Finding your calling is all the rage these days. It’s sexy to find your calling. Everyone’s doing it, it seems. Finding your calling is the new black.

But if you’re one of the many who haven’t yet found it, the process of seeking it can make you feel psycho, like you’ve got a giant “L” plastered to your forehead and the Universe has shunned you, just like the mean kids did back in 7th grade.

I remember the feeling well. Back in 2007, after quitting my stable job in medicine – which I once believed was my calling – I found myself floundering, thrashing around like a fish in a washing machine, feeling completely ungrounded, confused, and lost, not to mention toxically anxious. After twelve years and $200,000 worth of painful medical education, along with eight years of practice experience, I found myself unemployed and seemingly unqualified to do anything else. Plus, my husband didn’t have a job. Oh – and we had a newborn. And a mortgage. And graduate school debt.

Yikes.

The three years that followed became a desperate search for what would come next. Trust me. It wasn’t pretty.  I wound up writing a memoir that every publisher on the planet rejected. I made art nobody bought because the economy tanked. I had to sell my house and liquidate my retirement account. And when that money ran out, I had to borrow money and start loading up my credit cards.  After two desperate years, I finally took another job in medicine, this time at an integrative medicine practice – only it still wasn’t the right job, and I wound up quitting, at a financial loss.

I had many dark nights of the soul…

Becoming A Butterfly

Finding your calling resembles being a caterpillar who climbs into the cocoon. Caterpillars don’t just enter the chrysalis and sprout wings, you know. Before they become butterflies, they essentially become bug soup, dissolving completely before being reborn as something new and beautiful.

That was me in 2008 – bug soup.  Cellular sewage.  Spiritual pondwater.

Then something happens – something you can’t rush – and one day, you emerge, reborn, owning and claiming your calling. What happens in the interim may seem unpredictable – more like magic than science – but it’s not. It’s a totally predictable life cycle like the one I described here in The Life Cycle of a Visionary.

In the process of experiencing this for myself and guiding my mentoring clients through similar journeys, I’ve realized that there’s a whole mythology around what it means to find your calling, and most of it is total hogwash. So let me bust a few myths for you, just in case you’re feeling like bug soup these days.

7 Myths About Finding Your Calling

Myth #1 Callings come with business plans.

This is horse manure.  I could never have written a business plan for the way in which I’m called to serve on this planet. All you can do is follow the hot tracks one step at a time, each time getting closer and closer, honing in on your purpose until everything in your being says “YES!” (usually followed closely by “Hell no!” But don’t worry. That phase is temporary.)

Myth #2 You only get one calling.

Nope. Sometimes callings show up with expiration dates. You do what you’re here to do. You complete it. And then you’re called to do something else.

Myth #3 Only chosen people have callings.

If you think callings are a luxury reserved for Divinely-chosen extraordinary people, you’re totally off base. Well… sort of. The reality is that every single one of us is a Divinely-chosen extraordinary person with a calling just waiting to be fulfilled. Own it. Claim yours. The planet needs you desperately.

Myth #4 Callings must come with paychecks.

Some people are called to be stay-home moms. Others are called to volunteer to do food distribution at a refugee camp in Africa. You don’t have to get paid for fulfilling your calling (though it sure is nice when you are!)

Myth #5 If you’re following your calling, life is easy all the time.

You don’t want to be going upstream, but even if you’re flowing downstream, you’re still likely to hit some rapids. Finding your calling definitely leaves you feeling like you’re in the flow more often than not, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hit your rough patches. If anything, the challenges just reaffirm your commitment to fulfilling what you’re called to do, reminding you how much what you’re doing matters.

Myth #6 Finding your calling means you have to quit your stable job.

Sometimes finding your calling requires you to take a leap of faith and quit the job that isn’t your calling. But callings aren’t all or nothing. There’s no reason you can’t pay the bills with a stable job that doesn’t necessarily light your fire while fulfilling your calling on the side. 

Myth #7 You must have a breakdown to find your calling.

For many, a breakdown precedes a breakthrough. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you’re listening to whispers from the Universe. You don’t have to wait for the proverbial 2 x 4 to thwack you upside the head. I was sound asleep before finding my calling, so I needed my Perfect Storm to blow through and shake me out of my complacency. But you don’t have to wait for the Universe to smack you. You can voluntarily leap out of your comfort zone and into your calling, if you’re self-aware and brave enough to do so. (More power to ya if you are!)

The Truth About Finding Your Calling

While these myths simply aren’t true, there are some definitive truths about finding your calling that I’ll be sharing with those of you who are inspired to join me, along with my sheroes Martha Beck, O magazine columnist, the original life coach, and bestselling author of Finding Your Own North Star and Finding Your Way In A Wild New World, and Amy Ahlers, life coach and author of Big Fat Lies Women Tell Themselves. We’ll be discussing these myths in more detail, as well as sharing the truths anyone trying to find their calling must know in order to discover their purpose. 

Register for the free LIVE Find Your Calling tele-jam with me, Martha Beck, and Amy Ahlers here.

Have You Found Your Calling?

Do you know what you’re here on this earth to do? How are you meant to serve the planet? What legacy will you leave? What’s your life purpose?

Share your thoughts here in the comments – and we’ll see you on the tele-jam!

Following my North Star,

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13 Comments

  1. Burns the Fire

    Thanks for your inspiration, Lissa!

    I am fortunate to have found my calling early, but that never made it easy! I’m a writer, indie filmmaker and am tickled to add blogger to the list. I have always followed my vision, sometimes to the detriment of my career (like when I refused an offer to produce a TV comedy I wrote because they wanted me to change the voice from adult to ‘tween). But, the fulfillment I get from the work trumps all.

    Ten years ago, I was working on a feature film that revolved around a black man and a Jewish woman. The blatant racism and overall resistance that I met to the film’s content when we were in the financing stage was a massive wake-up call. I realized then and there that for me, it wasn’t enough to express my deepest feelings and insights, it was imperative to put work into this world that as it aspires to wildly entertain; would be ultimately helpful, healing in nature.

    My work, my dreams fuel me and offer hope for a better life. The question remains: what more can I do?

    Reply
  2. jacquelin

    Thank you Lissa for inspiring others to find their calling. I am a home stay mother and a college graduate. I feel imcomplete even thougth I have my three kids and my husband who support me, I still missing something, I am trying to figure out what is my calling but I feel that my kids need me to be there for them, since my little one was diagnosed with ADD syndrome, I am dedicating my life to him, I love your webside becouse I feel confort and strenght to discover my calling I know is there somewhere I just need to dig deeper in my heart.

    Reply
  3. Laura

    Thank you for this Lisa. I used to think that my calling could never change and once I realized it was going to or already had I was devastated. I’ve since realized that each moment of our lives is part of a perfect journey and it is more than okay not to have a 5, 10, or 20 year plan but to take each day at a time and embrace all of the beauty that exists inside us, in others and all around. I’m very much looking forward to the call on Wednesday.

    Reply
  4. Laura

    Thank you for this Lisa. I used to think that my calling could never change and once I realized it was going to or already had I was devastated. I’ve since realized that each moment of our lives is part of a perfect journey and it is more than okay not to have a 5, 10, or 20 year plan but to take each day at a time and embrace all of the beauty that exists inside us, in others and all around. I’m very much looking forward to the call on Wednesday.

    Reply
  5. Midge

    Lissa, thank you!
    My calling is morphing right along with ME in REAL time!
    Right NOW, it’s connecting with all the wondering, wise kindred spirits (like you) and listening to the wild whispers within.
    Calling here, calling there, calling everywhere!
    Midge

    Reply
  6. Jennifer Margulis

    It takes a lot of guts and it is totally terrifying to leave a stable job and make decisions that will impact the rest of your life and make it more meaningful; decisions that are not based on what other people think you should be doing or on how much money you will make. But sometimes we have to get outside the box to realize we’ve been trapped in it.

    Reply
  7. Chris PM

    Wow…WOW. This topic keeps showing up…with the caterpillar and butterfly image. (Must be telling me something!) I really relate. As someone recovering from traumatic injuries (and previously very much a DO-er) it is tough, this re-emerging thing. Yeah, bug soup is a great metaphor for it….it stinks, it hurts and is messy. It’s hard to separate the “calling” idea from hope though,as someimtes whatever gets you to “point B” is enough to keep moving forward….open to the universe!

    Reply
  8. Jennifer Margulis

    The limit for the conference was exceeded and I can’t access it from the Internet. That was a lot of hype and promotional emails (and rescheduling several deadlines) for nothing. I was hoping to write about it (I’m a journalist) but I can’t get on the call line. Ah well.

    Reply
  9. Lissa Rankin, MD

    So sorry Jennifer. We had so much interest that, even though we upgraded to the highest level of call allowance, we exceeded the limit.

    Don’t worry. We’re doing the call again- just check your inbox for instructions. And I promise it’s worth listening to! Martha ROCKS.

    Much love
    Lissa

    Reply
  10. Lisa

    Lissa,
    I joined the call without a problem and signed up for the course. Amazing that there was such a big response for the call! There are obviously a lot of us who’d like to do things differently in our lives.

    I’ve been a fan of Martha’s for awhile, but look forward to hearing more from you and Amy, too.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  11. Tahlee

    Phwoar! Myth #2 sang like a siren to me. It is so, so true.

    My first calling came in the form of music – I lived and breathed it and went on to do my Bachelor’s degree in it.

    Then I was called to heal people through music – and established a business composing meditation music and running workshops.

    Then I was called to heal people physically and studied to become a Personal Trainer. Now I realise that part of that calling was really a calling to heal emotionally by helping people love + accept their bodies. So now I run a blog all about that and am looking forward to studying further in coaching.

    I love what I do now but also know that someday I may have another calling and will follow it wholeheartedly too.

    Reply
  12. Kristen

    Lissa, This post spoke to me. I am a doctor in debt, following a series of unfortunate events and more unfortunate decisions. And then I sold my big fancy money pit on the water and my big fancy practice and took a job for HALF the salary with a hospital near my family. Like you, I received many signs that this was the right decision. I am now home every single night with my family. I have time to exercise. And this move has allowed me to explore many other areas such as writing. My debt still worries me, and wakes me up at 3am. I am still bug soup (great analogy!). But I also love the the comment about a few rapids downstream. It reminds me to be patient, watch, work, write and pray. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Lissa Rankin, MD

      Dear Kristen,
      Have faith, my dear. It’s so easy to get caught in the doctor trap, feeling like we have to sell our soul to live the lifestyle others expect a doctor to live. But you will find your way. And the world needs doctors like you…

      With love and life rafts for when you hit the rapids,
      Lissa

      Reply

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