[The following was inspired by Benjamin Zander’s wonderful TED talk above.]
We all have a higher calling, a gravitational sense of purpose whose tug we can always feel. We might not know quite where it’s leading, but we know when we’re headed in that direction. Some days and years we choose to chase it, some we choose to stay put.
Pursuing this calling is our life’s work. Each of us gets about 650,000 hours to pursue that work. Total. Including hours spent sleeping and watching television and checking Facebook.
Most of our waking hours are spent fulfilling the responsibilities of some role or another. We are employees and managers and fathers and wives and friends and board members and lead guitarists. You will probably, over the course of your life, spend more waking hours in vocational roles than any other. Being a salesman or a designer or a barista or a bookkeeper.
If you’re like me, you often look at your roles as boundaries. As limits. As lines that you have to take care not to cross. I’m in sales, I shouldn’t worry about design. She’s a coworker, I shouldn’t bother with her personal life. I’m at work, I can’t have a conversation about my deepest values. That’s how I long viewed my work roles, as boxes outside of which I was not supposed to stray. This left me little chance to pursue my higher calling during those many, many hours.
But many people that I admire view their roles differently. They see them as platforms to explore possibility. They plunge into the relationships and ideas and skills and questions that each role brings. And they bring their higher calling into their roles, using these new opportunities to further pursue their deeper values.
Benjamin Zander pursues wisdom through classical music. Bob Goff pursues human rights through construction defect law. Nelson Mandela pursued liberty for his country through his role as an inmate. Possibility abounds.
You only have so many hours to chase down your higher calling and share it with the world. So play loose with the limits of your roles. Mine your circumstance for possibility. Using every role that you play, every part of your life, pursue that invisible, beckoning sense of purpose.