Book Excerpt: Answering Your Call

Do you want to do something with your life that really matters? Get direction from this excerpt from the book Answering Your Call by John P. Schuster.

Book Excerpt:
Answering Your Call

by John P. Schuster
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“I have calling envy,” Kate said in a somewhat desperate tone at the start of our first phone call.

I smiled at her phrasing—a clever spin on a Freudian term—knowing it helped her sum up her dilemma.

Kate hired me as a personal coach to help her explore her situation. At 34, she was full of talent and chutzpah. She had earned an MBA from a top-five business school, then launched her career at a big consulting firm. She moved to a small start-up company, where she made good money with a ground-floor opportunity. She had traveled extensively, often to third-world countries. And she had recently gotten married and was thinking about starting a family.

Kate wanted to make a good living. But, above all, she wanted to do something that really mattered. Envious of others who appeared to be answering their call, she questioned if she was going about her own call process well. She wondered if she was listening to her intuition and her inner drives and urges. And she doubted if she knew her true talents or if she was scanning her environment to see her real options.

Like millions of other Americans, Kate had plenty of consumer and lifestyle choices. But, despite the innumerable choices, she faced a shortage of the “basics” for a joyful and fulfilling existence—a shortage far more significant than running low on small pleasures or cool experiences or even on good jobs to choose from.

In Kate’s world of career and financial success, she had come up against an emotional and spiritual shortage. With her call seemingly eluding her, she was short on purpose and meaning. In addition, she sensed that she was short on time—merely going through the motions rather than getting on with the “real stuff.”

Kate’s “meaning-short” life nagged her with the fear that she didn’t know why she was here and what she was doing. And her “time-short” life nagged her with the guilt that she was spending her precious time in roles and activities that weren’t worthy of her best efforts.

So Kate and I began a series of conversations to guide and support her journey. We also debunked a few myths about calls along the way:

  • Calls are for the few—a select and special group of individuals. The truth? Everyone has a call or, more likely, a “portfolio” of calls.
  • There is one big call in a lifetime. The truth? Most people have several calls, with some bigger and longer-lasting than others.
  • Only heroic action constitutes a call. The truth? While most people are heroic on occasion, they are more likely to experience a life of common calls to ordinary roles such as parent, volunteer, or professional.
  • Society will support a call. The truth? While society has some elements that will help a call, the dominant culture will push people to live on the surface of their lives.

After several months of reflection and exploration, Kate made some important discoveries. She now finds herself open and prepared to recognize and answer the calls in her life. She knows that the work will be ongoing, with no particular beginning or end. And she isn’t pressuring herself to come up with the perfect answer or the “call of all calls.” Instead, she is composing a life around her values and allowing the themes and roles of her life to speak to her about the deeper possibilities.

A three-part harmony
To compose a “called life” of purpose and meaning, let an important life-decision triad—relationships (who and how you love), work (what and how you do), and self (who and how you become)—be your guide.

The three parts of the triad—loving, doing, and becoming—are basic, but by no means are easy or simple to construct into a well-lived life. Creating and harmonizing your “love-do-become” triad can require lengthy and continuous work and attention.

Each part of the triad will have its challenges. Your relationships can be disappointing or destructive. Your work can be boring or defeating. And even if you’re highly successful, you can suffer from feelings of inadequacy or from the “inner demons” of your psyche.

Then, there’s getting the right mix and blend of the three parts. That will have its challenges, too. You can be a career over-achiever with a great work life, but have a capacity for intimacy that equals the mahogany desk at which you sit. Or you can have exceptional emotional intelligence and a strong affinity for personal growth, but have little money and even fewer career prospects.

The good news? The work you’ll do within and between the love-do-become triad won’t all be super-arduous. In fact, it’ll more often be fun and rewarding and bless your life with long stretches of well-deserved joy.

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