I don’t know if I believe in the idea that we all have a calling. I don’t like the idea of destiny or pre-determination in life, I want to believe that I am captain of my own ship, free to steer in whatever direction I choose. Nevertheless, I do believe that many of us have an inherent desire to pursue a particular something as the thing we most want to do in our lives.
Even so, determining with certainty what that something is, isn’t always as easy as it might seem. Responsibilities, the expectations of others, the pressure to conform to society’s narrow definition of what makes for a successful life and the basic fact that pursuing the things that you most want to do with your life is a path fraught with fear and discomfort can all conspire to make us bury our something deep inside us.
When those symptoms of frustration and dissatisfaction show up, it’s tempting to start digging into ourselves to try to uncover some kind of revelation that will allow us to move forward with the commitment and conviction that so many of the people we admire seem to possess. This is why so many people are trying to ‘find their passion’, it’s why personality tests and self-help are so popular – because we want to be free from the uncomfortable but persistent feeling that there must be more to life than the way we are living it.
I don’t know if everybody has a something they want to do and it’s certainly not hard to find people who seem perfectly comfortable with lives that don’t seem to feature any particular passions or dreams. We all know people like that, they have unremarkable jobs working for the man that they don’t particularly hate. They generally have a family and seem to have no desire other than to go to work during the day and consume popular culture in the evenings.
But I’ve lost track of the number of times that people I thought were either the most content with the humdrum or who appeared happy and successful suddenly confessed to me that they weren’t really happy with their lives after all. Whether everybody has a something or not, I think I do, and the fact you’re reading this means that you probably do too.
I’ve already said that knowing for sure what that something might be isn’t as straightforward as it may seem and in recent years, a whole industry has sprung up around helping people find their passions or determine what they really want out of life.
Nevertheless, I think there’s a laughably easy way to determine what your something is and you can do it right now, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. You don’t need to make lists of your beliefs and values, you don’t need to go digging into your childhood hobbies, you don’t need to take multiple choice quizzes and you don’t need to write about your perfect day (as if you’re already living it). All you have to do is ask yourself a simple question and listen to the honest answer. Are you ready? Here’s the question:
“If you died today, what would you most regret not having accomplished in your life”.
The answer to that question is your something. And you’ll realise that you knew it all along.
Barry Dallman is a musician, writer and eternal student of the creative process. He is fascinated by the process of personal change and the challenges creative people face in committing to truly meaningful work. He's documenting his own creative struggles in the hopes of inspiring others to pursue what really matters to them.
Why don't we do what we really want to do? Why do we sacrifice our lives to our art - and then hold back from making it? What does it take to make us do the work we were born to do? Why is it so hard to be yourself?
These are the questions I'm trying to answer.
After years of fear and procrastination, I'm on a mission to show my work, fight the little voice that wants to stop me and share what I learn along the way. I'd love you to join me.