fullest extent.  Such was the case of Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Billy Graham and many others throughout history.

Other people have had a clear sense of a calling since their youth. They are drawn into pursuing a dream and rise above their circumstances to make that dream a reality.

“Circumstances don’t determine a man; they reveal him.”

Most of us, through trial and error, discover that we possess a certain knack or ability for things.  We encounter challenges in life that intrigue us and roles that absorb us.  In turn, we make a choice and then commitments to give it our best and to not let anyone or anything stop us from accomplishing our dream, our “calling.” This process is not as visible and is less obvious to others. That’s because motivation is internal and results, however measured, are external.  An important key in life is to strive for excellence and not perfection; excellence (quality), is sequential, that is, it is inside-out, not outside-in.

“In the stew of everyday problems and ordinary life tasks, we gain opportunities to do something about them.  This, combined with the cultivation of our talents as we discover them, helps us arrive at our calling,” Schuster said. “They may not win us trophies, yet make all the difference to society and ourselves when we make the decision to do something worthwhile,” he added.

I have discovered many times that what we do is not nearly as important as why we chose to do it.  When we do something with an open mind and an open heart, the knowledge that we have contributed positively to our family, friends and the larger community as whole, has its own rewards and “trophies.”

Discovering your calling could require that you set aside a quiet time in your busy routine and learn to listen to your inner self.  Being quiet and introspective helps us to relax, refresh and re-focus on those things (and people) that are truly important and deserve our time and energy.  There are also occasions when the best action is no action and knowing when to take no action comes with experience and time. Make time to take the time.

Epiphany.” A revelatory manifestation of a divine being; a spiritual event in which the essence of a given object of manifestation appears to the subject as in a sudden flash of recognition.

Perhaps the answer will come in the form of a gentle nudge or a “sudden flash” that tells you to take a different direction in your work, in your life or both. It may also come in the form of a suggestion or ‘hint’ from a spouse or friend. The important thing is to learn to pay attention to these messages no matter how subtle, and objectively weigh their merits.  The source(s) of the ‘nudge’ is often a good indication that it has merit.

Perhaps a sense of guilt will emerge when you think about your favorite hobby — telling you that time would be better spent with your children and becoming an even better parent.

You have to learn to block out society’s urgings to listen to your soul, your “second-self’s” urgings.  I know from many personal experiences that prayer works; we must, however be careful for what we pray because we just might get it!  Our mind is, after all a computer, Positive in, positive out. “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Here are some questions Schuster offers to help you. I have added a few of my own, too:

  • Have you gone against popular opinion?
  • Pursued a hobby others thought odd?
  • Looked for the depth dimensions of your ordinary job with its ordinary routines?
  • Asked:  What does it mean to take the kids to school, to write this report, to analyze this budget, to meet this customer?  How can I make this significant?
  • How is your ordinary life laced with meaning, if cultivated?
  • Made a decision to “pass the salt and make a difference” in your personal life? Your professional career?
  • What makes you really happy? Content?
  • Are you at peace with yourself?
  • What is the one thing you’ve meant to do but have always put it off?
  • When was the last time you stopped to watch a butterfly? Hummingbird? Geese in flight? Listen to the rain? Feel snow crunch under foot? Air after a rain? Smell of your mother’s hair? A baby’s breath?  Given a hug? Get a hug? The examples are endless.

Even in my wildest imaginations, especially while in the Burn Unit 40 years ago, did I ever imagine that I’d be blessed to travel and invited to speak to so many different organizations, meet so many wonderful people and have so many quality friends. To write and have four books published and write for five newsletters, too.

All of my invitations have been wonderful, enjoyable and are the “Chocolate Fudge Sundae” of my life, topped with plenty of whipped cream and crushed peanuts.

The ‘cherry’ on my “Life’s Sundae,” is the invitations to address Senior Midshipmen at the US Naval Academy and Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point. For me, it doesn’t get any better than that! My eternal “Thanks” to all of you who played a role in all of my invitations.

So, why wait? There is no time like the present to get started. What’s in your “Bucket List?”  Dreaming about a calling is just the beginning of the journey.  Remember, a dream is just a dream; but a plan is a dream with goals and timelines. Oh…one other wish from me to you…God Bless you!  We make our own luck.


This article was written by and published with permission from “Captain George” J. Burk, USAF, (Ret), plane crash and burn survivor. motivational speaker, writer and author.  Learn more on his website:

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