Calling or Security / Vision or Golden Handcuffs

Milton Woolley, MS, MFT

A "Calling" is the igniting force of personal determination to seek and realize authentic purpose in life! I recently attended a workshop led by Gregg Levoy. We worked to identify and understand the "Callings" in our lives. Mr. Levoy said, in essence, that the purpose of "Calling" is to summon us away from our daily grinds to a new level of awareness; an Awareness where we are drawn into a sacred frame of mind, into communion with that which is bigger than ourselves. 


The workshop intrigued me because often people, who come to see me, in my therapeutic role, are often seeking unification or a reunification with their authenticity. Personally, I have tried to guide my life by listening for callings and then using them as clues to my path of authenticity. For example, I was first called into the ministry and while pursuing the goal of ordination I worked with young people who were wards of the court, using drugs or had severe family problems. The desire to support young people like these led me to redirect my educational path and I returned to graduate school to receive my Master's Degree in Social Welfare and Corrections. This redirection created new opportunities to work with youth and families. I have been a therapist for almost 30 years. 


Mr. Levoy would say that my calling was that of helping troubled youth, individuals and families. I could have done that in many different settings like, church, a probation department, a school or in a psychotherapy office. I came to understand that a calling isn't to a specific place or role but to a core purpose. 


Pressures that keep us from recognizing our personal callings take many forms. I met a young woman who as a child developed incredible skill and talent in playing classical piano. She loved playing the piano and obviously was blessed with a gift for it. When she was 12 her teacher suggested her parents let her train to play for a major event that could put her on a path to playing professionally some day. They said no there was no money in playing the piano and she would do well to find a way to make a real living as an adult. She stopped playing all together, denying the joy the piano brought her. 


Another common example is financial pressures that cause a person to turn a calling into a hobby and create a career that supports the hobby instead of the other way around. Let's say a person who longs to paint or sculpt and spends 80% of his time working at something he tolerates so he can have 20% of his time to do what he loves. 


There are also circumstantial situations that drive people away from their callings and purpose. A story we hear more and more often these days is when someone with an MBA develops a career as a business manager working for a technology firm. Things go well for 15 years when the company is bought and merged with a larger firm. The new company insists on applying management policies that are antithetical to her values and beliefs; further she matured to an age that makes it difficult to make a shift. She decides to stay because she is supporting a family and has kids in a local school they love. Her courage to do what she loves is further dampened by the "golden handcuffs" of security of the company retirement plan and health benefits. To follow her true purpose into the unknown would seem reckless. Sadly the remainder of her career is spent trudging toward retirement filled with feelings of dread, irrelevancy, depression and disillusionment. 


In his book: Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life (Three River Press, New York, 1998), Mr. Levoy speaks to these issues and is very effective at mapping out what is required for those who are seeking an authentic path. 


If you are interested in participating in a group that deals with this subject,

please contact Milton Woolley at

Phone: 707-481-4343