Are You Too Scared to Follow Your True Calling?
Even though the goal of this blog series is to help you find your true calling, the truth is that most people are too afraid to change. They have mouths to feed, bills to pay, and fear that if they follow their dreams, someone will get hurt. The old saying “leap and the net shall appear” does not comfort them. Because they hesitate to plunge into the unknown, they stay stuck. Can you relate?
Dan was such a case. A dignified-looking attorney, he came to my workshop because he felt something was missing from his life. He dearly loved his family, but his work no longer inspired him and he needed something more. There was a lot of pressure on Dan not to change. His wife was a stay-at-home mom, one of his children was in college, and he lived in a very affluent area of California. Dan needed to make a lot of money to make his life work, and yet his life wasn’t working because he wasn’t happy.
Dan expressed his concerns when he first came to my workshop. “I can’t just leave everything behind to for a dream, can I? Especially when I don’t even know what that dream is! The only clue I have about what to do right now is to take this workshop.”
“Well, this a good first step,” I said. “Now let’s try a little thought experiment. For the next week, I want you to pretend you don’t have a wife or children.” Dan raised an eyebrow. “You’re not even an attorney. All the obligations that normally weigh you down just disappear. You’re free to do anything you want.” Dan raised the other eyebrow. “Anything I want?” he asked. “Yes—in your mind,” I said laughing. “Remember this is a thought experiment. Just let your ideas run free and let’s see where they take you.”
Driving through Salinas on his way home from class later that afternoon, Dan was suddenly struck by the beauty that surrounded him. The sun was setting and for the first time he noticed how the farmhouses seemed to be lit up from inside. Even though he’d often passed by these fields, this time he pulled his car over to the side of the road and jumped out. He touched the tips of his index fingers and thumbs together to make a box shape with his hands and viewed everything through this frame.
Dan’s True Calling
The following week Dan announced in class that he wanted to be a photographer. He knew he would need to continue practicing law to support his family, but it was clear he was committed to picking up the camera as well. Dan started taking photographs on the weekends. Whenever work meetings ended early, he went out to shoot. Some days he took pictures during lunchtime. Interestingly, his new hobby did not interfere with his job. Quite the contrary; it enhanced his performance. He usually came back to the office jazzed from these breaks and directed the extra energy into the rest of the workday.
At the end of a year, I received an invitation from Dan to attend a show in Monterey where two of his pictures were being displayed. The gallery was crowded with people drinking wine and viewing the work of well-known photographers next to images by newcomers like Dan. I’m no expert, but I thought Dan’s work looked every bit as good as the professional pieces. One in particular—a spectacular sunset in Monterey—really stood out. I was pleased to see Dan’s wife and two children there supporting him. A few days later Dan sent me a note letting me know he’d sold the shot of that sunset.
Now Dan did not leap off a cliff to answer his call. He simply took a little time out each week to do what he loved. Whether Dan decides to become a full time photographer remains to be seen. At the moment he’s quite content with his life the way it is. But should he decide to do so, his timing couldn’t be more perfect. Both of his children will have graduated from college and he will have established credibility as an artist before making the switch. That’s not so scary, is it? Answering the call can be safer—and easier—than you think.
Rest assured that by doing something you enjoy just one or two hours a week, you can slowly improve your life. I was a professor-by-day and a rock-n-roller by night for years before I made the transition into a full-time music career.
It’s hard to hear your true calling when you’re standing at the cliff’s edge worrying about breaking your neck. Relax! Take a moment RIGHT NOW to do a thought experiment and find out what you really want from your life. For Dan, it was taking photographs. For me, it was being a musician. What is it for you? Set your thoughts free and see where they take you…