contemplating your life purpose or calling

Life Purpose vs. Calling: What Is The Role Of Work In Life?

Welcome back for day 14 of my Happy.Healthy.Whole Project (HHWP)!

Over the course of this project, I have picked 5 areas of my life that I want to work on, and then set short-term goals for the month of October, to get me moving in the right direction (more goals to come!). 

The 5 areas of life I have chosen to work on for this project are as follows:

  1. Improve Physical Health
  2. Find My Calling
  3. Strengthen Relationships
  4. Achieve Life Balance
  5. Build Keystone Habits

In yesterday’s post, I discussed work-life balance as a part of #4.

In today’s post, I’d like to focus on #2 – finding my calling. As one of my October goals under this category, I set a short-term goal to “Explore my beliefs about what role I want work to hold in my life.”

I will be crossing that goal off of my October list with this post but I think that you will also be able to apply today’s exploration life purpose vs. calling in your own life as well.

Life purpose vs. calling: What role do you want work to play in your life?
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Life Purpose vs. Calling – What’s The Difference?

Many people use the terms “life purpose” and “calling” interchangeably, but I think these words have vastly different connotations and influence the way that we think about the role of work in our lives.

Let’s explore.

The “Ridiculous Baggage” Of Life Purpose

Mark Manson is an American self-help blogger and two-time New York Times best selling author. His most famous book is called, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life

It’s a really thought provoking book, but do not, I repeat DO NOT read it if copious  F-bombs make your eyeballs want to pop out of your head in rage, disgust, or any other strong emotion. Consider yourself warned.

But Mark Manson makes a fantastic point about the meaning of the term “life purpose”:

“When people say, ‘What should I do with my life?’ or ‘What is my life purpose?’ what they’re actually asking is: ‘What can I do with my time that is important?’ This is an infinitely better question to ask. It’s far more manageable and it doesn’t have all of the ridiculous baggage that the ‘life purpose’ question does.”

– Mark Manson

I think this is a really important distinction. 

The term, “life purpose” puts a whole lot of pressure or “ridiculous baggage” on us. 

It implies that there is a single thing we were born for (or put here on Earth for, if you’re religious), and that it is our main responsibility in life to figure out what that ONE thing is. 

I don’t know about you… but just thinking about that gives me anxiety… how in the heck am I supposed to figure out what that one thing is? 

And what if I really HATE that one thing that turns out to be my life purpose?

Or what if I think I’ve found my purpose, but it turns out I was wrong and ended up wasting my life doing the wrong thing?

Stressful!

But, I, personally, don’t believe that I was born to accomplish any one particular predetermined thing.

I think that there are a lot of things that I could probably do (or learn to do) with my  life that would be important and meaningful to both myself, and my fellow humans. 

By thinking of work in this way, it takes a whole lot of pressure off. I don’t have to find the ONE thing I was meant to do. 

I just have to figure out some way to use my natural skills and talents in a way that is important.

In this line of thinking I have options. There are lots of things that I could do to be of service to others while still pursuing my passions in a way that would leave me feeling happy and fulfilled.

Whew, I feel relieved already! Now I feel like I can stop looking for some mythical needle in the massive haystack that is life.

Note: If you do believe you were put here on Earth for one specific purpose, I want to be clear that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Everyone has different beliefs. It just means that you’ll just have to do your own deep dive to explore your beliefs about what role work should hold in your life.

Is Our Whole Purpose In Life To Work?

The other thing I don’t like about the term “life purpose” is that it implies the most important thing I will do with my life… is work.

But on day 13 of my project, we learned that the wheel of life, which represents a fulfilling and balanced life, has 8 wedges. Career is only one of the 8 pieces that make up a fulfilling life.

So to me, the term “life purpose” as it is used in connection to work, diminishes the importance of work-life balance and suggests that our entire purpose in life is to work…

Maybe it is this expectation that leads 66% of Americans to feel that they don’t have any work-life balance, as we learned in yesterday’s post.

I don’t know about you, but there are a whole LOT of other things I want to accomplish with my life outside of work.

Life Purpose vs. Calling – Why Calling Wins Every Time For Me

I personally prefer the term “calling” to “life purpose” for three reasons.

To me, a calling is simply something that speaks to you – something that you’re passionate about.

First – I have many passions, so by thinking of work as a calling, it removes the pressure of finding the singular purpose of my life. 

It gives me options of different career paths to choose. With a calling, There’s no one right answer, so I feel a lot less pressure to make the “right” choice.

Second, a calling implies that what we are searching for, is something that we will actually enjoy.

And third, the term “calling” doesn’t imply that work should be the most important thing in our lives. 

When thinking of work as a calling we don’t automatically rule out work-life balance as we do when thinking of work as our life purpose.

The table below titled Life Purpose vs. Calling sums up some of the differences in thinking seen with the terms “life purpose” and “calling”.

Table summarizing the difference of life purpose vs. calling in how we thing about the role of work in our life.
Life Purpose vs. Calling

Conclusion

Life purpose vs. calling… You might think that I’m being nit-picky here. Does it really matter if we are searching for our “calling” or “life purpose”?

I would argue that yes, it does. Because mindset and our perceptions of our situation both play a huge role in our overall happiness and well-being.

Today’s post was a little more theoretical, but I hope that it helped you to think about what role you would like work to play in your own life.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s topics! 

  • Life purpose vs. calling – which do you prefer?
  • Do you think it matters how we think about our work?
  • Do you believe that you were born for a specific life purpose that you need to discover?

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Until tomorrow,

~Clarissa

life purpose vs. calling - what is the role of work in your life?
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Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a teacher, a coach, and an avid adventurer! Armed with a master's degree in Exercise and Wellness, she is on a mission to teach people how to build healthier habits that support the adventurous lifestyle of their dreams. There is nothing Clarissa is more passionate about than helping people get active and live their lives to the fullest!

10 Replies to “Life Purpose vs. Calling: What Is The Role Of Work In Life?

  1. I like this idea of calling vs life purpose. Honestly, I have changed career paths a few times. I’m also currently working 2 quite different careers at the same time, one parttime and one fulltime. I personally feel as though they are each a calling for me and can’t imagine giving either up. However, the idea of ‘life purpose’ would say that I’m still confused. I’m not – I’ve just recognized that it takes teaching my music classes AND doing my writing in order for the career side of my life to feel ‘right’.

    1. Yes, I love it Britt! I am exactly the same. I love outdoor adventure and working those physical jobs helping people get out in nature. But I also love using my brain, solving problems, creating things, and helping people achieve their goals which is a different calling all together. They are both passions. I don’t think we need to choose. 🤷‍♀️

  2. I like this idea. I recently had a change in jobs after wanting to take my career on a different path, it’s one of the only positives to come out of the pandemic for me – I was able to be more selfish and ask to do what makes me happy!
    Rosie

    1. I am so happy that you were able to make this career switch Rosie! We all need positives in our life, even more so right now!

      I don’t think asking for what makes you happy has to be selfish though! Did you know that all the psychology research says that if we are happy, we tend to be more: productive, creative, helpful, kind, and successful? It’s a win-win!

  3. Love this! It’s so true that we are able to wear many hats, explore many options, and do many things! We don’t have to be limited to just one definition of ourselves. I’ve enjoyed vastly different kinds of “work” throughout my life. It all adds to the richness.

    1. Yes, I absolutely agree Kathy! I have had many different jobs as well. I’ve worked in a lab, taught online classes at a university, as a waterfall rappel tour guide… I loved them all. I agree that the variety adds to the richness as you say. Thanks so much for reading!

  4. I like this. I was talking about life decisions with my teenage son yesterday and how i couldn’t pursue the career I wanted at age 10 due to physical limitations. He quickly jumped to the conclusion: good thing, if you did not that I wouldn’t exist. Meaning if my career followed that path, I would never have met Mom, so on and so forth. I think this thinking traps us. I explained I think “he still would have happened” as Mom and I simply belong together and whatever you believe (God, Fate, Randomness of the Universe) – Mom and I would have been drawn together anyway. Silly perhaps, but I don’t want a soon-to -graduate-high-schooler to put even more pressure on “picking the right job.” Just get out there and try. And listen for the “calling.”

    1. I absolutely LOVE this story Chris! I think it’s a terrible shame that 18 year old kids have so much pressure on them to pick a career before they even really know who they are yet. I think it’s great that you aren’t putting that same pressure on your son. Get out there and try and listen for the calling – I love it! Thanks for reading Chris.

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