Although most people think of a calling as a specific vocation or career, a calling is more than that.

A calling is a longing to take on a new challenge that honors a need that is larger than yourself.

Your calling may be paid work. Or your paid work might provide the financial stability to fulfill your callings outside of your job.

Our callings often arise from grief and rage.

In the great stories, the hero often first hears their call when malign forces kidnap and carry them away to foreign lands against their will. The real journey begins when the hero decides not to succumb to their fate but, rather, to maintain their dignity and fight to transform their circumstances.

Likewise, unwanted circumstances outside of our control—illness, death, injustice—often spark callings.

When you hear a calling, you might not feel like you have a choice.

Your body might tell you that there is work that you must do, even if part of you would rather ignore the call and keep scrolling Instagram instead.

But like the hero in the story, we do face a choice: How will we respond to our longings for change? A crisis becomes a calling when we choose to rise to the challenge with our whole heart, even when we know the road ahead is full of danger.

Callings can be outward-focused or inward-focused.

Life may be calling you to go campaign mode and work really hard on behalf of the collective, or life may be calling you to close the computer and go hiking—even though part of you says you should work.

When you have a call, you may feel done with how you’ve been doing things. Or you may long to start something new. Depending on the seasons, the moons, the time of day, and your unique needs, you will feel both called to rise and to rest. Given that you live in a human body, that’s as it should be.

Despite the fact that we’ve been trained to think they’re selfish, inward-focused callings do serve something larger.

In the face of a dominant culture that devalues life, when we say yes to our callings to go inward, rest, nurture our energy, heal trauma, say no to obligations that do not honor us, reconnect with the people we love, celebrate the rhythms of the land, or engage in other self-nourishing practices, we take a stand for the collective wellbeing.

Most people only hear a big call a handful of times in a lifetime. However, when we listen closely, we can hear the little calls coming all the time, summoning us to take our next step, including steps that don’t make complete sense at the time or that we really don’t want to take.

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