The Difference Between Occupation & Vocation

Photo Credit: The U.S. National Archives

The Difference Between Occupation & Vocation

Our occupation is how we make a living… Our vocation, on the other hand, is what we’re inherently wired for. It’s less likely to consist of a set of tasks and more likely to consist of a set of themes. - The Accidental Creative p. 210

I stand on a plateau. It’s a similar place I have found myself before. After a few years at a job, I became restless and want to move on. Most times, the culture of the organization has changed and my job transforms into a sit and wait job. Sit and wait for something to break. There are days when I feel like I need to suck it up and push through because no job is perfect.

I have pondered on this for several weeks now and I realize I’m frustrated because I’m not fulfilling my vocation. I’m trying to make the tasks I complete be the end all of my vocational fulfillment. I’m not doing the hard work of seeking out the things I am passionate about and bring me joy.

Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about how to pay the bills but little time thinking about who we really are and how to bring our full passion to what we do. We haven’t learned to discern the difference between our occupation and our vocation. As long as we keep trying to find fulfillment in the tasks we complete in our occupation, we will be frustrated.

My mind keeps coming back to the life of Paul. Paul’s occupation was tent making. His vocation was reasoning with Jew and Gentile alike that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. His tent making allowed him to make money to support his vocation. I would venture a guess he never questioned whether his tent making made him happy. I’m sure he was a great tent maker and did his best in all his endeavors. However, his occupation did not define him. His vocation defined him and propelled him. He was a minister of the Gospel to the Gentiles and that kept him going even in spite of persecution and imprisonment.

I enjoy solving problems. I like helping people. I like leading a small group and seeing people grow in their faith. I like teaching and seeing the light bulb go off.

So as this year starts out, I need to do the hard work of understanding what my vocation is and not worry so much about the occupation.

How do you find the balance between your occupation and vocation?