do you have a job, a career or a calling?



Many of us grapple with the idea of a calling. Is our job our calling? Is a career a calling? If we have a calling, how do we find it? So where are you right now? 

Recently I have been studying the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky a Professor at the University of California, Riverside. Sonja is an integral part of the positive psychology movement and her work centers around the idea of happiness. 

In her book, The How of Happiness, Sonja argues how the pieces of our happiness break down. Form her studies she believes that 50% of our happiness comes from our genetic set point. Another 10% of our happiness comes from our circumstance. And a bold 40% of our happiness comes from intentional activity - what we do and how we think. In other words, we have control over 40% of our overall happiness. 

This idea is the basis for a lot of Sonja's arguments. 

When it comes to our work life, she had some interesting insights on the matter. 

According to Sonja, and I have to say I agree, we tend to categorize our work life into one of 3 categories: a job, a career, or a calling. 

A job is seen as a necessary evil. It is simply a means to an end. A paycheck. It is not necessarily a positive or rewarding experience. Work is hard and unenjoyable, and one works as a means to enjoy the time they have away from their job. 

A career is a step up from a job. It is a job with room for advancement. It may not be a major positive part to someones life, but there is opportunity for growth - making it far less stagnant that a job. When people find themselves in a career, they are more likely to invest time and effort into what they are doing - instead of just going through the motions for a paycheck. 

A calling is the cream of the crop. Those who consider themselves to have found their calling genuinely enjoy their working life and find what they are doing to be fulfilling and useful. People are no longer working because they have to, but because they want to, regardless of financial success. It becomes an integral part of daily life, not a separate necessary component. 

Finding your calling sounds absolutely dreamy. It is truly what we are all reaching for. So why is it that so many people find themselves stuck in bottomless jobs or careers? Driven purely by money, rather than genuine interest or passion? 

Dan Millman's book, The Four Purposes of Life, sheds some additional light on the topic:

"The primary difference between a career and a calling is that we pursue a career primarily for income and a calling primarily for innate satisfaction." 

But there can be overlap. A career can become a calling, and a calling can become a career.

You may begin a career mostly for the money and experience, but find that a deep passion begins to form from what you are doing - making it a calling as well. 

The same goes for the flip side. You may be pursuing a calling, something you are truly passionate about, with no income in sight. You do it purely for the joy of it. But eventually, that passion begins to bring in money one way or another. In turn making said calling into a career. 

Ultimately, we need far more to sustain us, and build greater happiness than just a career with room for advancement. A career can give us a great sense of potential, with its room for growth. But is there any purpose or passion? 

"Pleasure is not enough to sustain most people's interest and commitment for extended periods of time. Value and meaning are vital." - The How of Happiness

I could not agree more with Sonja. If you are looking to find a calling, or even just deeper longterm enjoyment in your every day work, you need to have a deeper level of value and meaning to the work you are doing.

Success, growth, and even enjoyment can sustain us for a period of time. But eventually we grow stagnant. Without something deeper driving us forward, we will fizzle out or cease to find enjoyment from what we are doing. 

So where would you say you find yourself right now? Are you trapped in a job just to get by? A career with the promise for more financial success? Or have you found a genuine calling in your life?