This is a very common question that I have gotten many times. And the simple answer to that is, YES. But the answer requires explanation.
As children, we are asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” And almost always, the adults asking this question expect us to name one thing. When I was young and an adult asked me that question, he expected me to say, police officer, or teacher, or lawyer, or doctor, or farmer, or something crazy like a monster. There is an unwritten but very tightly held rule that has them expect only one answer. And through their expectant stares and smiles, the adult often communicates to the kids that they expect them to say one and only one thing. They don’t use words to say that.
The truth about life is that it’s complex and difficult to predict even for adults, let alone for kids. Most adults today still don’t know what their “one” calling is. Perhaps, the reason why so many haven’t found out what their “one” calling is is because there isn’t only one calling.
If you study the most successful people throughout the history of life, you will realize that many successful people had different passions or callings that they pursued during different seasons of their lives. For some, the seasons were a few years and for others, the seasons were decades or an entire lifetime.
Calling as the chief assignment for a season of life
A good way to understand calling is to view it as your main assignment, passion, or mission for a season of your life. Your life can have more than one season. Yet, for some people, it may be one. I know people who felt called to teach when they were young and they went to college to be trained as teachers and have taught their entire lives. They haven’t done anything else at all. That’s their “one” calling. The right way to view it is that their season was one lifetime long.
I also know a successful person who have passionately taught high school for a decade, the proceeded to go to medical school and passionately serve as a physician, and then he ended up as a public speaker passionately empowering people to live better lives. This person’s had three life seasons with different assignments.
One thing to note is that our calling or callings are always compatible with the way we are designed. It’s obvious to the keen observer that we are not created equal. We have different heights, skin colors, natural abilities, talents, personalities, and life experiences. Some people can sing like Celine Dionne. Others cannot carry a tune regardless of how hard they try. Even though we grow throughout life, we are confined in major ways to the design that was endowed to us at birth through our DNA. In addition to that, during our most formative years, we go through crucial life experiences that shape us deeply at a time when we have no control over it. Even as adults, we have little control over many of our life circumstances.
That means that even though we can have multiple callings, our callings will be very similar because they will be using the same basic natural gifts and talents that we had from birth. Throughout life, we can develop our natural gifts but we can’t change our DNA much to get new natural talents. A person like Ben Carson may be a neurosurgeon one season of his life and then run for president another season or serve in public life. While they seem very different, these two callings use the same gift set and the skills are more transferable than most people will think. For example, to be a medical doctor like Ben Carson requires many years of education. It requires you to be a fast learner. As he works with people one-on-one every day, he gets to hear their stories, learn and understand people’s lives, patients confide in him and he gets to really understand want makes people tick and what their struggles are. This is experience that someone who goes directly into politics will also have to spend time learning to be effective. As such, even though someone like Ben Carson transitioning into politics from medicine has to learn, he probably already has 90% of what it takes nailed down and only has to learn 10% which might comprise of learning a new system and how politics works within politics works within politics. And because no one in politics has a 100% of what it takes to be a politician, you see that as people from different background go into politics, they are advanced in certain areas than the people who are already in politics and they can work on their deficiencies to catch up. But it is nowhere close to going back to college and beginning to learn about politics and government.
Avoid Multi-Tasking with Callings
So, yes, you can have more than one calling in life. However, multi-tasking destroys calling than anything I know. With calling, it’s not good to pursue many passions at once because a passion requires our full focus especially when we are beginning to learn about that area. It’s best to pursue different callings in different seasons of life than try to do everything at once. Remember, there is a time for everything. If you do the right thing at the wrong time, you get a disaster.
And remember, calling is the chief assignment or mission for a season. It doesn’t have to be the only assignment, just the main assignment. For example, I know full-time medical doctors who are part-time writers. I know some who have written four or five books during their career. Their main assignment or calling during the season is taking care of patients and they prioritize that. However, in their spare time, they write books. For some, because they are also passionate about writing, it actually helps them as a way to relieve stress and rejuvenate themselves when they are not seeing patients. Yet, writing to them is something they feel called to do. However, medicine always comes first. They only write when it doesn’t compete with their patient care.
Yet, the same person who used to write part-time during one season may get to the point where a new season begins and writing becomes their main calling and they only see patients part-time when they have time. There are many different permutations of this.
A key to remember is that while you may have multiple seasons of callings in life, your life has only one purpose. Purpose unifies a life. Your purpose is the reason or reasons you believe you were created. If you have more than one reason, all those reasons together form your one purpose for being.