3 Steps To Finding (And Following) Your Calling In Life

In my post 5 Common Myths People Have About Finding Their Passion, we went over the common misconceptions people have about figuring out your passion and following that passion.

Today I want to talk about something very related to your passion but with a subtle–but important–difference.

Today I would like to talk about how to figure out if something is your calling.

The Difference Between Your Passion and Your Calling

The differences between your passion and your calling are often razor-thin.

A calling can be rooted in your passion, but your passion is not always your calling.

First, we must admit that many of us have several different things we are passionate about.

For example: I’m passionate about cooking, film, acting, dancing, singing, drawing, painting, and of course writing.

But each of these passions means something different to me.

My passion for cooking is more like a hobby, for instance. It’s a private thing I like to do for my friends and family and for myself. My family says I should feature my cooking in a restaurant, but I have no interest do so. Turning cooking into a career, or even just a job, would ruin my passion for it. Cooking is like a mediation for me. It relaxes me and gives me great joy. Cooking is one of my passions, but the way I choose to act on it is different.

I have a passion for painting, too. But it’s sort of a dream right now. I haven’t taken any painting classes, but I do dream of one day having a canvas and using paintbrush. I don’t intend to make that a career either, and maybe that’s where my passion for painting stays: in my dreams. (Who knows?)

Now, unlike cooking and painting, I consider writing my passion as well as my calling. I believe I am called to write. Actually, correction: I know I am called to write.

I can’t explain it words, but when you know you are called to do something, you just know it.

The best way I can describe the difference between a passion and a calling is that a passion is like the love of a friend or a family member: you love to have them around, you miss them dearly when they aren’t around, and you want and wish that you can spend the rest of your lives around each other.

Having any passion is just like that–and it’s absolutely wonderful.

But finding your calling is like falling in love.

A calling requires that you hold a commitment to something.

To commit to a calling is just like getting married: it is for better or for worse, for sickness and in health, and “’til death do you part.” And trust me, you experience the worst when you follow your calling, along with the better. There is both sickness and health when you are married to your calling. And, yes, you are totally fine with the pursuit of your calling taking up your whole entire life.

That’s the kind of love you have for your calling. 

A calling is more than just a fling, and it’s even more than a long-term romantic relationship–it’s forever.

Your calling is very much like your soul mate.

3 Steps To Finding (And Following) Your Calling

Step 1: Investigate Your Many Passions

Okay, so you made that list of your passions a while back right? Now let’s take out that list again.

Sit down with your many passions and decide which ones speak the most to you.

Now, it may very well be that you feel that all of your passions are your callings. And that’s fine. But of course, then you must decide on which one to dedicate yourself to first.

Investigate your passions. See which ones are just your hobbies, which ones are just there to dream about, and which ones are there to seriously commit your entire life to.

The passion you have no problem committing your entire life to (whether it ends up being realized or not) is your calling.

(If you have a considerable problem with finding which dream is the one that matters the most, read: How To Prioritize Your Dreams So You Can Finally Make Some REAL Progress On Them.)

Step 2: Watch Out For External Clues

Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud’s famous protegé, called moments of meaningful coincidence, synchronicity.

We’ve all had moments of synchronicity: it is when things happen and we can’t explain it away by saying it was just by chance. We know that that moment of coincidence means something more. We often call these events with names like “coincidence,” “chance,” “luck,” but there is deep meaning behind these occurrences. 

The more one meditates, the more one notices these things. The more one pays attention, the more you can see synchronicity happening all the time–everywhere, to everybody.

Watching out for synchronicity will also clue you into whether you are following your calling or not.

When you meet the right mentor at the right time, for instance, that’s synchronicity. When the right book turns up at the exact time you were looking for something like it, that’s synchronicity. When a person briefly visits Ireland on a vacation and finds their future husband at a random bar–that’s synchronicity.

For example:

In college, I had this strange urge to want to study and learn all about Mexican-American theater, or Chicano Teatro. Chicano Teatro is a form of theater that is often overlooked, underrated, and misunderstood. But I wanted to know everything I could about it.

At the time,  I had no idea why I wanted to. I just wanted to. I was really passionate about the subject. But, at the time, I found that there was no way of me finding out more about it.

That was until, quite suddenly, I found a flyer hanging on a bulletin board for a two-week workshop where they were going to teach exactly what I wanted to learn. It was at a nearby theater, too, not 3o minutes away from where I was currently located. The workshop came with a cost, but, fortunately, I had just earned a grant from my college that would cover it all.

I didn’t know what to call that experience then. But now I know that event was an instance of synchronicity. Today, I am very grateful for that workshop, because it was very important to my growth as a person, as a writer, and it was certainly vital to the creation of the fiction novel I am currently writing. (This is how influential that moment of synchronicity was: if I hadn’t gone to the workshop, the book I am currently working on wouldn’t have existed.)

This is what I mean by synchronicity. Watch out for it. Listen. Meditate daily–for at least 30 min–and you will become more and more sensitive to moments of synchronicity in your life.

Know that synchronicity will always work in your favor if you are pursuing your calling.

Step 3: Make Sure Your Personal Will Is Deeply Enmeshed With Your Calling

But you can’t rely completely on synchronicity to guide you.

For instance: there are moments when synchronicity will be scarce, if not completely absent.

This is not a moment to despair, however, and question your calling. On the contrary, these moments without synchronicity to aid you are a challenge from life: they are an invitation to strengthen your faith in your calling.

Think about it: if life was meant to do everything for you, then there would be no reason for life’s journey, would there be?

So, part of the journey of pursuing your calling is not only to recognize that your calling is fated–or destined–but that this destiny is somehow, paradoxically, your choice as well.

It is something you must also pursue out of your own volition.

Your personal will must be deeply enmeshed with your calling.

So you must exert the force that is necessary to fill all the gaps that exist in the pursuit of your calling.

For instance:

  •  What synchronicity can’t help figure out for you about your calling, you have to figure out for yourself.
  • What you can’t seem to understand about your calling, you have to learn to understand it for yourself.
  • When you begin to lose faith in your ability to realize your calling, it is you who must then summon the faith from deep inside you and keep going–even though there is no outward “sign” from life that this is the correct course for you.

What I am saying is that synchronization doesn’t only happen from outside–it must happen from within as well.

We are, in a sense, co-creators in this life.

In attempting to realize our calling, the deal we strike with life is that it has to meet us half-way: it has to do something to help us realize our calling. But we have to meet life half-way, as well. We can’t expect everything to fall into our lap. But we also can’t expect that the barriers to realizing our dreams will always be insurmountable, either.

Just as life is in charge of synchronizing events for your benefit, so are YOU in charge of synchronizing events for your own benefit, as well.

The magic only happens when both you and life are setting you up to win.

Living Out Your Calling

To find your calling you must investigate all your passions and find out which one of these passions you would truly be committed to for the rest of your life (even if you never saw that calling realized in your lifetime. I know: that is an intense commitment. But that is how you know it is really your calling, and not just an ordinary passion.)

To make sure you are following your true calling, check to see if synchronicity favors your choice of calling. If it does, you are on the right track.

Finally, in order to follow your calling, you must invoke your personal will. Your calling will not be realized unless you want it to be realized.

Life will always favor your calling, but it can only do so much. You have to fill in the gaps with your own personal willpower: what I mean by that is that you have to make the active choice to pursue the calling that was meant for you.

If your will is not in it, know that synchronicity is not enough to get you to realizing your calling.

Remember that you are a co-creator. It takes a partnership between you and life to make it work. This is the last, and probably most important step in the process.

much love,


Today’s Courage Exercise

Follow the three steps outlined in this post on how to find and follow your calling. Then, once you have figured out what your calling is, actively pursue it today.

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13 comments on “3 Steps To Finding (And Following) Your Calling In Life

  1. Fantastic post again, Ollin. Thanks a lot!

    It’s definitely synchronicity that you should wrote this post today, because I’m pondering these questions just now.
    If there’s anything that I could add to what you say it would be this: for me calling is also a manifestation of my true self.

  2. Kate says:

    I found this really interesting. Writing is definitely my calling. It drove me so crazy at one point that I stopped doing it, but I wasn’t happy until I started again. 🙂

  3. Jess says:

    Hi Ollin,

    I really needed this, and I’m also grateful that you linked to the “5 common myths” and the “prioritize your dreams” posts again. I have been trying hard to figure these things out for most of my life. I always get stuck with the question, “but what if this isn’t it…?” and then I stop EVERYTHING.

    I have to remind myself, if I never pursue anything, I’ll never find what I love to do. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing, and be satisfied with my life, but not excited about it.

  4. sharonledwith says:

    Great post, Ollin! I’ve been working with synchronicity for a very long time, as well as paying attention to my dreams (the language of my soul) for guidance. We are all co-creators of our lives, and Captains of our Souls! Kudos and best wishes, it seems you’re on the right track!

  5. Inspiring post, Ollin. Just shared via Facebook, Twitter and Google+!

  6. A creative life will bring you all the riches, glory, and material wealth you may ever need or desire. Now is the true time for all artists. Excellent post.

  7. Linda B says:

    How are core values connected to our passions and our callings?

    • Ollin says:

      That’s a good question. I suppose our passions and callings give us a chance to express our core values to the world. What do others think?

  8. J. F. Smith says:

    Hello, Ollin. I just came across your blog today. I am head-over-heels (along with the marriage illustration!) for this comment:

    “To commit to a calling is just like getting married: it is for better or for worse, for sickness and in health, and “’til death do you part.” And trust me, you experience the worst when you follow your calling, along with the better. There is both sickness and health when you are married to your calling. And, yes, you are totally fine with the pursuit of your calling taking up your whole entire life.”

    I’ve got two of those: writing and dance. I’m completely committed to both. They’re much more than just passions – you’re spot on there. Great work!

  9. Tammy says:

    Nice work Ollin. I struggle with this concept over and over and over again. Off to do the exercise.

  10. My response is a carbon copy of Kate’s. Great post. It was right on point. You put a word, “synchronicity” to what I’d been thinking/feeling for so long. I probably heard it back in psychology class too, but it didn’t stick as it will now 😉

  11. talkstoherself says:

    Reading this post is synchronicity at work. I know I’m a bit late to it, but am wondering if you can make any meditation recommendations. I’ve been trying it out for the past 8 weeks (with a guided CD) but feel I’ve been failing horribly.

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