Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Discovering Your Life Work

The Buddha once said, "Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart give yourself to it." Lately, I've been pondering the question: How do we discover our calling, our life work? My answer is: listen to the voice of your deepest self, your soul.

The voice of the soul is not audible (except in the sense that we can “hear” thoughts and feelings) but can be heard nonetheless if we listen carefully to our inner self. There are several aspects to listening to this inner voice of our deepest self. First, we need to pay attention to our gifts. Everyone has one or more gifts— natural abilities, skills or capacities. For example, I believe that one of my gifts is that of putting thoughts into words and I am using this gift right now. What is your gift? If you don’t know, then ask someone who knows you well.

A second aspect of listening to your soul is to answer the question: What gives me joy? Enjoyment is what keeps work from being drudgery. Reflect on what you are doing when you feel happy. This will offer an important clue to solving the vocation mystery. Another related question to ask yourself is: What do I feel fulfilled doing? Discovering what brings you fulfillment and deep satisfaction is a way of listening to your soul.

Once you’ve identified your gifts and learned what gives you joy, the next step in soul-listening involves discovering your purpose and your passion. Our purpose is our reason for being. Purpose is an underlying force that provides the motivation to define our life goals. We organize our goals around our purpose. The purpose questions are: Why am I here? What am I living for? Answering these questions will put us in touch with what really matters to us and may lead us to find the work that makes a positive difference in our world.

While we often use the word “passion” to mean “intense enthusiasm,” its spiritual roots go much deeper. The Latin root of “passion” means “to suffer.” It’s no accident that the story of Jesus’ suffering and death is called the Passion Story. Therefore, the passion question is: What are you willing to die for? If purpose provides us with a direction or goal in life, then passion gives us the motivation and determination to pursue our purpose. As my friend, Dr. John Tamerin once said, “Passion creates the intensity to fuel our purpose.”

Asking yourself the above questions is a way of hearing the "voice" of your deepest self.

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