Three lawyers are asked why they work. The first one says, “To earn my next paycheck.” The second one says, “To continue growing my practice. The last one says, “To help other people.”
The first attorney is describing his job. The second attorney is describing her career. The third—a calling (Yes, I tweaked this from a famous story where an observer comes upon three builders; the first builder states he is laying brick, the second builder says he is constructing a wall, and the third builder proclaims he is building the house of God) .
My previous column discussed the importance of awareness, and specifically the recognition of negative personal and societal anchors that attempt to keep our minds fixed to a medium instead of growing with continuous improvement. As a part of developing an awareness towards growth, asking the question “why?” and creating a purpose –a calling—for everything we do in life can not only help us recognize negative anchors, but also recognize the priorities that are important from the distractions that are meaningless.
On a broader scale, one simple calling anyone could follow is that they do whatever it is that they do because “family, friends, self-improvement and community are top priorities. Nothing else matters.” With that affirmation in mind, a person could assess any situation he or she was in by asking whether it complies with their calling. Recognizing whether any one thing does or does not fulfill our “why?” raises awareness regarding what our time should and should not be spent on.
It also helps us positively reframe our work or our self-doubt when life gets tough. It creates a meaning bigger than ourselves—and therefore increases motivation and enthusiasm—to why we continue the grind in the increasingly grueling modern environment we live in. Instead of working on that next task to pay the bills, doing it to help another person, for example,helps us keep pushing. Instead of watching Netflix because we are lazy, bored and procrastinating low-lives, doing it because it creates quality time doing something fun and mindless with loved ones allows us to give each other a break every once in a while.
A calling can be as broad as the example above or as detailed as the specific task or individual requires. Just ask “why?”:
- Why do I do everything? For my family.
- Why do I practice law? To protect the rights of people who can't.
- Why do I go to the gym? So I can be around as long as I can for my children.
- Why am I giving this upcoming lecture? To educate myself and others.
- Why am I watching Love is Blind? Because right now the real world is scary and I need a mindless break. And that is ok!
- Why am I going to this boring event with in-laws? It will mean a lot to people I love.
- Why am spending time with people who don't care about me? I don't know. I'll skip that one and do something more important.
- Why do I work so much? To provide for my family, but my family needs me too. Maybe I need to cut some hours back so I can spend more time with them.
The last two examples are important. When we don't know why we are doing something or why we are doing so much of it, it allows us to self-assess whether it truly falls within our callings and examine whether it deserves more or less of our attention. The only way to come to an answer, however, is to ask.