Finding Your Authentic Life Path

“Calls are essentially questions. They aren’t questions you necessarily need to answer outright; they are questions to which you need to respond, expose yourself, and kneel before. You don’t want an answer you can put in a box and set on a shelf. You want a question that will become a chariot to carry you across the breadth of your life, a question that will offer you a lifetime of pondering, that will lead you toward what you need to know for your integrity, draw to you what you need for your journey, and help you understand what it means to burst at the seams.” (Gregg Levoy, Callings)

“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts - then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism [and consumerism] our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others. ...

Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks - we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” (Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak)

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose you consider a mighty one, the being a force of nature rather than a feverish, selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” (George Bernard Shaw)

“We seek purpose when we are not in touch with who we really are. When an apple tree discovers who it is, the question ‘what must I do?’ disappears. When you discover who you are (at the deepest place of your being) you will find your purpose.” (Colleen-Joy Page)

Ideal Job Exercise

Imagine the best possible job for yourself. This is not your ideal day, but something that you do to earn money. What kind of job would you have that you would look forward to everyday?

“Base your picture on internal rather than external values. For instance, many people take jobs because of high pay, or because it is a prestigious place to work. What about the actual work you will do? Is it an internal fit?” (Janet Luhr)

What would you love to do? What are you doing? What are your major tasks? Are there particular causes you would like to contribute to? Where are you? At home or in an office or travelling or outdoors? Who would you love to work with? Lots of people? Just a few? Are you part of a team? Do you have a mentor? Are you the boss? Would you prefer to be told what to do or have the opportunity to be creative? Is your schedule structured by someone else or do you set your own schedule and take initiatives? Let your imagination soar.

Mindstream Writing Exercise

Review your ideal job. Now take a piece of paper and a pen in hand. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Creatively brainstorm on all the ways in which your ideal job could become reality. For example, how would you apply your qualifications to it; how would you find or create such an opportunity; how could you get paid to do it; how could you adjust your lifestyle to allow for it, etc. Do not censor your ideas or stop yourself from including ideas that seem impossible. Write whatever comes to mind without correcting your grammar or spelling.

Who Am I?

We can discover a lot about ourselves by looking at who we were in childhood (before our original shape was deformed through social pressures, as Parker Palmer says). Complete the following sentences (adapted from Julia Cameron’s The Vein of Gold):

Years 1-5:

  • As a young child, my favourite playmate was…
  • What I remember about my playmate is…
  • As a young child, my favourite toy was…
  • I remember my favourite game was We lived…
  • Our house was…
  • I remember liking to go…
  • In my family, we had lots of…
  • My pets…

Years 5-10:

  • As a child, my favourite subject was…
  • I thought my teachers were…
  • My best friend…
  • I liked…
  • My favourite teacher was…
  • I remember…
  • I was praised in school for my…
  • My least favourite teacher was…
  • My parents seemed to feel I was…
  • My own feeling is that I was…

Years 10-15:

  • As a pre-adolescent, I began…
  • I loved to…
  • My favourite adventure was…
  • My friends were…
  • Alcohol and drugs were…
  • Sex was…
  • My parents…
  • In my family I was considered…
  • My friends called me…
  • What I did to amuse myself was…

Years 15-20:

  • As a teenager, I considered myself…
  • What made me feel less isolated was…
  • The friend I had fun with was…
  • I experimented with…
  • My job as a teenager was…
  • My own sense of myself was…
  • My relationship to alcohol, drugs, sex, and food was…
  • My teen hangout was…
  • What I did to amuse myself was…
  • What my friends and I did for amusement was…
  • My self-image was…
  • What I wanted to do was…