Mission Moment

Last week I was in San Diego on faculty at the ACPA Institute for Aspiring Senior Student Affairs Officers.  I had the privilege of discussing Parker Palmer’s terrific work entitled, “Let Your Life Speak- Listening for the Voice of Vocation.”  About a year ago or so I wrote a blog about vocation, and in light of my trip, I’d like to share it with you.

Call Me, Maybe
I like the word vocation.  It’s not used so much anymore; I think the word got hijacked.  Having a vocation at one time was a noble calling.  Somewhere the word lost a bit of luster, and vocation or Vo-Tech became a synonym for a job, not a career, much less a calling.  Vocational education reverberated with ideas of “shop” and “home economics” in high school.  The word career resonates with seriousness of purpose and longevity. A watch and chair might be involved, and at the end of a career you retire.  I don’t think you can retire from a vocation.

The word vocation is defined as our life work based on particular skills, talents and strengths.  You know you are in the midst of career well-being when you are able to bring your gifts to work and back home again.  You recognize the great responsibility of using and sharing your strengths daily to impact the lives of others, and it doesn’t happen just between 8 am – 5 pm; in our profession it’s called the 24/7.

This might be controversial but I am not a big fan of all the talk around “balance at work.”  I am a fan of using strengths at work and at home so that you are continually engaged in a higher quality of living.  You see, playing from the gifts you’ve been given, being grateful, reflective and having agency over the decisions and choices you make is spot on for career well-being; for nurturing the feeling of being called (vocation) for a purpose and uncovering your mission in life.

Call me, maybe…is “wishy-washy.”  How about just “Call” me. Pick me to do the work, choose me to love!  (No, I do not have significance or self-assurance in my top 10!) But I have found my calling, so I say “yes” to the morning, “yes” to the work at hand even when it’s challenging and painful. As Parker Palmer would say, I am “listening for the voice of vocation.” Exuding energy, engagement and enthusiasm for your life’s work is a clear signal you’ve been called! Have confidence about what you love doing and the curiosity to know your authentic self.  Have the courage to live your strengths and have the agency to calibrate when necessary.  Calibration of strengths is an act of compassion, an awareness of others and critical to your well-being and those around you.

Parker Palmer poses the hardest question we all have to answer, “Is the life I am living the same as the life that wants to live in me?”  The answer is “before telling your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” Trust your strengths.  Finally, Fredrick Buechner wrote, “to find your mission is to discover the intersection between your heart’s deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger.”  There’s no retirement plan for this kind of living out your strengths; vocation has no end date.