The Art of Strengths Coaching

V is for Following Your Vocation

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There are many ways to do positive work. This article focuses on how to follow your vocation. The ideas can also be applied when helping other people to do satisfying work.

A person’s vocation is their calling. It is what they are here to do. Their vocation remains constant throughout their life, but they may express it through various vehicles on the way towards doing valuable work. Let’s explore these steps.


How can you begin to clarify your vocation? One approach is to start by doing the exercise called My Successful Style.

This invites you look back at some of the most satisfying projects you have done in your life. It is then to see if there is a recurring theme.

The red thread in these projects may be, for example, encouraging people, inventing products, leading pioneering teams, solving problems, creating beauty, making the world a better place or whatever. Here is the exercise.

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Looking at these projects, can you see any recurring themes? These can give clues to your vocation. One person found that their recurring theme was:

“I want to create enriching environments in which people grow.”

This was their driver, the thing they wanted to do each day. It was something they aimed to do in both their personal and professional life.

There were many vehicles they could use to express this theme on the way towards doing valuable work. Depending on their talents, they could choose, for example:

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 could grow.

Or whatever.

Later we will explore the various vehicles that you can use to express you calling. Before then, however, let’s return to your vocation.

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

Encouraging … Educating … Exploring … Creating … Designing … Building … Implementing … Problem Solving … Communicating … Performing … Or Whatever.

Clarifying one’s vocation can become a lifetime search, but there are some clues that can be found reasonably 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.

Settle on a theme that resonates for you. Don’t worry too much about the actual wording. It can take a lifetime to get the words exactly right.

Describe the specific times in the past when you may have expressed this vocation.

These may have been through specific activities, projects or other things.

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There are many different ways you can express your vocation. So how to find the right vehicle? One approach is to focus on a specific activity that fulfils the following qualities.

You find the activity fascinating. You have a strong feeling for the activity – you are good at it. You also have a track record of finishing in the activity. 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 almost like a positive addiction.

The Gallup Organization asks people a question on this theme when exploring their strengths. They ask:

“What are the things you cannot help but do?”

Derek Jacobi, the actor, said something similar in a television interview. When approached by young people who want his advice on becoming an actor, he says 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 also fulfilling? Then settle on one you want to explore further.

How to tell whether you have a feeling for an activity? Sometimes it can be useful to ask some of the classic questions. These include the following.

What are the deeply satisfying activities in which you deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs? When are you in your element, at ease and yet able to excel?

What are the activities in which you quickly see patterns? Where do you have the ability to make complicated things simple? Where do you see the destination quickly? When do you go ‘A, B … then leap to … Z’?

You have a track record
of finishing in the activity

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?

“I have a good record of building and selling pioneering businesses,” said one entrepreneur. “This normally takes between 2 and 3 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.”

Let’s assume you have clarified the specific activity you want to pursue. It is also important to clarify your best way of working.

You may prefer to express your talents by teaching, leading, managing, writing, designing, making films or whatever. You may prefer to work alone, be a leader, work in a team, work in an organisation or whatever.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme called My Vehicles. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe what you believe may be your vocation.

Describe the specific vehicles you can use to express this vocation in the future.

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Valuable Work

How to do work that is an expression of your vocation? Here are some people I have met – and in some cases worked with – who have done valuable work.

Steve Clayton aims to simplify technology and show how it can improve people’s lives. Starting out as a techie, he also proved to be a gifted journalist and educator.

He began writing articles that made technical things simple. Written in an accessible style, these eventually led to him producing a much-acclaimed blog called A Geek In Disguise. This was revolutionary at the time. Here is an entry from 2005.

Steve moved to Seattle and is now the Chief Story Teller for Microsoft. He found the right vehicle for using his strengths and passing on knowledge to people. You can discover more about Steve via the following link.

Renata Wallace loves to create experiences that enrich people’s lives. This eventually led to her building a business that provides stimulating venues for seminars and other events.

The wallacespace has several spaces in London. These provide great service, healthy food and many special touches. These include sweets that adults remember from their childhoods.

You can discover more about The Wallace Space via the following link.

Jürgen Griesbeck creates environments that empower people to shape their future lives. He also has a great feeling for sport and, in particular, football.

Spurred on by a tragedy, he focused on creating a World Cup for Street Football. Running tournaments in local communities across the world, this used football to bring people together.

Street Football World

People make connections and, in many cases, then harness their talents to tackle other challenges in their communities. You can discover more about Street Football World via the following link.

You will choose your own way of following your vocation and using different vehicles to do valuable work. If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe what you believe may be your vocation.

Describe the specific things you can do to follow your vocation and do valuable work.  

Describe the specific benefits of doing this work – both for yourself and other people.

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