By Will Mancini, Crosswalk.com
Are you ready for a new life? Now is the time to uncover and apply your own uniqueness to your life’s purpose. Maybe you’ve tried unsuccessfully in the past to discern God’s will, and now you wonder, How do I figure out where God is leading me vocationally? How do I combine my purpose, passion, and skills into what I believe God wants me to do? The five steps below will help you answer these questions as you start this new year with a new goal: to discover God’s unique calling for you.
1. Know and Understand You Are God’s Workmanship
God doesn’t make generic art. He crafts each individual as utterly and irreducibly unique. Ephesians 2:10 describes each of us as God’s one-of-a-kind handiwork, which means that each of us is created in Christ Jesus to do one-of-a-kind good works. God had a dream for me before I was even born, and no matter how badly I was lost, he would do anything to make that dream come true. And God did the very same thing for you.
2. Learn a New Kind of Courage—to Know Yourself
Don’t allow your blind spots to distract you from identifying your greatest abilities and deepest passions. Many kinds of distractions make it easy for us to fool ourselves and keep us from grasping our True Self. First there’s the expectation of others. From birth, people praise us for doing some things and disapprove of us for doing others. Our self-awareness can be hopelessly and undetectably obscured by deep layers of people-pleasing. Then there’s the imitation of success. Every field of human endeavor has its rock stars and its assumed metrics of achievement. When we think we’re looking in the mirror of self-awareness, we might be looking out the window at a statue on a pedestal.
Third is the captivation of money. Some people convince themselves that they are made to do certain work because they can make a lot of money doing it. Others don’t care about the size of the paycheck but demand that it be steady. Self-awareness becomes masked by the allure of gain or fear of loss. A fourth distraction is the preoccupation with busyness. On the assumption that more is better or that the world will collapse if we don’t hold it up, we pack our lives and race from one thing to the next without time to reflect on what we ought to be doing. Self-awareness is crushed under the load of opportunities and responsibilities.
Last but not least is the projection of self. Picture a projector in your heart that’s running virtually all the time, casting its image on the surface that others see and hear when they encounter you. But it isn’t the real you. It shines so bright that not only does it keep others from seeing the real you—it keeps you from seeing it too.
3. Evaluate All Your Work Experiences to Grow
Once you truly have the courage to know yourself, every experience becomes a gift. Everything speaks. Your successes develop your confidence and your failures deepen your convictions. Please note that experience is not the best teacher; evaluated experience is. The key is to refuse to let your work experiences go by unexamined. With the simple commitment of reflecting on seasons of your work past and present, each month of your life becomes a step on a ladder, taking you up, up, up to a clearer vantage point. There’s good news and bad news in this. The bad news is that you can’t microwave the process. You don’t get break-thru in the drive-thru. Finding your groove takes time—as in years or decades.
Now for the good news: the longer you have lived and worked, the more experience you have to revisit and evaluate. And even better: you can benefit from your bad experiences as much as the good ones. How so? Work tasks that you hated bring great clarity—it’s clear that you weren’t standing in your sweet spot while doing them. So don’t worry about that job that grew tired or that boss that got you fired. Pay close attention and you’ll find the work that keeps you wired.
4. Go Above and Beyond in Your Work and Increase Your Value
Continually refine your role description in your current vocation or place of employment, which makes you more valuable to your employer and the work you do. You’ll be proactively brokering a great exchange—you bring more contribution to your work and you get more vitality at your work. That’s aligning your 9-to-5 time with your divine design.
This imperative introduces a way of approaching life that is frankly quite rare. Most people settle for the slots that employers provide. Most people haven’t given themselves permission to negotiate with their supervisor. Work begins to feel like life on a conveyor belt. You feel intimidated by your boss. Your treadmill job continues rolling day after day after day. It’s amazing to me how many people don’t second-guess the best way to invest their talents and time on behalf of their employer—even when their employer is themselves.
If you are doing the same job the same way you did last year, you are not growing. This is an unacceptable condition! By contrast, when you show your value at work, you are moving toward the highest and best use of your time. What is the specific use of your experiences, passions, skills, and abilities that is the highest and best use not just for you but for your organization?
5. Don’t Be So Distracted from God’s “Must-Do” by the Many “Can-Dos” That Come Along
Think of your company, non-profit, freelance role, or ministry as a vehicle for your calling. For those who find their special assignment from God, the need to make a move to a new vehicle will inevitably come. This kind of vocational risk is not a random leap. It’s not even doing something new that you merely think you’d like to do. I call it “risk to go,” and it is a strict discipline. The problem with success is that it multiplies the things you can do. The more success you achieve, people you meet, resources you gain, and skills you learn, the more opportunities line up like paper clips to a magnet.
The problem is that as more “can-dos” fill the top of the funnel, it makes it harder to see and focus on the one thing you must do for God. The truth is that most opportunities are distractions in disguise, distractions from the “must-do” that God has been preparing you for your entire life. To clarify, I am not suggesting that there is only one project or job or occupation or even career that you’re supposed to stick with your whole life. To the contrary, remaining rigorously fixed on your one “must-do” is actually what launches the best leaps in your career.
The absoluteness of your One Thing enables you to see how relative your life is right now. When you know the One Thing about your calling that never changes, you awaken to how changeable everything else is. You take the “risk to go” because doing your One Thing more often, more purely, and more effectively matters more than whatever you’re doing now. As I look back on each of my own big “risk to go” moments, I shiver with delight. The memory is one of euphoria—stepping off the cliff to walk on the wind. In my case—and this is by no means true of all people who “risk to go”—at each point I was leaving a proven record of success when I stepped into the unknown. I had thought I was already flying, but until I took the risk I never knew what flight was.
Why Should We Seek God’s Calling for Our Lives?
Does this journey to self-discovery even matter? Yes, it does! It’s important to remember that the new life design I’ve described here is gospel-centered. As believers, we are to live all of life for the glory of God. While personal fulfillment is a real outcome of life design, it’s not the main point. The main point is God’s glory. The subsidiary point is the benefit of the world around us. The point for us is to find our satisfaction when God’s glory and the world’s welfare are amplified through us. In short, the point is love—love of God and love of neighbor. That is the law of life design as God designed it.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Rawpixle
Will Mancini is a church consultant and ministry entrepreneur, and author of the new book Younique: Designing the Life God Dreamed For You.
He started three interconnected organizations that help the church embody the movement that Jesus founded. In 2004 Will started Auxano, a nationally-based, non-profit church consulting firm that works with 400 churches a year to create break-thru clarity around disciple-making and visionary planning. In 2015 he cofounded Younique, a coaching company that delivers gospel-centered life design through local churches. In 2019 Will founded Denominee, a consulting group that increases the value of denominational and network leaders to the local church.
Will is the author of five books including Church Unique and God Dreams, and he enjoys speaking and writing about how to create clarity and live a life of more meaningful progress. Will lives in Houston with his wife Romy and has four children. You can learn more about Will and his ecosystem of break-thru ideas, tools, and organizations at willmancini.com. Connect with him on Instagram at @will_be_clear and on Twitter at @willmancini.