I’ve realized time and again that we only have one shot at this life, one chance to experience the world with its many opportunities and outcomes. I trust that we all have a purpose which may be denied temporarily, but once experienced, we do not easily forget it. We will know it when we feel it. Until then, don’t compromise or give up.” ~ Annie Stewart
You may have always thought of your work as a career, but executive and career coach and author Annie Stewart believes that each person has a calling. Annie says her calling came to her in the shower. Since then she’s been passionately helping others to find and follow a path to meaningful work that makes a difference in their lives and the lives of others.
I met with Annie recently in Sydney, Australia were we talked for hours about the importance of working with passion and purpose.
Diane Rogers: Annie, tell us what you do and why you’re passionate about it.
Annie Stewart: I am the founder and director of Sympatico Coaching Practice and The Callings Program. We are based in Sydney, Australia and have been providing career development and corporate coaching services since 2000. My work is driven by the desire to help individuals thrive.
I love what I do because I know I make a difference and touch lives both face to face and through the wider reach of my book, How to Find and Follow Your Calling and The Callings Program. I have many examples where clients have gone on to lead more fulfilling lives and I feel the ripple effect of our time together and the ongoing impact upon them and their communities.
I get a huge buzz working with people, trying to help them crack the code of what their life’s work is meant to be and how to do something about it. Each day I use my talent and instinct as as seeker of truth, investigator, ‘doer’ and dreamer!
DR: Annie, your work is about the work we are each “called” to do. How did you first discover your life’s work, your calling?
AS: I was in my early forties the day I knew the work I would always do. That was nearly 14 years ago and I remember the moment vividly. I was having an early morning shower, thinking about the day ahead when out of the blue, I recognized my calling. This bolt of inspiration followed a period of nagging anxiety and deep questioning. It seemed that the flash of insight in the shower had chosen me, rather than the other way round.
It was a moment of clear seeing, in which many years of working in my various roles and pursuing a spiritual path fused in a way that left me in no doubt. A belief was shaped in an instant. And in that instant, I understood my life’s work. My calling is to encourage others to live theirs.
Since then, I’ve had energy to burn. I established Sympatico, networked, set about researching the topic of ‘calling’ and went on to complete a doctorate, improved my presentation skills, adjusted my financial goals and rearranged my work hours so I could write a book. I was ‘in the groove’, happier and more confident than I had ever been. Finding my calling transformed my professional and personal life as well as opening the door to a more authentic and enriching life.
AS: These days there are minimal downsides for me. Experience has taught me to anticipate a ‘downslide’ before I fall! For instance, last year I felt the signs of burnout and was fortunate to be able to take a four-month sabbatical. I sold my house, put my ‘stuff’ in storage, packed my bags and headed off to Europe. I returned renewed and refreshed.
My challenge is managing choices when I feel pulled in 2 directions: freedom versus responsibility; intimacy versus solitude; work/life balance versus opportunities and financial security.
AS: We need to consider what a well lived life looks like and choose it. There is a Sufi saying, ‘At the place of the 5 rivers, choose one and immerse yourself fully in it.’ If we achieve this we are in the ‘flow’ and joy of life, we answer our inner voice and intuition and live by it. I have learned to watch for the procrastinating impact of too many options.
Fear and lack of confidence are the common blocks for many of us. Our fears can prevent us from moving forward and keep us trapped within ourselves, but when we face those fears head on and reveal them for what they are – imposters with no real basis in our lives – then we can move on and start to embrace the life we want and deserve. It may require courage but with small, steady steps, it can be done.
I’ve realized time and again that we only have one shot at this life, one chance to experience the world with its many opportunities and outcomes. I trust that we all have a purpose which may be denied temporarily, once experienced, we do not easily forget it. We will know it when we feel it. Until then, don’t compromise or give up.
I had the oportunity to listen to Gloria Steinem speak at a writer’s festival in India recently. She posed a wonderful question: How do you find the support and the circumstances that allow you to express what’s inside you?
Are you longing to make a career change, but stuck because you’re not sure which direction to take? Are you curious about what your calling might be? Begin by asking yourself:
1. What work makes me feel purposeful and alive?
2. What am I still longing to express?
3. What does my spirit want?
4. What is my version of a life well lived?