Your Secret to Success: Identify Your Talents, But Pursue Your Calling

From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Storytelling Secrets to Inspire Change
February 1, 2024

Are you a highly creative person, with multiple talents? Here is how you can discern between your talents and your calling. Today’s post offers a template to discover which of your talents may be your true calling. This will give you a level of passion and focus that will bring clarity and direction to your life’s work.

Everyone has innate abilities, but often, a highly creative person will have multiple gifts. If that’s you, you may struggle to know which of these gifts should be the focus of your life’s work.

When we speak of choosing our work, we often refer to it as a “calling.” If you are especially talented in several areas, how do you know which gift is your calling? Whether you are just starting on a career path or are investing your retirement years in a new pursuit, this is a critical decision.

How can you know the difference between a talent and a calling?

First, please remember that when I speak of your calling, I’m referring to your work, not your identity. Your work simply expresses the truth of who you are.

But to discern a gift from a calling, there are four important clues to look for. The first is passion. Passion actually comes from the Latin word, pati, which means to suffer. So, ask yourself: what am I willing to suffer for and through? If it’s not worth a little (or a lot!) of suffering, it’s not your passion.

Second, how much of your focus does the gift take? Perhaps you enjoy teaching, but the work doesn’t keep you awake at night, your mind racing with new ideas. You are even content to set it aside during busy seasons of life. A calling, however, comes with a greater degree of focused intensity. The gift is always on your mind and heart.

Another surprising clue is which activities you choose when it’s time to relax and unwind. We choose hobbies to relieve our suffering, in whatever form that suffering takes. Whether we’ve bored, stressed or overwhelmed, a hobby relieves that pain.

For example, if you love to bake, and everyone insists that your baked goods are worthy of a bakery, is that your calling? Your reaction to those compliments can help you decide. If you are left lukewarm at the thought, it’s a hobby, not a passion. You don’t want to suffer for it because it is an activity that you’ve gravitated towards to relieve suffering. The passion and focus that work would require would be counterproductive.

We will have pleasure as we pursue our calling, of course, but when we are pursuing our calling, much is demanded from us. We often experience enormous pressure. The work will seem too great for us many days, and yet we will be compelled to keep going. We will be forced to confront our limitations, and push on.

This, then, is the final clue to know the difference between a gift and a calling: look for a change in character. For example, let’s pretend again that you enjoy baking as a hobby, and you’re quite good at it. After you’ve passed around the platter and cleaned the kitchen, is there much difference in your character? Have you been forced to confront your limitations and fallen on your knees asking for Divine help? If not, baking may be your talent, but it’s not your calling.

A true calling commands complete humility.

There are important reasons for needing this humility. The process of following our calling will always reveal our character flaws. First, we will recognize that our natural gifting is often an enemy to our greatest work. We can be tempted to get by with our gifts, instead of plunging into a battle to excel. A calling may also involve tasks we don’t especially enjoy. We will procrastinate, grumble, and blame….until we resolve to push past the resistance and do the work. The process is not pretty.

A final word: although a calling seems to be greater than a gift, we cannot judge the impact either makes on the world. The smallest gift still has the power to impact the world. It’s not always great art that strengthens us at our weakest moment…it is the kindness of others, expressed through their own gifts.

Use it all. Whether it is a gift or a calling, it all matters. Every gift, every talent, every moment, is a chance to change the world.

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