Three Questions to a Better Vocation
I have spent 27 years in professional ministry. I have been everything from a youth director to church planter to Senior Pastor. This past summer I resigned as Senior Pastor of a wonderful church and moved towards both coaching and real estate. Big life change. How did I get here? It came down to 3 questions. What am I good at? What do people say I am good at? And what are the fears that keep me from doing it?
What am I good at?
This is important to grapple with. Many of us don’t know what we are good at. We know in general but we don’t always go deep enough. We get stuck at the surface level of what we are good at. We might say “I am good at dishwashing.” What does that mean? Is that it? Do I go and work at a restaurant? (Possibly but something that you recognize in a mundane level can unlock and give clues to other kind of jobs that fit this category.) With this question we need to go deeper. I am not great at dishwashing but I am good at organizing my garage. That should be a clue for me. What I have started to learn about myself is that one of my strengths is organization and structure. This can play it self out in a developing role. Developing business. Developing people. So the first question to consider is “what am I good at?” Second question…
What do people say I am good at?
It is amazing how the trusted people around us can give us insight about our strengths and weaknesses. For me my friends, children and wife give me great feed back about my strengths (and also weakness). It does not always have to be in the form of a formal conversation. The people around us give us feedback all the time. My son tells me all the time in passing that I am good at smoking BBQ. My daughter tells me that I give good speeches. My wife tells me that I am great at conflict resolution. My friends tell me that one of my strengths is strategy. All of these things help me know what I am good at and what stands out to them.
What do people tell you that you are good at? It could be writing. It could be sympathy or empathy. It could be a specific skill. Why is this so important? Because people notice what we do that is both effortless to us and inspiring to others. The trusted people around us many times are giving us insights into our life without us even knowing it. This can help frame how we pursue our vocation. To better grasp others thoughts about your life… ask them to weigh in on your strengths and what you are good at. You will be deeply encouraged. So, what do others say? But there is one other question… This is the hardest question of all.
What are the fears that keep me from doing it?
The last question to consider is about fear. Fear can be a really good thing. A healthy fear of death will keep us from running out in front of a car. But then there are fears that keep us from good & great things. I have been in the hospital twice because fear took control of my life. Both times the doctor in the ER came to me after a number of heart test and said “Mr. Lowe, we don’t think you have a heart issue… we think this is anxiety.” What was behind the anxiety for me? It was fear. Fear is paralyzing. And fear is an obstacle. And it can be an obstacle to achieving a career centered on your strengths.
So, as you examine what you are good at doing, examine the fears that keep you from doing it. Is it the fear of failure? You will never succeed without failure. Is it the fear of risk? I heard one leader one time say “we either risk or we rust.” Winston Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is courage that to continue that counts.” I need this truth constantly to move forward.
So, what are you good at? What do others notice about your strengths? And what are those fears that keep you from pursuing the way that you can impact the world?
List them and step out in courage!
One Last note…
If you notice, I have NOT framed this article in terms of “what do I love.” Should we love our “doings?” Yes. BUT… There is a caveat. Just because we love something does not mean we CAN do it. I love golf but I will never play professional golf. At least for a living. You should see my ‘approach shots.’ They leave a lot to be desired. I am a firm believer that if you find what you are good at and tease it out, you will fall in love with it.