What is your vocation?

I ask this question of all my clients and although I always get a consistent response, I have yet to get a correct or compelling response.

The consistent response I get is “I am a…. [fill in the blank profession]”.
“I am a doctor, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a counselor…”
Alternatively I’ll get some variation of, “I don’t have a vocation…. I’m retired, I am a stay-at-home-mom, I sold my company and looking for my next venture….”

These responses confuse vocation with job, profession or how we pay the bills.

This, however, is not the meaning of vocation.

Vocation, coming from the Latin word, “vocari,” literally means, “voice.”

In the words of my teacher, and vocation expert, Parker Palmer, “Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”

Your vocation is your voice, your true self, your authentic calling. It is not what you do. It is who you are, and it is always calling to you, in spite of your age, no matter your life circumstances.

Regardless of how you make a living, or whether or not you are newly retired, you still have a vocation – a voice within you calling out to you to know it, follow it and express it. And to do this you must first and foremost listen.

Listening, however, is the single greatest challenge we face today. It is hard to listen in a world that is so filled with noise.

This is why the single most important thing we can do in the pursuit of living a life of meaning, purpose and inspiration is to make time and listen. And where we are right now is the perfect opportunity to listen.

Summer is a time of listening. It presents us with opportunities to vacate (vacation) our normal routines, make time for ourselves, our soul, and listen. And COVID in particular has been an unprecedented time to listen. It has caused us to hit pause, step back, slow down, go inwards, and hopefully listen. Never has there been a time of greater tumult in our world. Equally, never has there been a time of greater need for, and opportunity to, listen.

Again, in the words of Parker, “Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.”

No matter who you are, what you do for a living, where you are in life, or what you are experiencing out in the world – you have a vocation. You have a voice that is uniquely your own. You have a responsibility to listen to it. If you listen, you will hear it. If you don’t, you will keep working away in a job that doesn’t speak to you, roles that no longer fit you, or a life which you hardly recognize. This is why we must listen, and when we do we become the person we were meant to become, and live a life that is ours, and ours alone, to live.

This is why you are here. To discover your voice. To uncover your calling. To reveal your purpose. To live your vocation in all that you do and all that you are.

Rabbi B