Why is Your True Calling So Hard to Hear?

Posted by on October 16, 2013 in True Self | 8 comments

In the last few blogs, we’ve investigated how playing a limiting role can hold you back from shining as your authentic self.  Your true calling is often hard to hear because it conflicts with who you think you are.

DorothyIn “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy described herself as “small and meek.”  Because of that belief, she didn’t realize she had the power to go home all along after landing in colorful Oz.

Similarly Luke was already a “Skywalker” in the original “Star Wars” movie, but he didn’t know he could use the force yet because he was too busy playing the role of “the dutiful nephew.”  He couldn’t see beyond the chores he did as a handyman on his uncle’s farm every day.

My call to sing came when I was four years old, but I didn’t answer it for 24 years!  It was muffled by others’ expectations of me.  I was always “the smart girl.”  Playing music made no sense given the life I was supposed to lead.  Everyone pushed me to excel in academics so, of course, I became a professor.  If I hadn’t been so frustrated, I would’ve never ditched academics for an uncertain future.

LukeOdds are you’re also wearing a constricting label that keeps you from expanding into your true self.  To hear the call, you need to bring this role out into the light and break the thought and behavior patterns that go with it. That means going into the unknown.

Dorothy had to be yanked out of black and white Kansas to drop the “small and meek” label and develop her true potential.  Suddenly she found herself walking down a Yellow Brick Road where scarecrows talked, apple trees threw apples, and Tin Men rusted from crying.  This dramatic change in scenery was necessary for her evolution from a little girl to the most powerful being in Oz.

The moment Luke left his planet he was plunged into a raging war full of Emperial troops, Wookies, a beautiful princess, and some creep called “Darth Vader.”  He would’ve never learned to use the force and become a Jedi knight if it hadn’t been necessary for his survival in this new world.

joseph-campbell-quotes-3It wasn’t until after I left academics that I discovered my true gifts as a singer-songwriter.  I had no idea what I was doing at first; I just made it up as I went along.  But that’s the whole point.  To discover who you truly are, you need to leave what’s familiar behind and go into the unknown.  Because the rules in this new “place” are different, your old habits and limited ways of thinking don’t work so well.  You’re forced to develop new skills, rely on your gut, and find like-minded people and mentors to help you.  You end up discovering your best self by navigating through this new territory.

So… how do you answer your true calling and go into the unknown?  By trying something new that makes your heart sing, or picking up an old passion.  Take a painting class, call an old friend, rewrite your resume to match the job you really want, or sing in the shower because you loved singing as a child. Watch the old labels melt away as you pursue what brings you joy.

For me, it was dusting off my bike, filling the tires with air, and riding around my neighborhood.  It freed my mind up to write this blog.  What about you?  What simple thing can you do TODAY to make yourself happy? Not sure?  Watch this fun music video to learn how to tear off false labels and love your life: You’re an Original


  1. Leap and the net will appear

  2. For some people, leaping is the way to go. Others like to figure out a plan step-by-step, and then roll with the punches as changes come, and create plan B’s and C’s when necessary. As long as you follow your bliss, those doors will appear!

  3. Fantastic blog post Michelle. I’ve always been an artist and a creative type. It was a very strong pull for me as a child. As an adult I got sidetracked plenty, but would always come back to my creativity. I start to get really cranky if I am not working on a new song or a new creative project of some kind. I’ve done some crazy leaps of faith in my own life…touring all over Europe with my guitar and a backpack full of my CD’s. The road rose up to meet me and it was the best experience of my life. I’m embarking on another musical adventure now. I call it “The Kindness of Strangers Tour”. I’m booking shows from my laptop while on the road with no direction home. Sometimes to find out who you are and what you are made of you need to let go and put one foot in front of the other and see what kind of gifts are waiting for you out in the unknown.

    • Absolutely Brian. Your example is an inspiration to us all!

  4. Even as a kid I was different. I couldn’t read by the end of first grade, but I knew every single Beatles song that I heard by heart (I’m a lifelong Beatles fan to this day). Dyslexia and a vision impairment made reading almost impossible, but when I finally discovered “stories” in about third grade and how to read phonetically, my whole world opened up. My mother never said I wasn’t “good enough” even though she was brilliant and read at least two books every single day and my younger brother learned to read at three. Ironically, English became my best subject all through school. I loved reading and writing stories — alongside music which has always been my other love. I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in English — with a strong desire to write stories for kids. In third grade, a music teacher named Miss Evans entered our classroom. She wore long flowing skirts and played a guitar — and we sang along and clapped and played percussion instruments like tambourines. She taught us protest songs, folk songs, you name it. I wanted to be JUST like Miss Evans! She was wonderful! I did learn to play guitar at 13 alongside two little girls I babysat for and we’d strum folk songs and Eagles songs, and then I even got to take them to my very first concert alone in 1974 — the Eagles at the Oakland Colloseum! The girls’ Mom left me money and said, “go ahead, take the girls and have fun!” this would not happen nowadays. all of these experiences in our lives make us who we are TODAY. Life really took a crazy turn for me when I found myself a single Mom raising kids alone before I was even 30 years old — and by the time I was in my mid-30’s, I had four kids. Of course lots of my goals and dreams had to completely go on hold as I embarked on the crazy train of raising four kids alone, yet I still never lost sight of my dreams. I wrote about our adventures — like when I decided to move from Oregon to California with four kids right after my Mom passed away suddenly plunging all of us into despair and hopelessness, for a little while. And everyone said it couldn’t be done, and how music always surrounded us no matter where we went. The heartache, the good times, the bad times — the struggle, oh the struggle. See, we can make any experiences in our lives into creative ones. Our lives are interesting. Who knew I’d end up back in the SF Bay Area and that I’d look forward to this one folk guitar class at Foothill College each week where I’d bring my youngest daughter because she wasn’t a teenager yet? And that I could strum my guitar with other people and feel like I was really a part of the musical world even though I never had time to practice as a hardworking single Mom with four kids — three teens who were each on their own journeys.

    Or that three years ago my friend would give me a ukulele. Now I run around and play ukulele with all kinds of groups, everywhere from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, even Sacramento and Reno and beyond. In fact, tonight I’m going to play ukulele with the San Jose Ukulele Group — and it’s Beatles night. THE DREAM never ends… it just continues. you can live the creative life you want and still have a day job and even raise a boatload of kids and still struggle a little bit. But the creative journey never ends.

    • Beautiful example of following your passion, no matter what. You go girl, and thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Hi Michelle, Would you have any practical advice on how one can hear his/her own calling? Any exercises that one can do to distinguish what your heart vs your mind tell you.

    • Yes, I do. In fact, I’m about to write several blogs on this very topic coming up soon, and will let you know as each comes out (every Wednesday). Here are a few questions you can ask yourself right now to start the ball rolling.

      1) What excited you as a child?
      2) What are you naturally good at?
      3) What do friends ask you for advice on?
      4) What makes time disappear for you (the answer differs for different people)?
      5) What would you do with your life if money was no issue?
      6) What fills you with passion and curiosity (even if you’re not currently doing it)?
      7) How are you different from others; in what ways does your cluster of passions and talents make you unique?

      Wherever you find an overlap indicates your true calling. When reflecting on what your heart and mind “tell” you to do, here’s a simple test. If it’s a should or fear-based belief, it’s holding you back from your calling. If it’s a passion and you feel love for it, it’s your bliss; go towards that. Hope this helps!

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