So many of us are faced with this dilemma: on the one hand, there is some project, some new direction, or some new career chapter we feel called toward. To start that school teaching kids music. To make a career shift from financial advisor to therapist. To write the book.
And yet on the other hand, we’ve got our current responsibilities. Kids to raise. Aging parents to take care for. Financial constraints. The feeling that life is full to the brim already and there just isn’t room for more expansion, for anything that will take more energy out of us, let alone more time.
When I hear women telling me about that dilemma (which they often do – so many of us have it), I always invite them to do this:
1. First, ask yourself if there really truly is a conflict between your dream and your life circumstances. Sometimes, limiting beliefs or false assumptions (and our fears) cause us to think our two goals are incompatible when they really aren’t. The limiting belief or false assumption could be that pursuing your dream would be all-consuming, or that it would take way from what you could give your family, or that it would drain your energy. Often these assumptions are not based in reality but rather come from our conditioned ideas about what good mothers or good wives or good daughters do. Or they are just mistaken impressions we picked up somewhere along the way. Other times, the issue is fear: we’re afraid to pursue the dream (because like all dreams it will ask us to risk failure and take us out of our comfort zones) and so our brain helpfully makes up lots of reasons to put action on hold, including that the dream just isn’t doable given our current responsibilities.
So question: is the conflict between your responsibilities/life circumstances and your dream really there? Are the two in fact incompatible? Maybe you can do the dream in a way that isn’t all consuming. Maybe it will dramatically enrich what you can give to your family, not take away from it. Maybe it will replenish your energy, rather than drain in. So first things first, rigorously question every assumption or belief you have about how the various priorities/loves/parts of your life can’t happily coexist.
If you discover that some of your assumptions are just that – assumptions – you can start to move forward on your dream in a way that also honors your other life commitments.
But if you find that yes indeed, there is a conflict between what you feel called to create/do/launch and your life responsibilities – let’s say you just can’t figure out how you could do that demanding tech start up while also being around in the way you’d like to for your two frail parents, or you just can’t figure out how to transition from being an attorney to a school principal while also paying off your student debt and raising your two young kids, then try step two.
2. Give your calling the 1000 year test. Ask yourself, “what is the form of this calling that could have existed 1000 years ago?” 1000 years ago, you wouldn’t feel called to be a school principal, but you might feel called to teach kids or to lead others who teach kids. 1000 years ago you wouldn’t feel called to become a graphic designer, but you might feel called to create beauty and order in visual form. 1000 years ago you wouldn’t have felt called to design an amazing mobile app for busy working parents, but you might have felt called to serve families in making their lives easier. Ask yourself, what’s the essence of this calling, the form that could have existed 1000 years ago?
Then brainstorm ways you can live out that fundamental call today. Five minute ways, ten minute ways, or a few hours a week ways. Ways you can live that calling while in your current job and circumstances. So if an attorney’s calling to be a school principal is, at its essence, about wanting to lead a team working for good, she can join a volunteer corps in her community. If the essence of her calling was about improving education, she can give her time, money and energies outside her current work to do that. If it was about being in a school environment, maybe she can start doing so pro bono legal work for schools.
I believe that every one of us can live out the essence – the 1000 year old elemental core – of our callings in our current lives, even if we can’t yet figure out how to live the particular form our calling originally took in our minds. And I believe we have a responsibility to our souls to be respectful enough of what call us that we find those simple, often mundane ways to live our callings out in some way, beginning today. Yes, today.
Click to tweet: Give your calling the 1000 year test.
And – Europe trip! I will be visiting Amsterdam, London, Bath, and Edinburgh this March, as the international editions of Playing Big make their way out into the world. If your company or organization would like to host a major talk or workshop in or near those locations, please shoot us a note at email@example.com and a member of my team will be in touch. Because my time is very limited on this trip, we will be focusing only a major, larger events, but if that’s a fit for your organization, please do reach out!
“ “Don’t try to change the world before you read this book! In Playing Big Tara Mohr offers you the keys to unlocking your gifts, your potential and your power to make a difference. I guarantee that you will find yourself and your dreams somewhere in this book and when you do Tara’s deep insights, her practical action steps and her real life stories will set you free.” – Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, author, My Grandfather’s Blessings and Kitchen Table Wisdom