A story is told of three brick layers, Peter, Paul and Phillip, who were asked what they were doing. Peter said, “I am laying bricks.” Paul said, “I am building a church.” Phillip said, “I am building the house of God.”
If you looked at the three brick layers, you would see them doing the same thing. But in their minds, they were doing three different things. Peter had a job. Paul had a career. And Phillip had a calling.
While all three might get the same financial compensation from their employer, they don’t all get the same job satisfaction. This is why: A job is something you do to put food on the table and a roof over your head. A career is something you do to advance yourself. It is more like a steppingstone, one of the rungs on the proverbial corporate ladder. A calling is much more deeper and meaningful. It is something you do passionately because you love it and can’t think of life without it. A calling is the reason you are alive. When you are in your calling, you are infused with purpose.
Many people wouldn’t think of their work as a calling. When you talk about calling, their minds go straight to people in the clergy, wearing collars. But the truth is, any work can be a calling, be it accounting, teaching, singing, writing, or even sweeping the streets.
People who look at their work as a calling are not self-focused. They are other-focused. For example, when Phillip the brick layer said that he was building the house of God, he wasn’t thinking of the actual work of laying one brick on top of the other, although that’s what he was doing. He was thinking of the end result of his work and the impact that his work would have on others. He was thinking beyond the pay cheque he would get after laying bricks.
When the entire focus of your work is on how it can fulfil your desires, your work will only be a job. A job never satisfies you emotionally. That is why you can have a good salary and still feel unsatisfied with your work. On the inside of everyone of us is a deep yearning to do work that is bigger than ourselves, work that goes beyond our own selfish needs. And as long as you are not treating your work as a calling, you will feel like that every now and again.
So how can you start treating your work as a calling? There is no quick and easy solution to this. Sometimes the work you are doing isn’t work you should be doing at all. That means you have to look for more meaningful work to satisfy you.
Now, don’t go and quit your job today. I won’t be there to feed you if you don’t have an income. If you feel that you are in the wrong job, start looking for one that you think will make you come alive as you serve others. The next time you are applying for a job, ask yourself, is this job my calling?
Sometimes you can be doing work that is your calling but instead of taking it like it is your calling, you take it like it’s just a job. This will require you to change your attitude towards your work. It’s very simple. All you need to do is start thinking of your work more in terms of how it serves others, than how it serves you. And when you finally become happy with your work, you will come and thank me.