Sunday 10 February 2013

Finding Meaning and Purpose in Life

Martin Luther King insisted that all forms of work are God-honoring callings.
Work is taking the raw material of creation and developing it for the sake of others. Musicians take the raw material of sound and bring the meaning of art into our lives. Farmers take the raw material of soil and seed and bring food into our lives.
All sorts of work are forms of serving the others: making their furniture, looking after their children, giving them treatment for their illnesses, teaching them, building their houses…  All work is service.
All of us have different talents, aptitudes, abilities. Through work we enrich one another and become more and more interwoven. Farming and business, childcare and law, medicine and music—all these forms of work cultivate, care for, and sustain the world.
But, how can we know what our vocation is? It is not appropriate to try to discern our vocation by starting with the knowledge of our abilities, because gifts often “pop out” and surprise us as we participate in different activities.
But, the more we discover who we are and the more we discover what desire lies deepest in our hearts, the more we will discover what direction we should take in life.

Some questions we can ask ourselves are:Desire and attraction. What do we care about? What do we love? What do we feel passionate about? What would we love to commit ourselves to? What do we feel pulled towards – even if we can’t explain why?

Admiration. Which people do we admire the most? Is it because of who they are or what they stand for or what they do? What is it about them or their vocation that we have been attracted to? What does it stir up in our own heart? Which person, alive now, would we most like to be? Which person, from the past, inspire us most? Why?

Enjoyment. What do we like doing? Not just for leisure or fun – but what kind of work and activities do we enjoy most? Which bring the best out of us and gives us satisfaction at the end of a hard day?

Skills. What are we good at? What are our gifts and skills and aptitudes? Not just our qualifications (although these are often relevant) but our gifts of character and personality too. How could we best use these gifts in a positive way not just for ourselves, but mainly for the others?

Value. Of the many projects and careers we are interested in, which of them are really worthwhile? Which allow us to contribute to something that is not just a waste of time? What do we actually believe in and want to promote?

Other people. If people encourage us in a particular decision or way of life, if they ‘believe in us’, this can be a sign that we are going in the right direction.  Sometimes other people can see our own potential more clearly than we can ourselves.

In conclusion, we should ask ourselves: How can I best serve the others? What needs do I “vibrate” to? What problems or people’s needs move me? What type of work would I really love to do if I followed my heart, mind and soul? What am I best equipped for?

Then, discerning a vocation would not only provide us with a livelihood but would also help us find meaning and purpose in life, because we are not likely to find or to fulfill our vocation solely by ourselves but in community.

Our life is not a series of random events. Our family background, education, and life experiences—even the most painful ones—all equip us to do some work that no one else can do.

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