Phone booth with calling quote from Frederick Buechne

How would you answer the question: why on earth am I on earth?

The foundation for all healthy leadership begins with a calling. Leaders have always been called. Sacred scriptures throughout the world emphasize this. However, what is almost always missed is the development of the call story.

There are two levels of calling that need to be identified. The first is a general calling and a specific calling. Each of these plays a unique and significant role in the life of the leader.

The general call is usually the first initial calling that comes with leadership. As a coach, it’s common to see this within the coaching field. Fresh out of coaches training, I was under the belief that I could (and should) coach “anyone and everyone.”

It’s an easy thought to rationalize:

If the coaching principles are true, then I should be able to coach anyone!

And while the coaching principles are true and universal, I cannot nor should I, coach everyone. Coaches always seem to learn this the hard way, usually through a bad client. Thankfully, I had my bad client experience early on. While I knew that in theory, I could coach anyone, practically I knew I didn’t want to coach him again.

Specific calling happens when leaders remain faithful to pursuing and developing a robust answer to the question, “Why on earth am I on earth? What’s my ultimate purpose? Phone booth with calling quote from Frederick Buechne

In my own coaching practice, I’ve worked with C-Suite executives, entrepreneurs, managers, religious professionals, educators, and people in the service industry. Each person allowed me to narrow down my specific niche. Now, I can clearly and confidently say that I provide executive coaching for small business owners.

Engaging in Your Calling

Most of us have experienced a general calling to leadership. That’s why we’re plugged into a network like LinkedIn. It’s the place for us to connect with other like-minded individuals.

I’m also willing to venture that many of us have found our specific calling. We know what we were put here to do.

The tension happens in two locations: for those that don’t know their specific calling and for those that do and aren’t doing it.

First, burnout can affect those that don’t know their specific calling. For years, I was stuck in this position. You, or someone you know, might be in this position if they say things like:

  • I don’t know where my life is going.
  • What’s my purpose?
  • I can’t seem to figure out what I’m trying to do.
  • I feel so lost.

These sorts of sayings are clues and indicators of an undefined and unrefined calling. For these leaders, burnout happens because the mounting frustration of an incomplete vision leaves them overwhelmed. Life for leaders was never meant to stop with a general calling.

All leaders all call for a specific reason, to a specific place, for specific people, to accomplish a significant mission.

The second place for burnout is for those that know their specific calling but aren’t practicing it. You might hear or feel sayings like this:

  • I feel like I’m made for more.
  • If I could just get the right opportunity…
  • I could accomplish so much if I could just get out of my own way.

For those with a specific, but yet unfulfilled calling, burnout can happen because of the increasing resentment of seemingly insurmountable barriers.

Leaders with an unfulfilled specific calling struggle with the fear of failure, inadequacy, or of missing out on achieving ultimate success.

Calling – Meeting The Needs of Others

Frederick Buechner once referred to calling as,

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

And notice, that so far, I have mentioned nothing about jobs, titles, or positions. Those are largely irrelevant when it comes to fulfilling a calling in leadership.

I worked with an individual once who, by all personality tests and interviews, would have been a great church planter. As we worked through his areas of calling and gifting, however, we discovered that he didn’t want to plant a church at all. Instead, he wanted to revitalize old churches and bring new life to established congregations.

Another former client worked his way up the corporate ladder, only to find himself lonely at the top. After reevaluating his career choices, he started down a completely different career field that gave him more flexibility in his home life. He was much happier wearing the pinstripes of a coach to his son’s baseball team than the pinstripes of his three-piece suit.

Calling – What it is … and what it isn’t

Calling is …

  • discovering, pursuing, and fulfilling the answer to the question, “What on earth am I on earth for?”
  • knowing intimately your deepest purpose and passion in the world.
  • a part of everyone’s story.
  • foundational to establish healthy leadership patterns while avoiding burnout.

Calling is not …

  • dependent on rank, title, position, promotion, or title.
  • arrogant, boastful, proud, or demeaning of others.
  • reserved for a select few “special ones.”
  • an optional endeavor who want to reach their full potential.

The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.

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