It happened again yesterday. I met a friend for lunch and she asked, “Where do you keep all that stuff in your brain?” I responded, “What stuff?”

She said, “You are like a walking encyclopedia with books, podcasts, videos, TED talks, research studies, interesting statistics. How do you collect it all and how do you keep track of it so you can tell others?”

Teenage friends at the coffee bar debating, Ljubljana, Slovenia

I don’t think I’m different from anyone else, but it must be a gift I have because many people tell me something similar. I guess I have an aptitude for collecting interesting psychological facts, simplifying them, and regurgitating them with personal anecdotes. I certainly did this in my book Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. In my book I wrote about everything that helped me heal from an early life of trauma and loss, along with the tools I currently use in my counseling practice to help others heal.

 

When I was in Italy a few weeks ago, our tour guide was talking on the intercom as the bus rolled along. She was telling us what made her—an American—stay in Italy for eleven years. When she said there was something about the pace of life and the simplicity, I raised my hand and asked if she had heard of the famous Roseto effect. She hadn’t, so she asked me to come forward to the microphone, to tell the group.

 

Afterwards, a fellow traveler in our group, a psychologist from Hawaii, said,

“You took something so interesting and explained it in such a simple way. Lucille you are a homespun scholar.” As hard as it is for me to accept a compliment, I need to believe this is how God gifted me. If you struggle to know your gifting (aptitude, calling, vocation) consider the following:

Learn what is unique about you. I’d start with the VIA Survey of Character Strengths assessment (there’s a free version and a $40 in-depth version) and the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. You’ll receive a code inside the book that lets you take an online assessment.

Ask others what they see. Consider the bible passage 2 Timothy 1:5-7, “Listen humbly to other people in your life: They not only confirm your gifts. They are the instruments of God to awaken in you possibilities.”

Try on lots of hats. Play with various vocations and hobbies. Years ago our pastor was looking for someone to teach his Bethel Bible Study class. I was a shy, insecure mom raising young children, but I decided to try and it turns out I love to research and teach others. Now I teach adult students at Colorado Christian University.

Consider when you lose track of time. What doesn’t feel like work to you? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it “flow” – a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work. It’s the place where you are challenged but enjoying whatever activity has your interest.

Focus on the present. Instead of asking yourself what you should do or be when you grow up, consider what it is that you are excited about right now. A friend emailed me while I was on my trip and said, “My Goddaughter is married to a cobbler there in Orvieto. Make sure you stop in to meet him.” A cobbler? That’s right. Federico Badia was excited about traditional shoemaking. Each pair takes about 50 hours and sells for about $1500. He also makes other leather goods. I fell in love with the blue purse hanging on the wall, but the straps were too short. His wife asked me to come back in a few hours—they fit the purse to my needs. My purse is not just a purse; it’s a reminder of someone who has found his unique calling.

I think you’ll get a kick out of this two minute video.

 

Here are a few more tips to help you discover your calling:

Reminisce about the past. What do you remember loving? Where could people find you? What were you doing? Who did you admire? What were they doing?

Dream about the future. What do you want said about you when you die? What would you write on your own gravestone? What do you hope people would say in your eulogy?

Stop ‘shoulding’ all over yourself. Turn down the voices of your parents and friends. If money were not an issue, what would you do with your time and energy?

Create visuals. What captivates you? What energizes you? Enrages you? Make a collage. Tear pictures out of magazines without thinking too much—let the creative side of your brain work. Doodle, draw, write topics that light you up. Jot down some of your favorite movie titles. What do they have in common? (The common theme for my three favorite movies was “help for hurting people”)

Relax. Know there is not one calling, and understand callings change over time.

 

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

-Frederick Buechner

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Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.

She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."