Developing Your Calling Into A Career: The How-To

After the basic human needs are met, money will not buy happiness. Only a life of meaning and purpose will result in contentment and authentic happiness.

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A common trait for leaders is their strong ambition and passion for what they do, which inevitably pushes them up the career ladder to the top rung. As top-performers, managing directors, general managers, and C-suite executives may think they have no place left to go once they reach this level- however, it is important to realize there is more than one way to grow.


The ceiling we hit is the one we make for ourselves, not only in our careers, but also in life. There is a momentous amount of opportunity to continue on a growth journey, and this doesn’t have to only be defined through job title or status.

Vocation comes from the Latin word “vocatus,” which means “calling.” If we look at our careers and our vocations as callings, then perhaps we would approach them from a different place within us.

So much of our day is spent at work that if that work is not engaging and meaningful, then you spend most of your time in service of money, and “putting food on the table.” But when your career is your calling, you spend your days working not just your mind, but your heart and soul.

Your purpose is linked to activity that is outside of you, and it comes from a deeper part of us- it speaks to our spirit. I have spoken to many executives who went up the corporate ladder and were driven by money, esteem, or outwardly defined success, and once they got to the top, they realized that they had been operating from the outside in, rather than the inside out.

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They realized money and worldly success didn’t mean much if it was not linked to their calling, or if they were not in service of others. After the basic human needs are met, money will not buy happiness. Only a life of meaning and purpose will result in contentment and authentic happiness.

According to positive psychology, a life of authentic happiness must include three ingredients:

1. Pleasure Do things that give you moments of joy. This can include travel, shopping, eating, hobbies- hedonistic pleasures.

2. Engagement Do things that exercise your character strengths most of the day, every day. For example, for those who have the strength of curiosity, they would perhaps enjoy a profession as a researcher, those with strengths of wisdom/knowledge, a student or a seeker, or someone who has art and creativity, a career as a writer or entrepreneur.

3. Meaning/purpose Identify your character strengths, and use it in service of the greater good. It must be in service to something bigger than you and your immediate family. If people do not have meaning and purpose, they typically go from one moment of pleasure to another and feel a gnawing sense of meaninglessness. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and/or addictions as a way of self-medicating the sadness that is experienced as a result of feeling like their life has no meaning.

The way we live our purpose may change over time, but the underlying value or character strength usually is the same. Find pleasure, engage with others, and actively seek out your purpose, and once you do, share it openly and wholeheartedly. The beauty of life comes with the guarantee it is ever-changing, and as human beings, our access for growth is endless.

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Dr. Saliha Afridi

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As a clinical psychologist for the past 13 years, Dr. Saliha Afridi has spent 12 years working in the UAE and founded The Lighthouse Arabia in 2011, a community mental health and wellness clinic providing quality psychological and psychiatric care to children, adults, couples, and families.

Dr Afridi has worked with prominent companies and ministries such as The Executive Council, The National Program for Happiness and Well-being from the UAE Happiness Ministry, many professional service firms and fortune 100 companies in her bid to dissolve mental health stigma and be at the forefront of the mental health movement within the UAE and the region.

Dr Afridi’s vision is to make mental health practices more accessible through licensing and insurance reforms, changes within the education system to teach about mental health and emotional and mental wellbeing from a young age, taking a preventative approach to mental health rather than treatment- based approach.

Seeing the need for increased mental health literacy, she took the initiative to bring the internationally acclaimed Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to the UAE  in 2017, with The LightHouse Arabia becoming the only licensed provider for the evidence-based course which enables adults and teens to become accredited mental health first aiders. 

Dr. Afridi is committed to leading and being at the centre of the continued positive mental health changes to be seen in the region.