The Vocation Approach

A person’s vocation is their calling. It is what they are here to do. Their vocation may remain constant throughout their life. They may express this through various vehicles, however, on the way towards doing valuable work.

There are relatively few vocational themes but the way a person expresses these will be unique. Most of the themes revolve around the eternal human activities. These include, for example:

Encouraging … Nurturing … Educating … Exploring … Creating …  Designing … Orchestrating … Building … Implementing … Problem Solving … Communicating … Performing … Or Doing Other Activities.

How can you clarify your vocation? As mentioned earlier in the book, one approach is to focus on several satisfying projects that you have done in your life.

Looking at what made these satisfying can reveal your successful style of working. It can also provide clues to your vocation. Here is an exercise on this theme.

My Successful Style

This is a long but worthwhile exercise that highlights when you have translated your strengths into action. It invites you to do the following things. 

Describe two or three satisfying projects you have done in your life.

The word project can be used in its widest sense. For example: writing an article, organising a fun run, launching a web site, solving a particular problem, leading a team or whatever. 

Describe each of these projects in turn and the things that made each of them satisfying.

Try to be as specific as possible, especially about the things that made them satisfying. Looking at these projects, can you see any recurring patterns? These provide clues to your preferred style.

Describe your successful style of working – the principles you follow when doing satisfying work.

You may, for example, find it satisfying to do something you really care about, set a stimulating goal, work with motivated people, have a manager who gives you freedom within parameters.

Describe how you can follow these principles in the future.

This part invites you to consider how you can keep following your principles and do satisfying work. This is something you can do to pursue personal projects.

If you want to get paid for doing professional work, however, it may mean finding or creating a project where you can follow your preferred style. This will also mean delivering specific benefits that help the potential sponsors to succeed.

How to clarify your vocation? Looking at your satisfying projects, it is:

To clarify a recurring theme in terms of what made them satisfying;  

To clarify the specific things you aimed to do when pursuing that theme;

To clarify your possible vocation.  

Here are some of the examples of vocations that people give when exploring this topic.

My Vocation Is:

To encourage people to become the best they can be … To create enriching environments in which people grow … To build successful prototypes that show a better way.

To share knowledge that people can use to maintain their wellbeing … To help people to become the architects of their lives … To design sustainable systems that deliver ongoing success.

To help people to find and follow their purpose … To design things that are simple, satisfying and successful … To produce films that encourage people to appreciate nature and our place in the world. 

To create beautiful things that inspire people … To show people how they can build on what they have in common … To do practical work that helps to makes the world a better place.

There is another approach to clarifying your vocation. This is to focus on the vocational archetypes. Here is an introduction to some of these archetypes.


Imagine that you have begun to clarify your vocation. It is time to move on to the next stage.

Finding the right vehicle

Different people will express their vocation in different ways. Imagine that your vocation may be:

To create enriching environments in which people grow.

You can express this theme through many different vehicles. For example, you may choose:

To be an educator … To be an interior designer … To create inspiring music … To do landscape gardening … To lead a successful team in which people perform at their best … Or whatever.

There are many ways you can express your vocation. So how to find the right vehicle? It is important to find the field and form of activity in which you can excel. Let’s explore these two areas.

Focusing on your chosen field

You may feel at home working with certain kinds of people, technology, business, science, sport, the arts, food, music, management or whatever.

It can be useful to focus on a field of activity that you find fascinating, have a strong feeling for and also have a track record of finishing. Let’s explore these themes.

You find the activity fascinating

What are the things that fascinate you? What are the activities where you want to explore and make sense of things? What are those where you want to build models?

One clue is to choose a field where you would pursue this activity even if you did not get paid for doing it. It is a positive addiction.

Derek Jacobi, the actor, explained this approach in a television interview. When approached by young people who want his advice on becoming an actor, he said something like the following.

“If you want to become an actor, then don’t do it. If you need to become an actor, then do it.”

You have a strong feeling for the activity

Looking at the field of activity you have chosen, do you have a strong feeling for it? Are you good at it? If so, begin to explore how you can do more of this kind of work.

If not, take the time to reflect on other fascinating activities. Looking at these activities, where do you have the ability to do good work that is fulfilling? Settle on one you want to explore further.

You have a track record of finishing

Let’s return to the activity you find fascinating and have a feeling for. Is it one where you also have a track record of finishing? Here is an example given by one person. 

“I have a good record of building and selling successful prototypes. This normally takes between two and three years.  

“I did run one company for five years. But scaling the business meant I got involved in the maintenance aspects. My staff took care of the day-to-day work, of course, but I lost interest in running the business.

“Some people create and sell larger businesses for massive sums, but that is not my forte. I prefer to build prototypes, provide proof of concept and then sell to buyers. This is what I am good at finishing.”

Focusing on the form of activity

It is also important to choose a form of activity that fits your successful working style. You may prefer to express your talents by teaching, leading, managing, writing, speaking, designing, making films or doing another activity.

You may prefer to work alone, to be a leader, to work in a team, to work in an organisation or follow another path. Let’s look at some people who have employed various vehicles to follow their vocation.

Person A’s vocation is simplifying technology and showing how it can improve people’s lives. Starting out as a techie, he also proved to be a gifted journalist.

He wrote articles that made technical things simple. Written in an accessible style, these led to him producing a much-acclaimed blog. He is now the official storyteller for a huge technology company.

Person B’s vocation is creating events that enrich people’s lives. Initially attracted to retail, she moved into the hospitality business. She built a business offering creative facilities for training events.

Highly successful, these centres offer great service, healthy food and a sense of theatre. They also provide sweets that adults remember from their childhoods. Sometimes the visitors talk more about these goodies than they do the training.

Person C’s vocation is creating environments that empower people to take charge of their lives. He also has a great feeling for sport and, in particular, football. Following a personal tragedy, he focused on creating a World Cup for Street Football.

Running tournaments in local communities across the world, he used street football to bring people together. People made connections and, in many cases, then harnessed their talents to tackle other challenges in their communities.

Clarifying one’s vocation can become a lifetime search, but there are clues that can be found quickly. The key is to focus on the activities that give you positive energy and make your heart sing.

While the theme may remain constant, the way you express this may change over the years. If you wish, try tackling the exercise called My Vocation. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe what you believe may be your vocation.

Looking back at the satisfying projects you have done in your life, can you see any themes? Is there a red thread that runs through the projects? Does this give any clues to your possible vocation?

If so, describe what you believe may be your vocation. Don’t worry too much about the actual wording – that can take years – have a go at describing your vocation.

Describe the possible vehicles you can use to express your vocation in the future.

You may already use a tried and trusted vehicle. This may be writing, painting, gardening, building, encouraging people, teaching, solving problems, broadcasting, communicating or whatever. Focus on the vehicles that you feel most attracted to using.

Describe the specific things you can do to deliver valuable work when expressing your vocation through these vehicles.

You may wish to prepare properly, organise your time in blocks, work with particular people, do certain things to produce superb quality work or whatever. Try to be as specific as possible when completing the following exercise.

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