I haven’t been looking for them, but I’ve been finding what I call inspirational “roadblocks” popping up lately.
Generally, it’s handy when our inspiration arrives in neatly wrapped packages. We gleefully open them, and they propel us into the sky of creativity where our work will burst open like a blaze of fireworks, noticed by everyone on the ground.
But inspirational “roadblocks” thwart our efforts, and for good reason. They’re meant to stop us, to get us to consider just why we’re writing, why we’re painting, why we’re delivering mail to hundreds of customers every day.
Are you doing it for the right reasons?
I was given a great inspirational roadblock by Peter D. Mallet, in his recent post “What is Successful Writing.” When I started writing, did I set out to become the next Ernest Hemingway? The next Agatha Christie? Nah. Although it would be nice, I just wanted my writing to make a difference, and Peter’s post discusses this very well.
A few days later, I picked up a great book, John Ortberg’s “When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box.” Ortberg compellingly points out that there’s a distinction between our job and our calling.
And get this: you are not your job.
I borrow from his book, starting on page 160, to share just how to find your calling. It might be the same as your job, but for those who aren’t sure, I hope this helps.
1) Your Mission Starts Where You Are, Not Where You Think You Should Be. Ortberg says “Sometimes we’re tempted to think that our current position/job/situation is a barrier to our mission, but, in fact, it is where it starts. Being significant is not the same as looking significant…”
2) Your Mission Is Not About You. Ortberg uses Jesus’ lesson “You are the salt of the earth” to demonstrate that salt’s job is to “lose itself in something much bigger and more glorious; then it fulfills its destiny…If I do (something) by myself, for myself, it’s death. If I do it with God, for others, it’s life.” He doesn’t mean we should all rush out and sign up to be missionaries in Estonia; it’s whatever situation you’re in now where you can become “salt.”
3) Your Mission Will Use Your Strengths. “We all have the capacity for (strengths like wisdom, courage, humanity and justice),” Ortberg writes. “But a few of them resonate more deeply in you; they are your ‘signature strengths.'” Use them.
4) Your Mission Will Use Your Weaknesses. Your greatest burdens can become your greatest gifts – if you let them.
5) Your Mission Will Be Connected to Your Deepest Dissatisfactions. “What troubles you most?” Ortberg asks. “Usually we try to avoid unpleasantness, but if you have a sense that your mission involves helping the poor, spend some time around those in poverty. Allow your emotions to become deeply engaged, and carry with you that fire that things must change.”
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid – I created a family newspaper that I sold to my parents for ten cents a copy. It was colorful and shared the exciting tidbits of daily life in our small home. Unfortunately, it folded after one or two editions, due to lack of interest on the part of the head writer. Still, that fire burned.
Fast forward – now, it would be rewarding to share the joy of reading with a child who’s struggling in school. With an adult who’s never admitted they can’t read, but wants to learn.
Ortberg’s points and Mallett’s ideas got me thinking.
Don’t get hung up on letting your job become your identity. Like Peter D. Mallett and John Ortberg point out, consider why you’re doing your work. It’s great food for thought!