Knowing these 3 areas about oneself leads to a sense of continuity. These components are relatively changeless; however the career application can change multiple times. Knowing that the average job is about 3.2 years in length, it is not even appropriate to try to identify the "right" job. Rather, we need to get a broader sense of the role work plays in a balanced and meaningful life. A critical issue is to distinguish between the following terms:

1. Vocation - from the Latin vocare, which means "to call"

This is the big picture; the most profound. Vocation must incorporate "calling," "purpose," "mission" and "destiny." It's what you're doing in life that makes a difference, that builds meaning for you, and that you can look back on in your later years to see the impact you've made on the world.

2. Career - "to run or move at full speed, rush wildly. Careen"

"Career" comes from the Latin word for "cart" and later from the Middle French word for "racetrack." In other words, you can go around and around really fast for a long time but never get anywhere. That's why in today's volatile work environment, even professionals with careers like physicians, attorneys, CPAs, dentists and pastors may choose to get off the expected track and choose another career. A career is a line of work, but it's not necessarily your calling. You can have different careers at different points in your life that all support your "calling".

3. Job -- one's daily activities

A job is the most specific and immediate of the three terms. It has to do with one's daily activities that produce an income or a paycheck. The dictionary defines "job" as "a lump portion, a task, chore or duty." In today's workplace, the average person will have 14-16 different jobs in his/her lifetime. Thus the job surely cannot be the critical definition of one's calling or vocation. However, the job should in fact be an expression of that calling and an integration of one's ministry.

Here's a worthy goal:

"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both." James Michener

Originally posted Sept. 13, 2005.


 Dan Miller is today's leading authority and personality on careers and 'Work You LoveTM'. As bestselling author of 48 Days To The Work You Love, and now No More Mondays, Dan reaches over a million people every month ia his newsletter, podcast, and blog with the best trends and opportunities in the workplace and small business. For more information, visit http://www.48days.com.