You can have a job, or you can have a career. Or you can go one step further and find your “calling in life”.

The word “calling” is difficult to define, and some dismiss it altogether. But for those who do believe in the concept (as I do), a calling is a sense of higher purpose, a sincere belief that you are placed in this world for a reason.

Whichever way you look at it, the belief that there is more to life than the daily grind creates happiness, reduces stress and inspires greater productivity.

Daniel Pink, the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth Of What Motivates Us, lists purpose as one of the main reasons people wake up eager to face the day. Thus, if you want personal fulfilment and job satisfaction, aim for a little transcendence.

If you have yet to identify what your calling in life is, that’s okay. It’s a process that takes time. In the meantime, consider the following reasons why you may not be hearing the call:

You’re living someone else’s dream

Did your parents push you to take engineering because you are from a family of engineers? Did you say, “I want to be a programmer” because many self-made millionaires are computer geniuses? Or maybe you feel guilty saying no to the uncle who paid for your education, hence you are slaving away in his company.

A calling is something deeply personal. True, others can give input about what might inspire you, but at the end of the day, it’s a choice you must freely make.

Pleasing others is the easiest way to burn out. Similarly, copying other people’s formula means you will never get to discover your own formula, the one that will make success all the more worth it.

You don’t take time to reflect

Cultivating an internal life is a prerequisite to finding purpose. The ability to push “pause”, get silent and listen to what your thoughts and feelings are telling you is necessary to spot the difference between what is working and what is draining you dry.

Workaholics who don’t go for alone-time lose sight of what is driving them in the first place. Similarly, the restless young professionals who don’t take time to reflect why they job-hop will never discover what they need to be happy.

You don’t want to make a difference

Personal callings are often solidified by the realisation that you are making a real difference. When you know there is more to work than a monthly pay cheque, each little task has meaning.

This is especially so when the cause you are working for is something that resonates with you, either because you have experienced a similar need or the people you serve have touched your heart.

Being a medical representative, for example, may seem like lacklustre work, as all you may be is a glorified salesman. But if you interact with the very patients who benefit from getting matched with the right drugs, you may re-appreciate the value of what you do.

Unless you expose yourself to the significance of what you do, you may miss the bigger picture.

You don’t believe in serendipity

Okay, so you’re a realist. But at the very least, consider the idea that seemingly random experiences can be strung together to make one coherent whole.

For instance, you may have enjoyed being a women’s shelter volunteer as a teenager, but thought nothing of it other than a summer job. Then you met your best friend in your late teens, someone who survived domestic abuse.

You took up psychology in college, thinking you wanted to be an human resource worker. But in your 30s, you suddenly realise that your college course was actually a good pre-law subject, and that your calling is to become a lawyer advocating women’s rights.

So try to read the signs. Sometimes when the idea of a possible calling comes along, you will see little things coming together to make it happen.

You don’t go beyond the present

Lastly, consider these questions: How would you like to be remembered? What would you like written in your epitaph? What legacy is most appealing to

A calling transcends time but its impact is long-lasting. Going beyond the present can help you identify whether you are moving towards a vision or simply surviving the day.


Article by Kay Vardeleon, associate writer, Sandbox Advisors, a firm which helps people with careers, job search and training in Singapore.