***This article is inspired by chapter 12 of “Leadershift” by John C. Maxwell – “Career To Calling”***

“Some wake up to an alarm. Some wake up to a calling.” – Author Unknown

This is such a powerful statement amidst a workforce where only 30% of employees are considered “engaged”. The other 70% are either considered “disengaged” (apathetic and just going through the motions) or “actively disengaged”( willing to sabotage their organizations). You can read the latest Gallup poll article for more details on these statistics.

One of the key reasons for this disturbing trend is because very few people have discovered or embraced their life calling. According to John Maxwell, there are three general categories that people fit into:

  1. You do a job.
  2. You build a career.
  3. You fulfill your calling.

Maxwell goes on to state that callings consist of the following characteristics:

  • Mainly about others
  • Something chosen for you
  • Integrated into your entire life
  • Never leaves you
  • Something you must do
  • Measured by significance

Conversely, careers consist of these characteristics:

  • Mainly about you
  • Something you choose
  • Separated from your best life
  • You can take it or leave it
  • Something you can do
  • Measured by success

One thing that I’ve discovered to be true for myself and for those who are passionately living out their callings is this – your life will never be the same once you know what you’re called to do and are working to fulfill it every day.

L.P. Jacks wrote the following about becoming a “master in the art of living.” Evaluate if this describes your experience and the experience of your followers:

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”
– Education Through Recreation (1932), p. 1

When you live out your calling versus simply do a job or build a career, things change. Your life gets better. You become more joyful and pleasant to be around. Your engagement level rises drastically. Many times, a calling can be lived out right where you are in your job or career. It may just require a mindset shift.

Consider John Maxwell’s 8 characteristics of a calling in his book LeaderShift:


1 – Your Calling Matches Who You Are

Your calling is connected to your identity. As a person of faith, I believe that each human being is created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26) and is created with a unique life purpose. When you work outside of your purpose, you may achieve some level of success, but you will often find yourself asking, “Isn’t there more to life than this?” This discontentment is a warning sign that you were created to do something different. When you work within the parameters of your unique identity, you find yourself excited and motivated.

2 – Your Calling Taps Into Your Passion

What are you passionate about? Does your current job or career tap into that passion? If not, do you see a way to join the two? The reality is that even in your dream job you will not be passionate every little detail. However, if you simply hate your job and dread going into work each day, something is seriously wrong and needs to be addressed. Evaluate if you can connect your passion to your current reality.

3 – Your Calling Is Important To You, But It’s Not About You

This is of utmost importance. While your calling gives you excitement and passion, it’s ultimately about serving others using your unique abilities. Most people begin their adult lives seeking personal goals and success. Those who live out their callings find this in how they benefit others. This ultimately leads to living a life of significant contribution rather than simply chasing temporary success that quickly fades. When you live out your calling for the sake of helping others, they benefit AND you begin to experience L.P. Jacks’ definition of being a master in the art of living.

4 – Your Calling Is Bigger Than You

When you begin to live out your calling, you are often thrown outside of your comfort zone. This occurs because your calling requires you to grow into a better version of yourself to fulfill it. Your calling may intimidate you. It may even seem impossible to fulfill when you first discover it. Yet, you know in your heart that it’s something you MUST pursue and you become willing to stretch yourself to complete it. You commit to keep moving forward even when the odds feel stacked against you. It’s like looking up at the peak of Mount Everest before beginning the climb and knowing in your heart you must tackle the mountain.

5 – Your Calling Changes Your Perspective

Having a calling makes you see the world differently. Where you once saw only obligations and responsibilities, you will begin to see options and opportunities. You shift from focusing on the tasks you are required to do and begin to see things that you want to do. A calling lifts your heart and expands your options. It can even make the mundane feel meaningful because these tasks are leading to a greater goal that you’re excited about.

6 – Your Calling Gives You Purpose

Author and marketing genius Seth Godin once said, “Instead of wondering what your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Ouch! That may sound harsh at first, but it is the experience of the 70% of disengaged people in the workplace. Too many people settle for a job or career that they can’t wait to retire from. People who live out their callings operate daily with a sense of enthusiasm that comes from living out their life purpose. As mentioned previously, it’s possible to live out your purpose in many jobs or careers. It’s often not about the tasks you do at all, but rather the way in which you show up each day. Some of the happiest, most fulfilled people on earth are doing jobs others don’t want but they do them with a positive attitude that others never have. They can do this because they live with a greater life purpose.

7 – Your Calling Helps You To Overcome Obstacles

Obstacles are inevitable. When pursuing your calling, they seem to multiply. Once again, as a person of faith, I believe that not only is there a loving God who created you, but there is also an enemy (the devil) who opposes you. He wants to steal your peace, kill your dreams, and destroy your life. This includes attacking your calling. When you become aligned with God’s design for your life, you will face opposition. However, when you decide to passionately pursue your calling, you will be motivated to press on amidst and despite the obstacles. You will keep your greater purpose in mind and realize that the obstacles are simply “weights” that you’ll lift to make you stronger as you push through them. This helps you become a better version of yourself. This allows you to be better for those you love and lead.

8 – Your Calling Brings Fulfillment

Wealth, fame, achievement, and recognition all fall short when compared to the fulfillment you experience when living out your calling. The other things are nice to have, but your calling leads to true significance in your life. When you are engaged in your calling, you will begin to think “I was born for this!” Living out your calling doesn’t guarantee life will be easy, but it does lead to a life you’ll love. It will lead to you being a master in the art of living where you’ll struggle to know if you’re working or playing. It will feel like you’re doing both.


As we wrap up this series inspired by John Maxwell’s LeaderShift book, I hope you’ll seriously consider this final article. Life is too short to work in a job or career that you dread. It’s also very difficult to lead people who are simply going through the motions to receive a paycheck.

As a leader, one key opportunity you have is to make sure that your followers are aligned with their own callings. If they aren’t, can you move them to another role in your organization? If not, consider how you can help them transition well to other opportunities. While you may have to endure the short-term pain of filling vacancies in your team, you’ll be doing your followers and yourself a favor long-term. When you foster a calling-centered environment, productivity and job satisfaction will increase significantly. Be willing to do the hard upfront work so you and your followers can experience the long-term benefits.

Until next time…make today GREAT!

P.S. If you’d like some help with navigating personal or professional challenges and opportunities, click HERE to learn about my coaching services.

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