Pursuing Someone Else’s Calling As Our Own
Have you ever wondered why you ended up in the career you are in? Does it feel like you were pushed or pulled in that direction by other people?
If so, you may have co-opted someone else’s calling as your own.
Sometimes we are pushed into a career or a particular vocation because our parents, teachers, or friends pushed us in that direction. This push could be along the spectrum of forceful shove to gentle nudge. They may have done it unawares. Sometimes they knew exactly what they were doing.
Most of us can recall at least one story where a child was pressured to become the first doctor, lawyer or priest in the family. Or to follow in their parents’ footsteps, regardless of talent or passion for the family business.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was pressured by his father to compose for years for people who did not appreciate his true talent. Fortunately for all of us, Mozart eventually pushed back and pursued his love for opera. This move destroyed his relationship with his father, but freed him to produce an unprecedented volume of compositions in a very short period of time.
Not all of us experience a strong push in our careers, but most of us have been influenced by our parents, teachers and friends because we love them and trust them. We may have received slightly higher praise for efforts leading toward a favorable career versus a less favorable one. Art is good as a hobby but no way to make a living; math, science and law are much more lucrative, responsible and secure.
Others of us may not have been pushed so much as pulled. We identified ourselves with someone so strongly that we followed in their footsteps – we wanted to be just like them.
In this case we adopted their vocation or calling as our own, and while some may experience success in doing so, others pursue a futile fantasy. In either case, we deceive ourselves and deny who we are.
When I think back to my own childhood, I remember the admiration I had for my brother, who in his early teens joined the local Explorer’s club and began volunteering at the local ambulance corps. It seemed so cool, and he enjoyed it so much, that I wanted to do it also. So I joined the Explorer group after him without really thinking it through. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long for me to realize my brother’s calling was not my own, and I eventually wandered down another path. (I have wandered down quite a few other paths since then – in fact my calling could end up being “wanderer”).
Unlike being pushed – where we feel a sense of resisting or pushing back, being pulled can feel like a free fall, or give the sense of being off balance, as if we are about to fall on our face.
Path, Pace & Purpose
The solution here is not to make drastic changes or even blame anyone, but to take a moment to stand still and observe the paths available to you. Which one feels right? Now imagine that path merging with your current path for period of time. You don’t always need to leave the path you are on to journey down another.
Go slow – find your own pace and move forward with grace as you stumble here or there. As you find your balance you can quicken your pace – you are in control – but not so fast you miss where the path turns left or right down paths less and less traveled by. Remain present and observe.
If you feel like you have been pushed into the career you are in at this moment, take some time to reflect back on when you felt pushed, observe the dynamic of what was going on in that moment, and uncover what it was we were being pushed away from as this may provide clues about our true calling.
If you feel more pulled than pushed, ask someone close to you who knows you well to reflect back what they see. When pulled we often need others to help us see what we were running from, which is often another clue about our true calling.
When you have reflected a while, move forward with purpose.