Finding your true vocation

Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the qualities he has acquired from the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment. Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one’s physical body without work.

– The Bhagavad Gita

These words from the Bhagavad Gita ring so true. If you think about it, we have to do something every moment. Even when we are asleep, our minds churn up dreams and our body continues to work. If we do not do something, we will wither and die.

This is important to understand. A lot of us put things that we want to do for the future, saying I will do that when I am old, when I retire. But if you think about it, retirement is not good. It is good if the job that you do is a punishment. But if you love the job that you do, then what is the point in retiring. If you are not doing what you love, when will you do it?

As Warren Buffet says,

Take a job that you love. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?” 

Work is something we all have to do. Yes, as Voltaire says, it does save us from three great evils: boredom, poverty and vice. But that is not enough to satisfy us. As evolving humans we seek something more that that. We seek meaning. We seek engagement in our work. We need our work to take the best out of us and express it to the world. We seek enjoyment, challenge and opportunity from our work.

If we just equate our job with money, benefits, security, responsibilities and obligations we will not be happy. We need to seek meaningful employment even if it means we earn less. We will do that only if we realise that money alone cannot make you happy. We also need to get rid of fear: fear of what others will say, fear that you will not have enough money. If we can get a chance to do something that we really want to do, we have to grab it with both our hands.

We find meaning by doing something that decreases others’ suffering or increasing their happiness. We find meaning by serving others. Money is needed to put bread on the table but is not everything.

Laurence G. Boldt says this beautifully in Zen and the Art of Making a Living,

Without self-expression, life lacks spontaneity and joy. Without service to others, it lacks meaning and purpose…Conceiving of ourselves as artists in whatever work we do gives us a metaphor for a life of integrity, service, enjoyment and excellence….I know of no better nutshell statement of the path to finding one’s true calling in life than the simple formula given by Aristotle: Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation. These two, your talents and needs of the world, are the great wake-up calls to your true vocation in life. To ignore either is, in some sense, to lose your soul.

So find where your talents are.Find what needs of the world these talents can fill.They might be existing in your current job itself. Find a way to make your work the meeting point of your talents and the needs of the world. Make sure that this work decreases suffering or increases happiness of your fellow-man. Make sure this provides you with a decent amount of money but understand that money is not everything. Get rid of fear. Do it now.

You will have found your true vocation.