What is My Vocation? How to Navigate a Quarter Life Crisis

“What is my vocation?”

It’s something that young people are afraid of answering. Similar to the question of “What do you want to major in when you go to college?” In high school you dread that question because you can’t really be fully informed enough to make such a decision at a young age.

You listen to voices around you as a young child. Your parents probably told you to choose a career that is financially stable and well compensated. They probably even suggested a few options.

Does doctor or lawyer sound familiar?

Influence of Parents

Deciding what career you’re going to have is a big life decision. It is something your parents are rightly interested in helping you with. But having a good career is just one part of the equation of living a flourishing life.

It’s not easy to talk about vocation and career. They are two different but related things. In many Asian contexts, the idea of vocation is unfamiliar. The idea that you choose something as serious as what to work on because of considerations other than what is good for your future and that of your family – in largely financial terms – that choice can seem suspect.

Feelings

What you like working on, what you enjoy doing, is something that can be fleeting. We are all familiar with the feeling of excitement at starting a new hobby or an online course, only to have that passion for the subject fade after the summer and a few weeks into the online program.

Intuition

Intuition is better than feelings. Intuition is a heftier, more solid concept. It’s not just feelings or what you like or enjoy. It’s something that deep down in your gut you know to be true about yourself.

Anyone can begin wanting to take karate classes after watching a the “Karate Kid” but fewer can have that intuition that they will be good at karate. This sometimes relies on a past history and awareness of strengths and weaknesses.

What Did People Notice About You as a Child?

We accumulate responsibilities as we age and have to satisfy other peoples’ expectations. Taking on responsibilities is part of becoming an adult. There are a million voices in society telling children what a respectable and responsible adult looks like. The voices of convention and authority are loud. They can drown out memories of what we were good at as a child.

Our core personalities and natural inclinations are formed long before we become adults. Sure, ten thousand hours of deliberate practice is the benchmark for mastery, but ten thousand hours starting at age 7 or 13 is quite different from those hours logged at age 25 or 30.

Did you notice your mom tell you you talk too much? That can be a clue. Were you chastised for being too argumentative? Or were your praised for being a good listener? Did you spend time after school drawing pictures or did you spend it playing sports? These questions can give important clues about natural abilities and inclinations.

If you think hard enough you might find you’ve already logged a few thousand hours on one part of a skillset that can help you make a living – and you did it all as a child or teenager, part of a natural mix of talents.

The Meaning of Vocation

We are already fully developed persons by the time of our mid to late twenties. It can, therefore, seem abstract to ask “what do I really want to do with my life?” as if it’s purely a matter of personal choice. The fact is we don’t have the power to completely start over and mold ourselves into whoever we want. It’s a romantic notion until reality rears its ugly head.

Maybe it’s better to ask “what am I called to do?” and “where am I called to be?” and that is really the meaning of vocation. It’s a word that is sometimes used in the context of following a religious path. But it’s something that implies that life events – whether good or regrettable – are connected in a meaningful way and embedded with a deeper purpose. These events that contribute to your formation are the voices that you should take time to hear and listen to.

It is a very worthy endeavor to clear the calendar, decompress and take time to hear and listen.

Much is made of “Eat, Pray, Love” type of soul searching. But nothing is more fulfilling than traveling and reaching the intersection of where you need to go and where you are most needed.

Read more about Finding your Purpose:

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