Todd Wilson: “Can you honestly say, ‘Yes, I know what my sweet spot is, and I’m currently working in it’?”
Is this what I’m going to do with the rest of my life?
I found myself asking that question 15 years into what I thought would be my life career. From age 12, I knew I wanted to be a nuclear engineer, and now here I was, in my early 30s, doing my dream job in the world’s premier engineering organization, feeling restless and discontent with my life. A funny thing about success: It never satisfies itself.
Turns out, I’m not alone. In 2014, Forbes magazine reported that the majority of Americans are unhappy and discontent with their jobs. In the case of church leaders, multiple surveys show us that the vast majority of pastors in North America are feeling some sense of restlessness and discontent. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’re asking the same question I asked myself 20 years ago.
I want to encourage you that exploring this question can be a strong catalyst to learning about yourself, specifically your personal calling in life, and why you may not be living the abundant life Jesus said he came to bring us (John 10:10).
A Personal Search
Right at the time of my restlessness, I saw the book Halftime by Bob Buford and immediately the book’s subtitle struck me: Changing Your Game Plan From Success to Significance. I devoured the book. In a profound way, reading about Bob’s entrepreneurial journey sparked a similar journey in me. I realized I was really asking, Isn’t there something significant for the rest of my life?
After two years of promptings from my pastor that I should be in ministry—and two years of wrestling with God over those promptings—I finally got clarity. I made the jump and began working for our local church. As soon as I did, the entrepreneurial switch flipped on, enabling me to start a number of ministries, including what would eventually become Exponential. I also began working part time with Bob Buford, which, unbeknownst to me, would lead me on a surprising personal search. Bob told me that he wanted me working in my “sweet spot” 100 percent of the time. Back then, I wasn’t really clear on what my sweet spot even was. But I knew I wanted to know. You might say I became a student of the sweet spot and personal calling.
What I’ve learned since then is that the restless discontent I was feeling in my nuclear engineering position was directly connected to my unique personal calling and working in my sweet spot. I’d venture to say that your feelings of restlessness come from the same source. Can you honestly say, “Yes, I know what my sweet spot is, and I’m currently working in it”?
Identifying Your Sweet Spot
If you know anything about baseball, you’re familiar with the “sweet spot” of a bat. When a ball hits that spot on the bat, boom!—home run. Most everything in nature has a sweet spot made up of three common elements: design, purpose and position.
Our personal sweet spot has those same three elements. I call them our “be,” “do” and “go.”
1. Who am I created to be? (design)
2. What am I created to do? (purpose)
3. Where am I created to go? (position)
When we’re in our sweet spot, all three of these elements align. We are who we were uniquely created to be, doing what we were uniquely created to do, in the context of where we are uniquely created to go. When the answers to all three of these questions are what you’re currently experiencing in your life, you know you’re in your sweet spot.
Of course, as with anything we encounter, humans can mess up God’s design. The danger of focusing on our unique calling can produce an “it’s all about me” mentality when we listen with selfish ears.
“Calling is always about loving God and loving people,” says my friend and pastor, Brett Andrews. “Although your calling is individual, it’s not individualistic. It’s never about you or me.”
As a life coach, I always remind leaders that personal calling is about God using them and their gifts to accomplish his plans. Recently, one of the leaders I worked with wrote to tell me about an outreach ministry he started five years ago in which he counsels and marries couples, many of whom are unchurched. A few years ago, Dave Page, director of church planting for Evangelical Free Church of America West, met with me to develop his life plan. I pointed out that this wedding ministry might be his sweet spot.
“It certainly has turned out that way,” Dave told me. “I’m now using this ministry to help church planters connect with people in their community.” Dave is quick to paint the bigger picture. “We are leading young couples back to the church and ultimately, back to God. God is using this—he’s using me!”
Having Life vs. Having Abundant Life
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (KJV).
The words of Jesus in John 10:10 are a promise to all of us who put our trust in him. A closer study of the original Greek gives us deeper insight. The Greek says that Jesus came so that we may ecko, which translates to “take hold of,” while the original Greek word for “life” in this verse is zoe, meaning life as God intended it to be, in its absolute fullness. The difference between “having life” and “having an abundant life” is taking hold of the fullness of God. How do we do that?
Bob Buford has photo of a water pitcher in his office to remind him that God has called us to be filled up and poured out. Calling is fundamentally about having the fullness of Jesus in us and pouring that fullness into others. We “take hold” of abundant life when we are who we were uniquely created to be, doing what we were created to do in the place we were created to go—our sweet spot. Our be, do and go are aligned.