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5 Practical Tips for Discernment

Have you ever had a moment of desperation where you turned to Google, Siri, or Alexa and asked "what is the purpose of my life"? Being assured that you have a special purpose in the grand scheme of things is important for feeling contentment but it's not easy to believe you have a purpose, let alone discern what it means for you. 

In religious circles, people love to use the term "call" or "calling" and rarely explain what it means or why it's important. Call is a divine purpose that is uniquely yours and helps to give your life meaning. Call is the place where the needs of the world overlap your passion. It is something that urges you from deep within and gives you the chance to invest yourself in things you really believe in. It asks the question: how do you want to make a difference?

And that question is not easy to answer. Making decisions about who you are and what your life is about can be really intimidating and scary. Nobody wants to get it wrong but it's not simply about making a choice, it's a journey of discovery.

Yes, it is a big deal. But there is a place to start.

Be Brave.

Doing the hard work of self-understanding is tough. It can get frustrating and messy because getting vulnerable shows all the good and the bad.  It's like the first time you live with a roommate and find out how truly difficult you are to live with. When you're young and living with family, it's easy to overlook the things that make you different. But discernment is all about finding your uniqueness, even if you don't see any positives in it right away.

Own Your Journey.

We each bring our own story and experiences to the table. It isn't about being perfect. It's about being yourself.  Your call is yours. It doesn't exist in spite of you but for you and your specific circumstances. Each of us have a different path. For some people it looks really easy and quick, while for others it takes a long time to figure things out. No matter what path your discovery takes, it's okay. Don't rush or feel bad if it looks different than you thought it would. It's about the journey as much as the destination. 

Dream Big.

Start to identify skills, abilities, and passions. But don't do it in isolation. Find a group of people who have lived through their own discernment who you can trust to walk with you. This is where a spiritual family can be really helpful. They will pray for you and with you and help you understand what you are feeling and experiencing. They serve as partners on the journey who want nothing but the best for you.

Lean In.

Once you have some ideas about what you love and what you are good at, start to get some experience. Often we get a warped perception of something if we don't try it out. Take the opportunity to volunteer your time and see if it helps to clarify where you're headed. This might mean you move away from something you thought was right because you discover new things about yourself. This is a gift. Knowing who you are means also knowing who you're not. Fail forward and know that you will find something you love.

Be Open to Change.

As we grow, we change and our calling changes with us. I'm not like my grandparents. I won't work the same job or in the same industry for my whole career and that's okay. It's also okay that my passions change as my life changes. I am not the same person I was before I had a child. My focus changed and my purpose changed too. Your calling can flex with you as you discern who you are throughout your life. Don't worry, you're not forever stuck with what you choose today.

I know that these tips don't make the process any less big or scary but, hopefully, it's less intimidating. Each of us wants to feel like we are in the right place and discerning your call is all about finding your place. The most important thing you can do as you discern is reach out: Talk to someone you trust right away and continue to invite others to walk with you on your journey. Do the hard work and I promise you will find a place of purpose where you can help to shape this world into a better place.


Anna Eckelbarger Salas is an avid reader, movie enthusiast, Star Wars nerd, and intense board game player who finds joy in traveling with family and delicious food.  She has a heart for young people, justice, and service and is committed to local and global engagement.  She serves as the Director of Family Engagement at First United Methodist Church in Auburn, Indiana.