Samuel Morse was frustrated. He had given his life to be a painter — even traveled to Paris in pursuit of that dream. As historian David McCullough recounts in The Greater Journey, painting had been Morse's dream since college, and he had set his heart on that and that alone. But after a long series of setbacks, Morse finally abandoned it.
The crushing moment was his losing the appointment to paint a historic mural at the Capitol in Washington. With that loss, he gave up painting entirely and began to focus on something new: inventing the telegraph and eventually a language called Morse code, which literally changed the world.
To accomplish such a success with the telegraph, Morse first came to terms with one fact: He had hit a wall. He had failed, and he needed to make a serious change.
Sad but true, many people prefer to live in denial rather than face the truth that could set them free to discover their true God-given destiny.
What about you? You may not consider yourself a failure, but the question is: Have you really achieved what God put you on Earth to accomplish?
Everywhere I travel, men and women in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s tell me, "Phil, I've worked hard all my life, but I honestly don't know if I've actually accomplished what I was put here to do."
That deep frustration and sadness drives me to help people discover how they are wired and what God put them on Earth to accomplish.
Are you looking for those answers in your own life? Start by prayerfully asking yourself these four questions:
1. What comes easy to me?
Think about your life. How many times were you asked to do something because you were the organized one, the athletic one, the good writer, or the most patient?
Looking back, think about the moments when you naturally gravitated toward a particular task at church or at the office. Perhaps you've built a reputation as the person who finds this or that task or challenge easier than anyone else. Far too often, we simply brush aside the thing we naturally do well when it could be a critical key to personal calling.
For most people, the One Big Thing, as I like to call it, is an ability, a skill, a God-given capacity to handle something other people find challenging. Something bigger than a single job that could apply to many fields, such as the uncanny ability to sense when others are hurting or the knack for motivating people in difficult circumstances.
Don't guess, and don't make a snap judgment. Take your time, and really think about your One Big Thing.
2. What do I love?
Another important signpost on the journey to your One Big Thing is discovering a task, job, purpose, or cause you love. Some people think this a ridiculous notion because to them, work is work. Period. They've never felt that work was anything to enjoy, let alone love; it's only something done for a paycheck. But the most productive, well-rounded, and fulfilled people have found jobs they love and do extraordinarily well.
I have the opportunity to see many successful executives living out their passion through nonprofit and humanitarian work. They've spent their careers making money — often at jobs they hated doing — and now they have the opportunity to find fulfillment helping a great cause. I also know men and women who have dedicated their lives to missions. They have little in the way of material things, but they can't wait to get up in the morning and pursue their calling.
But remember: Just because you're passionate about your work doesn't make it stress-free. While she was working in the desperate slums of Calcutta, Mother Teresa encountered difficult situations. But it was her incredible love for the outcasts in India that motivated Mother Teresa to keep going, and her life transformed millions of people around the world.
3. What drives me crazy?
In many cases, the thing you hate most could be the problem you were born to fix. In other words, what do you hate? What drives you nuts? The key to your destiny could be found in the answer to that question.
Christine Caine would get physically ill hearing stories of women trafficked for sex. Learning that they were kidnapped, drugged, moved in packed shipping containers from port to port, and then forced into a life of drug addiction and sex with strangers moved Christine to tears.
At the time, they didn't have any money or an organization behind them, but today they're making a global difference. And it all began with an evil that drove them crazy.
Your hot button doesn't have to be a social cause. It could be something you don't like about your mobile phone, the process at work, your schedule, or a ministry outreach. How often have you wondered, Why isn't there a _____? Whatever it is, think about it, isolate it, and realize that fixing that issue could be what you've been put on Earth to accomplish. The answer may change the course of your future.
4. What do I want to leave behind?
When you reach the end of your life, will you be able to say that you lived a life of significance? It's been said that you won't be remembered for the money you made; you'll be remembered for the lives you impacted.
God has a great purpose and destiny for you. Discover it. As a follower of Christ, you have the opportunity to use your One Big Thing to show God's love and share His gospel with those you encounter.