How Do You Know Your True Vocation?

True Vocation 2

Do you remember a moment in your life when you were “in the flow,” when you worked on something and you were forgetting time and space, when you felt happy, creative, and fulfilled, and when you knew you were making an important contribution? If you have experienced moments like this in your life, then you have very likely been doing work related to your true vocation.

True Vocation Call CtrMany of the people I have coached in their career development recall having had experiences such as the one described above, but don’t quite know how to recreate these kinds of moments in their daily work. That’s why, years ago, I started to research the question of “How do you know your True Vocation?” so it could serve as a foundation to help people make significant career decisions. Through my research, I came across the following definition from Frederick Buechner:

        “Your true vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

I found Buechner’s conception of vocation to be very useful, and the definition eventually became the inspiration for the Boomerang Approach. Based on Buechner’s definition, I drew up my own version of how to identify one’s true vocation with a diagram showing two overlapping circles, with one circle representing the world need(s) that a person cares about, and the other circle representing the activities a person feels most happy doing (which I labeled as Passion). In Buechner’s model, the intersection of the two circles represents a person’s true vocation, as depicted in the following graph.

Two Circle Model

While the people I coached liked the simplicity of the model, I noticed that something important was missing: a person’s strengths, talents, or gifts. A strength is something you are very good at. It might be a talent you were born with, or a special skill you were not necessarily born with but you learned and developed over the years.

After successfully testing the strength concept in my coaching, I added strength as a third circle to the model. This then became the True Vocation Model, shown below, which I have been using for years as the foundation of The Boomerang Approach to guide people through the process of finding and transitioning to a new career.

Three Circle Model

Applying the Boomerang Approach True Vocation Model helps you find a role at the intersection of your passion, your world needs, and your strengths. In that role you will have found your true vocation, which means you can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning, you will feel passion for your work, and you will feel “in the flow” more often. This feeling will be accompanied by a strong sense of purpose, because you will be making a contribution to the world, your organization, your community, or your family.

If you would like to learn more about how you can find your True Vocation, you may be interested in my new book, The Boomerang Approach, available at: