Are You Too Scared to Follow Your True Calling?

Posted by on January 9, 2014 in True Self | 9 comments

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?

true callingDan 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.” 

true calling“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

true callingThe 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. 

true callingAt 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.

true callingRest 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…




  1. Terrific blog post! So much wisdom and inspiration here–and the reassuring message that following our dreams is not an “all or nothing” game–just one small step at a time. These steps add up!

  2. Thanks Diane. They most certainly do. To quote Terese of Avila, “patience attains the goal.” It may be counter to our fast-food culture, but slow and steady wins the race. When we think this way, we’re more likely to follow through on our goals and make real improvements in our lives.

  3. I’m glad you are supportive of people keeping their day jobs if that’s what they need to do. Too many chase-your-dreams advisers don’t. I love being a singer-songwriter on the side, but it’s quite possible I may never want to do it full-time. Music is more fun to do than anything else, but the conditions under which musicians work are often dismal–terrible hours, paltry pay, no benefits, and being at the mercy of every venue owner’s whim. I find satisfaction in being a technical writer too. I’m always learning, and I love to write and explain things. And the money I earn helps me finance expensive recording projects easily.

    • Absolutely. It’s not always the case that we have to leave our day jobs to follow our hearts and lead creative meaningful lives. So many of my workshop participants have found joy and contentment with their after-hour activities. And keeping up with them over the years, I’ve learned that many of them take up these pursuits full-time when they retire. There’s many ways to follow your calling. Do what feels right to you!

  4. Change is hard… daring to dream harder…changing to meat a dream???overwhelming…realizing that you do not have to jump i with both feel… emploweing

    • that is empowering

      • Yes it is, that’s why I wrote this blog Teri. I’m so glad it spoke to you! I’ve watched so many people in my workshops freeze up when it comes to actually following their dreams, when it doesn’t have to be scary at all. Just take one safe step at a time. Next week I’m going to write about how Jack T went from taking acting classes at night to moving to LA to become a full-time actor in a similar way.

  5. I enjoy reading all of your posts. Ӏ like to write a little comment to support you.

  6. Howdy! I’m at work surfing around your blog. Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the fantastic work!

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