July 7, 2010

Finding Your Mission in Life

Much could be said about Richard Bolle’s seminal bestseller What Color Is Your Parachute? I picked up a copy a few years ago, having seen the book at my university’s career centre library and hearing glowing recommendations about it.

Unlike a lot of books in the career and self-help genre, Parachute has a soul. Bolles—a former Episcopal clergyman—speaks from the perspective of one with faith and doesn’t hide this from the reader. So when he discusses finding your life’s work, it is framed in a spiritual context: finding the work you were made, by God, to do.

There is a plethora of job-finding tips in this book, but I want to focus on the chapter about finding your mission in life. This chapter reads like an essay—or perhaps a sermon—on finding one’s vocation and frames this issue in a new light.

Rather than thinking of your mission as one thing you are called to do, Bolles suggests that each person’s mission has three parts. Summarized, these are:

1) To know God, the One who gives you your mission.

2) To do what you can each day to make the world a better place, following God’s spirit within you and around you.

3) a) To use the talent that you came to Earth to use—your greatest gift, that gives you joy to use

b) in the place(s) or settings that God has caused to appeal to you the most,

c) and for what God most needs to have done in the world.

The first two aspects of one’s mission are shared by all human beings, while the third is unique to each individual. Bolles notes that “We were all sent here to bring more gratitude, more kindness, more forgiveness, and more love into the world.” Humans share this mission because the task is too large to be accomplished by just one person.

This interpretation of one’s mission in life makes sense to me. How can you know your purpose before you know the one who gave you that purpose? It is also comforting to think that one’ s mission is a continual life process, rather than something you just “know” and I somehow missed that gene.

What the third aspect seems to come down to is having the courage to follow your heart, knowing God will lead you each step of the way. And being perceptive to your own interests: What activities bring you joy and make you lose all sense of time?

Ultimately, what we are called to do in this world is an intersection between the work we want to do and the work the world most needs to have done.

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