Your Sacred Calling – It’s Like a Hedgehog
I’ve been studying the concept of a ‘sacred calling’ for a while. About ten years ago I read the book, Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins a Colorado-based business researcher. In this dense book, Collins postulated -among other things- something he termed, The Hedgehog Concept.
In short, the concept talked about the intersection of three circles, in a Venn diagram. As illustrated here, the shaded area represented the Hedgehog Concept for a business.
When I read this book, I started thinking about how to translate these ideas into the individual. How could a person find their secret sauce, so to speak, their sweet-spot, or their Hedgehog Concept?
Close, But Not the Same
The sacred calling, like the hedgehog concept for a business, originates deep within us. It’s embedded in our DNA; It codes to do some tasks better than others. You might be a great singer or musically talented while your sibling is a math genius. We each have these specific areas that we can do better and more easily; they have a natural feel to us and we gravitate toward them.
But the sacred calling isn’t a particular talent or strength, it’s broader than that.
Your sacred calling is the overall sense of mission you have your life; and it isn’t always obvious.
Though experience, and over many years, I learned that it’s through teaching and writing that I can make life-changing contributions to others. For a long time, I was a college instructor. During those years I taught hundreds of students. Every so often I hear from one on Facebook or LinkedIn and they share how it was through my classes that they found their direction or motivation for pursuing a dream. I’m not trying to blow my own horn, but I think you can see that it’s through this kind of feedback that my sacred calling has been affirmed.
When I think about what these affirmations point to and what drives my life, I come up with this: service to others. It’s the overall sense of mission that characterizes my life. It reflects what sparks joy within me and what leads to both my most meaningful work and my lifetime contributions.
Time to Look Within
In what I call The Celebration Exercise, imagine that you’re dead. I know, real cheery, right? Stay with me though.
Imagine you’re a fly on the wall or an angel in the heavens and you’re somehow present when your friends gather to honor your memory at a celebration of life service.
Far from being a sad affair, your friends are here to recall the happy times, the fun days and nights you spent together and the kind of person they think you really were.
Maybe they’re tossing back a few shots of Cuervo Gold tequila or Jameson Irish whiskey or -in my case- a few shots of Espresso Forte. Although they’re sad you’re gone, they’re equally happy and filled with gratitude because of the impact you made on their lives.
As speaker after speaker gets up to share how you made their life a better place, they keep returning to the qualities you were known for.
Without thinking, what are those qualities: Just say them out loud quickly, right now.
For me, they’d be: compassion, helping out, encouragement, and love.
Whatever those qualities are, what do they suggest as an action? If you look at mine, they suggest service to others. For me, they speak of serving others. Service to others is my sacred calling.
The Most Common Mistake
When thinking about your sacred calling, the most common mistake made is thinking that you don’t know it. In fact, you do know it, but it’s been covered over by life experiences, religious dogma, family expectations, and cultural influences. If you’re willing to do the work, you can gently sift through the layers of shit that life has piled on top of your sacred calling.
You might recall is this post, I told you about a time when I was about 10 years old and I knew in an instant that my sacred calling had to do with writing. But I was ten, and I didn’t register it me strongly enough in my heart and mind to follow it’s lead in my early adult years. It took decades for me to work through the layers of experience and expectations to find it again.