There are no billboards or flashing neon that light the way toward finding your calling or purpose.
Very few people instinctively know what they want to do with their life.
For many years I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn't know exactly what I wanted that to be or look like. I know that's the case for many individuals who don't want to work for someone else.
In his latest book, The Art of Work, bestselling author and blogger, Jeff Goins offers some unconventional advice to help you abandon the status quo and kick start a life work that's packed with passion and purpose.
In an interview with Goins, he shared three actionable tactics that anyone can use to identify their calling.
1. Listen to your life.
According to Goins, the best place to begin charting your future is by taking a look at your past.
"One of my favorite quotes is from Parker Palmer when he says, 'Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I need to listen to my life to tell me who I am," said Goins.
The elevator speech for this tactic is being more self aware about what you've accomplished or not accomplished in the past. The intent is to look for a unifying thread or pattern that's consistent throughout your past experience that's also consistent with your passion and skills.
That unifying pattern or thread should energize you once you recognize it. Goins says this retrospection will also identify those activities in the past that you should avoid as you move forward because they drained you or amplified weaknesses.
"I don't believe your past necessarily dictates your future but it should inform it," said Goins.
Related: 7 Steps to Find Meaning in Your Work
2. Accidental apprenticeships.
The reality is that nobody achieves success or realizes their life purpose by themselves. It's a process that requires and demands a team of mentors providing guidance.
According to Goins, that kind of help is all around us -- we just don't always see it.
"Every story of success is a story of community. Some people will help you willingly, while others may contribute to your education on accident. If you are wise, you can use it all," said Goins. "Even though each of us has a unique journey, it's full of teachers who can help along the way. Your job is not to seek them out necessarily, but to recognize them when they appear, because oftentimes they're closer than you think."
3. Prep for painful practice.
There's a myth that once you know what it is that you're supposed to pursue, achieving that purpose will be easy because it plays to your strengths and passion. That's not the case.
"The paradox is it's difficult to achieve the level excellence that your calling should merit, but that struggle for mastery is also invigorating and fulfilling. It's tough and not everybody realizes that until they're in it," said Goins.
Just as with professional athletes, musicians or artisans, expect to intentionally hone your craft to the point of exhaustion. Otherwise, mastery will elude you.
"Grinding it out is not fun. Painful practice is not fun, but it's necessary to both clarify your purpose and achieve it," said Goins.
The key is finding where your abilities and personal drive intersect the needs of others. According to Goins you can find that juncture by answering the following three questions:
- What do I love?
- What am I good at?
- What does the world need?
Once that sweet spot is identified you won't have a job or even a career. You'll have a life purpose.