When I was busy starting my life as a young adult, moving from high school to college and beyond, finding your purpose wasn’t a thing. Nobody asked me what my purpose on earth was. Nobody taught me how to find my calling.

Instead, I did what most teenage girls of the time did, and set my sights on getting a degree and a good job.

Oh, and finding a husband and starting a family too.

That’s what good girls did back then. Welcome to Generation X, the time when everybody taught us we could do it all. College? Definitely. A career? Of course. Just make sure it didn’t interfere with the traditional roles women had lived by for generations. Times were changing … but you didn’t want to let the “good stuff” pass you by.

I fell into my degree more than set my sights on it. One class turned into another, and before I knew it, I graduated with the only degree I had enough credits for: a business degree with an emphasis in finance. What I would do with it, I had no idea.

You see, back then, we didn’t have personality tests, career assessments, or guides to help you figure out life. (Or if they did exist, nobody in my circle knew about them. I didn’t see anything like that until many years later.)

My finance degree led me to a job in banking. I eventually moved to accounting, and finally to auditing, before I gave it all up for the opportunity to start my own business.

That’s how most of us “fell” into the jobs we had, the careers we built. Not because it’s what we wanted, but more because it was there at the right time.

Of course, everything I learned along the way made me into the person I am today. And for that, I’m grateful.

But looking back, there was one defining moment that led me to who I am today, to create the lifestyle I lead today. It was a chance meeting I had with a publisher at a photography convention where I was speaking.

He approached me and asked if I’d thought of writing books. Quite honestly, it had never entered my mind.

He sent over a contract. We worked out the details. And a few months later, I held my first manuscript in my hands. Studio Without Walls was born, a business book that taught the art of creating a virtual photography studio back when the internet was brand new.

Books, A New Frontier

When I spoke to photographers about Studio Without Walls, they immediately wanted more information. They wanted to hire me for coaching. They wanted to learn how I created a virtual studio; a website for a small business was still rare at best in the late 1990s.

I listened. I’d never coached people before. I had no idea where to start.

Luckily, this little thing called the internet was alive and well. And because I’d learned so much from creating a virtual studio online, I knew exactly where to begin.

I started reading. I clicked and searched, learning all I could about a newly coined industry called the information business. It was setting the world on fire, thanks to sites Yahoo and Google.

I started signing up for classes and training programs to learn more about marketing online. And as I figured different things out, I knew I’d found my calling.

Information. Books. Infoproducts.

My one little book – Studio Without Walls – started after a conversation with a publisher, suddenly morphed into so much more. My book became an info class online, and eventually a one-on-one coaching practice.

But the more I learned, the more I knew there was so much more possible online. And being the ever-curious idea person, I kept pushing for more.

I signed up to participate in a protege program with two men who were zooming to the top in the information industry – Robert Allen and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul fame.)

I studied under them. I created a new business under their guidance. And I started defining my purpose – my calling to be a full-time writer.

One particular session with Mark sticks in my mind. He stated he had a goal to read one book a week, and turn around and use his knowledge to write one book a year, for life.

I loved it! I’d always been a voracious reader. And at that time, after publishing my first book, I knew I wanted to do it again. It was a goal I could grasp, and wanted to make my own.

I had the reading part down. I’ve collected books by the dozens since I was a child. When I had my daughter, I put a bookshelf in her room even before I bought a toy chest. I was the Mom who read the Wall Street Journal out loud to her at breakfast as she sat on my lap. We’d climb back into bed on Sunday mornings, reading books for hours at a time. I’ve always believed books were that important.

If you believe in the importance of reading too, give this awesome video your attention.

I had reading down.

But I knew if I wanted to perfect my writing skills, I’d have to dive in a little further.

You don’t find your calling, your calling finds you

Sometimes a mentor’s words hit you when you need it most.

As I was starting up my first business, I took classes whenever I could. If I wanted to shorten the learning curve, I knew the quickest way to do that was to learn from experts.

One of my mentors stated that:

Happiness is a state of mind. If happiness requires you to strive for something to achieve it, it’ll never be. The only way to be truly happy is to be happy in the now. To build a life that allows you to be happy today, right now, without ever needing anything to reach it.

If you need a million dollars to be happy, for example, the goal will change once you have a million in your bank account. Your goal will change as you inch closer to the first.

Or, if you need a spouse to be happy, you’ll have a hard time finding a person that can live up to your expectations. Without finding inner happiness, inner peace, how will someone else ever be able to provide what you’re missing?

You don’t find happiness outside of yourself. You can’t find it by achieving something, buying it, or locating it somewhere in the world.

The only place to find it is from deep within.

You have to build it up from inside. You have to do this diligently every single day.

Here’s the secret:

Say yes to things that you enjoy.

 Say no to things that drain you.

If you’re conscious about those two rules, you can build a life you love.

I quickly realized I loved doing one thing: writing stories. I loved it with every fiber of my being.

Because the world learns through stories, whether it’s an article in a business magazine, a page on a website, or a novel you read late into the night.

And quite frankly, I’m good at it.

Stories make the world go around. It’s the way we teach, entertain each other, and get messages across.

The more you listen, the stronger your calling will be

I believe you have callings throughout your life, it’s up to you as to which ones you choose to listen to. If you’ve ever been the person who states, “I have no idea what my calling is,” you haven’t perfected how to listen yet.

And I get it, I’ve been there too.

Throughout my life, I knew I was meant to travel the world. But I always had things that stopped me.

My Mom said no when I asked to go to a university in California. She preferred me to stay close, by her side. I hadn’t yet built up my drive, and had no idea what I wanted to do. So it was easy for me to listen, and stay close to home.

That traveling bug bit me over and over again, as I applied for jobs and turned them down, started careers that I moved away from, and said no to countless opportunities.

But once I started listening to my inner voice, I discovered a different side of me. It led to all kinds of new opportunities. It built up razor focus from the inside out, and it has helped me morph into who I am today.

If you still have no idea what your calling is, do these things:

Be aware of what captivates you. What books do you read, what programs do you binge on, what do you surf about when you head online? What excites you or enrages you?

Look back at your life. While you’ve changed throughout the years, chances are your interests haven’t. If you’ve always experienced joy in baking, chances are you still do. See what has held stable throughout your life.

Create your 100 responses list. Here’s your question: What is my calling while I’m here on earth? Head to a place where you’ll have 30 minutes or so all to yourself. Put pen to paper, and answer that question 100 times over, without a break in between. Write what you feel. Write what comes to mind. Then when you get 100 responses, look back over them, and start noticing the pattern.

It starts with a goal

Years ago, I latched onto the goal of reading one book every week, and writing one book a year.

How am I doing?

I now track my reading right here on my site. I read more than I recommend. I often start books that I pick a thought or two out of, but don’t necessarily recommend. The books on this list are ones I’ve read cover to cover, and enjoyed the message on every page.

To date, I’ve published:

  • 19 nonfiction books
  • 8 romance novels

I’ve written several million words above and beyond my books, stories posted to my blogs, created for clients, and published as articles both online and off.

If you haven’t answered “What’s next?”, if you haven’t found your true calling, I’m willing to bet you haven’t listened hard enough.

Spend some time with your inner voice. Pay attention to what she has to say.

Then take one step forward – just one tiny action. And make tomorrow a better place to be.

Are you ready to find your voice and become the writer you’ve always dreamed of? You’ll love my brand new course, The Art of Better Writing. I created it specifically to help writers like you discover your voice, master the skills, and monetize your writing. Imagine what you could do with your new skills next year!