One of the most common things people pray for is guidance. We want to know our purpose in life. We want to know what we should be doing in the world. We want to find our calling. What better place to turn than prayer?
In most cases, a mighty voice doesn’t shout down from the heavens with a command to become what we truly are. Understanding our calling is an ongoing journey of discovery. Along each step of the way, prayer can be an incredible aid in the unfolding of the book of our life.
In recent weeks, I’ve found that the Prayer of Examen is a great method for uncovering a calling without looking for it. At the same time, I’ve been reading and rereading a few books that help add fuel to my prayerful fire.
The following books have been helpful for me in my ongoing discovery of a calling. In every case I didn’t have a particular career goal (or doubt) in mind. I was more interested in finding passion and purpose and a direction for me life. Also, these books were not necessarily a part of a discernment process which led me into marriage. I did do quite a bit of discernment, but in the end marriage (and my wife) chose me (praise God!).
If you are looking for some inspiration to find your calling–a purpose and meaning to your life–then check out these books.
What Is Your Calling? Five Books to Help You Out
Stephen Martin‘s book, The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation, is a personal and thought-provoking book that provides a unique perspective on the pursuit of a calling. Stephen shares his personal story and pulls from stories of popular figures and celebrities as well as the wisdom of the monastic tradition to bring his readers out of their comfort zones and into the wilderness.
I was initially drawn to this book because of the day-by-day format–something I find useful and helped me come up with the concept for my own first book. Dan Miller is a Christian who helps his readers apply their faith to their work. Our economy has changed forever and Dan helps us find meaningful work by giving us the confidence in ourselves to find it.
I didn’t start reading this because I hated my job. I was just tired of hearing Dave Ramsey and Cliff Ravenscraft talk about him all the time. When the book popped up for $2.99 in the Kindle store, I jumped at the chance and started reading. It has helped me focus on the work that I really love in my job and entrepreneurial endeavors.
It is ok to quit. In fact, quitting can be one of the best things you do for yourself. Seth Godin’s The Dip is a very short book about when to throw in the towel and focus on the work that will give you the opportunity to be the best in the world.
If you are like me and have a little entrepreneurial spirit (which is just a nice way of saying you have vocational ADHD), then you need to read this book. I read it a second time and decided to sideline a project that I thought would give me the chance to help bloggers grow their online presences. I am passionate about blogging, but I’m not likely to be the best in the world at helping bloggers grow their blogs.
This is the quintessential business book. But when I read it, I can’t help but apply everything I read to my own personal life and calling. In particular, I am enthralled by the Hedgehog Concept. It is based on the adage attributed to the philosopher Archilochus and popularized by Isaiah Berlin, “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
In brief, Collins suggests that the companies who were able to upgrade from good to great all found one defining characteristic that he describes as the Hedgehog Concept. It answers three questions:
1. What am I passionate about?
2. What can I be the best in the world at?
3. What drives my economic engine?
For about a year now, I’ve been keeping an Evernote note journal recording answers to each of these questions. I have found it to be an incredibly helpful perspective in the work that I do. Whenever I lose track of time or can’t stop thinking about a project I’m working on I record it under my passions list. Whenever I get compliments on work that I do, I record it under my skills and strengths list. Whenever I complete a freelance project, launch a product, or get paid for something I record it under my economic engine list.
Most people I know who have read John Paul II’s Theology of the Body become obsessed with it. Of course it has had a very important impact on the way I approach marriage and family, but it has also provided some inspiration on finding a greater calling and career path.
In particular there is a passage that the entire collection of Wednesday audiences focuses on from Gaudium et Spes that gets to the heart of finding a calling: “Man only finds himself through a sincere gift of self.” (GS, 24) The more I try to be a gift to others, the more I truly have found myself.
What books or other resources have been particularly influential in your discovery of a calling? Share them in the comments below.