Frankly, I don’t recall ever hearing the term “calling” growing up. My parents were divorced with limited financial means. My brother and I weren’t asked what we liked to do. Instead, we were encouraged to find something we were good at, something that would enable us to make a living.
So, did I believe in callings? I definitely did not then, and as I got older, I thought some people had callings, just not us regular people. Mother Teresa? Maybe. Mohatma Gandhi? Possibly. For the rest of us, a “calling” was a luxury we couldn’t afford.
If pressed, I might have described having a good marriage, being a good mother and doing work that provided financial security my “calling.” But I could not relate to the phrase “I am called to…help the homeless….cure cancer….end nuclear war” or any of the other noble pursuits that masqueraded as callings. In fact, not only could I not relate, I thought it was a lot of bull.
Most of the life decisions I’ve made were logical, realistic and safe. A few years ago, I decided to pursue training as a Life Coach. Why a Life Coach? Well, after 25 years as a psychotherapist, I wanted to pursue a new career path that would work well for me as I entered the second stage of my adult life. Here’s what I knew: I wanted to keep working longer after my husband retired. Life Coaching would be an ideal transition: I could work over the phone, giving us flexibility to travel; I could avoid the whole insurance hassle; I wouldn’t be on call for emergencies. Plus, I could make use of the skills I developed as a therapist. It would be ideal. A logical, practical, pragmatic next step. But a calling? Not in my wildest imagination.
As, I went through my training something happened. I found myself nervous and excited. I was often distracted thinking about what I was learning and about my clients. I began to spend hours planning workshops, reading and writing articles and marketing my services. I wasn’t as available to my children (who were in college or working). My husband began to complain that I spent more time on the computer than I did with him. Oops! Wasn’t I making this transition to have more time with him?
Maybe my well-thought out plan hadn’t been quite so well thought out after all. The crazy thing is that I couldn’t have stopped myself if I had tried. After years of working with women in transition, it was stimulating to transfer that experience into developing programs for empty nesters, women returning to work and women moving on from divorce. I began speaking at conferences (something I never thought I would do). For me, the biggest leap was the hours and days I spent learning new technology and social media skills. I thoroughly avoided this before I realized how integral it would be to my new practice.
Moreover, while building my coaching practice, I charged clients a fraction of what I earned as a therapist. Why was I doing this? It was counterintuitive to the beliefs that I had lived by for so many years. Logically, it made sense for me to give it up and return to my work as a full-time therapist. Yet I never considered that option.
Here is what I discovered about callings as part of my advanced coach training:
Callings are assignments about the work that is ours to do. There are clues that tell us that something is our calling.
Here are some of the clues:
- You feel an unusually vivid pain or frustration around the status quo
- You see a powerful vision –vague or clear- about what could be
- You feel compelled or inspired to act.
- You feel huge resistance. It gets in the way of your plans. It is not convenient.
- You don’t yet have the skills, resources and things you will need to make it happen.
- You feel a magical kind of flow while working on it.
- The journey is the reward.
- You aren’t yet the person you need to be to complete the assignment.
Guess what? Coaching mid-life women in transition is my calling. This was quite a revelation for me. I went from not believing in callings to realizing that I have one. Go figure.
I also learned that people in the second stage of their adult life are more apt to find their callings. Marci Alboher, author of Encore Career writes, “The desire to have a positive impact on the world seems to grow stronger with age. Those who never thought of themselves as do-gooders have an urge to make the world a better place.” I have seen this with many of the mid-lifers that I coach.
How about you? Do you have a nagging itch that won’t go away? Perhaps you have a feeling but you can’t identify what it is. Join me as I lead “Beyond The Empty Nest” on March 24 at BA50’s She Did It/Boston conference at Babson College. Begin finding out what YOU were meant to do to give your life more meaning and fulfillment.