While you may not be aware of it, there is something that you know or are able to do that other people need or want. This is your edge and you need to keep it sharp.
Keep your wits about you. Observation and curiosity can take you a long way. Couple those things with a spirit that hungers to do something good for other people and you’re halfway there.
There is a great temptation in life to follow the professional paths that have been laid out before us. We see our friends and relatives get good jobs and become successful doing them, and we think this is the way. And it is the way for some. But not all. When we are unable to see other options because those paths are so engrained into our society, we severely hobble ourselves.
You must have a mind shift in which traditional paths are dissolved. Investigate yourself to see what it is about you that will allow you to make the world around you a significantly better place in this particular time and space.
Don’t think about what you want to do for the rest of your life. Ask yourself what you need to do right now. Figure out the timeline. Project it out. How long do you need? What resources do you need? Beware of the temptation that steers you off course. Look instead for that exalted need—a need so deep and so sacred that it has a quantum entanglement with what you have to offer.
For many of us, when we hear “life calling” and we think it means that one thing you were called to do for your entire life. Certainly there are people for whom that does happen, but it’s a mistake to think that it’s the right track for everyone. It is also a mistake to think that it’s an easy path and that those people are necessarily happy with the choices they’ve made.
People who are dedicated to one specific calling are fortunate in some ways and unfortunate in others. To be able to know so deeply that you have one direction and one destination is a good place to be, in that you are able to put all your resources toward that end. Yet, it is also a tremendous risk. Think of academics who spend their early adult lives focused on being an expert in one field only to be denied tenure. Or athletes who train and push their minds and bodies to the brink nearly every day, but are not picked up by sponsors, don’t get signed by a professional team, fail the Olympic trials, or a sudden injury prevents them from ever practicing their sport again. Now they must reinvent themselves, and that takes, time, energy, money, and the fortitude to put their past failures behind them and build a whole new life.
Then there are people who feel pulled in every direction. They are confronted with a sea of options, and it leaves them with what psychologist Barry Schwartz would call a paradox of choice. They are provided with so many options that it somehow feels as if there is no option that suits them. Those people could spend a lifetime in existential quandary, feeling adrift and despondent.
Picture a spectrum where on one side we have people who see how other people around them are serving their communities and follow their lead. They see the model that has proven to be successful and they use it to their advantage. On the other side of the spectrum, are people who can identify a need, see that perhaps no one has seen this need before, and blaze a new trail to satisfy that need.
In between these two points there is a continuum where you can find your edge in varying combinations of each extreme.
Take an inventory of your surroundings and your own knowledge, skills, and abilities. Where can you do some good at this moment? How can you improve on what you are already doing to help others? Don’t dwell on whether you should be doing something else instead, or that you might get distracted from some cosmic destiny. Take positive, constructive action. That’s your destiny.
Define your edge. Never allow yourself to be bored. There is plenty to do and the challenges around us are infinite.