The Power of Vocation

  1. The Bliss of Discomfort
  2. Sensuality, Sexuality, Spirituality in Practice
  3. Finding Meaning in Relating
  4. The Power of Vocation
  5. The Self-Reflective Life — Self Reflection
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Recently, I started a series of articles. I suggested that four areas (sexuality (1), (2), relationships, (1), (2) vocation, and self-responsibility) could be looked at for guidance on how our lives are progressing, and that the four needed to be no less than neutral in “feel,” and to be in balance.


We now move to what I think of as ‘vocational thinking’ – the idea that each of us is here for a reason – a purpose – and that one of the marks of the flow of our life is how well we are living our vocation.

In keeping with the present series, I want to skip the defending the concept part, and get to my traditional ‘three choices’ idea. So, play along, and concede that everyone has a purpose.

Part of the walk of self-knowing is to identify and then live one’s vocation. If we leave out denying one’s vocation, there are only three things one can do with one:

  1. Minimize it, and try to fit it in, as if it’s one thing of many.
  2. Fund it by getting a job.
  3. Live it as one’s career.

I suspect I’ve unintentionally put the choices in the most prevalent order.

Back in the 80’s (and once recently) I’ve led a Vocation Workshop, to help participants hone in on their vocation. One of the exercises is to write down what a “perfect day” would look like. I suggested this exercise to a current client during his last session, and he sent me an e‑mail the other day, just in time for this article, apparently. His list was quite sweet and fun, and had lots of family time in it. What was missing was ‘the funding paradigm.’

After I asked him to add one — to make his perfect day a ‘work day’ — he said that what he had sent me was a ‘perfect Saturday…’

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In other words, as per choice #1, above, this exercise is often interpreted as if a ‘perfect day’ is a holiday, or a vacation day.

It’s all fun and games, and special, as opposed to thinking one can have a perfect day every day!

Now, think about that one for a moment. Believing that a ‘perfect day’ is a special day says, clearly, that the goal of my whole life is to get through the work-week so I can enjoy a day or two on the weekend.

Mathematically, it’s the equivalent of arriving at 70, having spent 50 years of the 70 in unremitting toil, so as to enjoy 20 years. What a sacrifice!

Or, think about the people you know who thought they’d be able to ‘really live’ when they retired. Most of these people “pissed away” their weekends too, on a tear to get to retirement. What they forgot was that they’d also be old when they retired, and all the adventures they put off were likely not going to happen.

This happens because we don’t often notice what we are doing—day by day. We’re not present with our days.
They simply “pass by.”

We wake up one day and see just how many have passed by, never to be regained.
Choice #1 means we have given up 5 to enjoy 2.

Choice #1 is basically a result of the Industrial revolution. Prior to that, life was more organic and seasonal, and most people had a ‘craft.’ The IR led to the idea of the 50-hour work week, which got to be the 40-hour work week, and the higher up the ladder you got, the more overtime (often unpaid.) Everything is allowed slide, except work. Thus, a paradox. The IR gives us the stuff we surround ourselves with, and also robs us of our presence.

potter

Choice #2 is a less popular one. Vocation becomes a hobby or a sideline, a part-time passion.

I do believe this to be a better choice than choice #1. I lived this one for a decade or so – I played at being a Minister so I could afford to counsel. This choice eventually led to my physical breakdown, my first course at The Haven, and getting kicked out of the church. It is my belief that my calling to counsel was and is my vocation, and fiddling around with it while pretending to be something else was a poor choice on my part.

I just recalled graduating from college in ’73 and getting a job at a bank. I, for a year or two, seduced myself (with promotions and praise) into thinking I could be a banker. And the joke is, I could have. I’m details oriented, and was good at it. It just didn’t ‘float my boat.’ The Ministry thing was next, and also a tricky diversion.

I think most people really do have a sense of their calling. I can’t imagine Darbella being anything other than a teacher. She so excels at it. And it flows through everything she does. When we work together doing counselling or workshops, she often is the one of us that finds the perfect sentence to summarize a point I am labouring long and hard to make. She comes at things from her own unique perspective, and her voice and understanding is true and clear.

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Choice #3 is, I think, the place all of us need to be moving toward, or simply doing.

When I did my own ‘perfect day’ scenario exercise in the 80s, I came up with a day filled with time for meditation and writing, and counselling was organic – it happened during the day, in conversations and dialogue, in formal sessions and over meals.

In other words, there is no longer a distinction between work and life. There is just a sense of flow. What one does is who one is, and this doing and being is played out in everything.

One of my clients talks about wanting to be of service to others, and her way of doing that is in the financial sector. But, you see, here comes the choice.

One approach would be to put total emphasis on the job – being an excellent worker. If she makes this choice, her vocation (service to others) will only happen with clients and at work. The other option is to see herself in service to others – to everyone – to family, friends, partner, clients, co-workers. The tool that funds her vocation is the financial sector, but the living out of the vocation is happening all the time, with everyone.

I don’t want to get into a big thing here about how I am using the word ‘service.’ If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know I do not mean making myself available to be used by others. If you know me personally, you’ll know that is not how I live.

I did the radio interview a week and a half ago. The producer wants me to do my own show, and mostly because “I like your no BS approach.” My service, as I see it, is whacking people smartly about the head, and saying “Wake Up!”

This week, have a look at your passions. See how your skills and talents are being used by you. Have you bifurcated your life into ‘work’ and ‘pleasure’? If so, talk to someone about vocational thinking. (Find a Jesuit or a therapist! Or both!)


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So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Leave a comment or question!


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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