In today’s fast-paced culture, our children have numerous opportunities available to them. They can be entrepreneurs, YouTube stars, politicians, or leaders of massive social movements. With all of these choices, it can be difficult for them to figure out what their true calling is. It’s easy to be distracted by every bright and shiny opportunity that comes along. Things that look good may not be good for us. It takes maturity and discernment to distinguish the difference.
Many people miss out on their true calling because they are paralyzed by fear. No one wants to make the wrong choice and live an unfulfilled life. But that’s exactly what happens when people fail to fully examine themselves to understand their heart’s true desires. Our purpose tugs at us. It keeps us awake at night. It is that thing that drives us. It is a passion, something that is so hard for you to shake that you are willing to make sacrifices to achieve it.
I spend a lot of time talking to my children and encouraging them to explore different options for their lives. My daughter, who is considering college majors, wants so badly to make a wise choices that will please her mother and me. To ease her mind and help her to make a decision that will drive her closer to her calling, I shared this story about Bill Gates.
As a teenager, Bill Gates partnered with his friend Paul Allen to create computer programs and business opportunities at his Seattle preparatory school. Bill Gates enrolled in Harvard to become a lawyer, no doubt influenced by his lawyer father. Eventually both men dropped out of college and turned a childhood passion into a billion dollar empire.
This anecdote helped her to understand the power of purpose.
I also like to share Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin’s story. During his enshrinement speech, he remarked,
I realized that football was a vehicle, I used it to impact people’s lives and do positive things. But I also used football as a vehicle to reach fans and speak to fans and get to know you all because a lot of what you all do, you just don’t know how much it means to us on the field. So thank you all.
At my eulogy, I don’t want my daughter or whoever it may be giving my eulogy to talk about how many yards I gained or touchdowns I scored. I want my daughter to be able to talk about the man that Curtis Martin was. How when she was growing up, she looked for a man who was like her father. That he was a man of integrity, a man of strong character, and a God fearing man. That’s what I want.
Although Martin played football in the NFL for 11 years, he did not see football as his true calling. For Curtis, his purpose in life was to change the legacy of abuse and poverty in his community.
People find their callings in many different ways. There is no one size fits all method. Over the years, as a parent and a youth counselor, I’ve learned a few things about helping kids to figure out their life’s purpose. Based on my experience, the techniques are the most effective ways to help your child find his or her true calling (BTW – these tips can work for adults too):
Seek Advice from People Who Know Your Child Best
In a previous post, How to Help Your Child Become His or Her IDEAL Self, I showed you how to help your child do a self-assessment. After he or she has done that, the next step is to do a peer assessment. Have your child consult with people they trust and who know him or her well. It could be a friend, a teacher, a counselor, or a relative. Ideally, you should encourage your child to listen to people who have figured out their own purpose in life. Getting an outside perspective will help your child to discover things about themselves that they never realized. *Note: Guard against allowing the wrong people to give your child advice because it could lead to confusion (or worse).
Find a GOAL Model
A GOAL Model is a bit different from role-model. These people have taken the necessary steps to reach the goal your child is trying to achieve and can speak truth into their lives. GOAL Models can help your child in the following ways:
- Understand how they came to understand their true calling.
- Get a realistic portrait of the positives and negatives of living out this particular calling.
- Learn the skills required to be successful.
- Understand the cost of this particular call.
GOAL Models give practical advice, are willing to be available for mentoring, and can help your child to avoid potential pitfalls.
Encourage Your Child to Experiment
Experimentation is the way that many, if not most of us, figure out our purpose in life. Encourage your child to try different things to see how they resonate with their spirit. In my lifetime, I have been an engineering intern, a youth pastor, an Air Force officer, an event planner, an administrator, a development officer, an intercultural relations director, and a Chief Operating Officer. However, I always felt that my true calling was to be a mentor to the “younger generation” and help my team become more efficient by putting people into the right roles based on their skill sets. I was never as passionate about my daily work, but I did each job diligently as I figured out my true purpose. I am thankful for these experiences because they taught me what I liked and what I disliked.
While some kids are laser-focused and know exactly what they want to do in life, other kids need to try different things to figure it out. Give your kids the leeway to experiment and try new things. A new opportunity may lead them directly to their true calling.
As a father I understand two things: first, parenting is more about being a coach than it is about being a dictator; second, the best way to help my child become their IDEAL self is by living my IDEAL life. When we as parents understand our calling, it won’t be hard for our children to understand theirs.