If you need clarity and want to develop your ability to assess what your life is telling you, here are some options for different “listening” exercises you can do. If you love efficiency like I do, you can probably find a way to wrap all of these exercises into one.
If you’re not the kind of person who usually journals, I would say give it a try. Writing a journal can be useful to anyone, even if you don’t normally like to write. If it really sounds awful, tell yourself, you’re going to only do it for one month and then see what happens. Otherwise, get creative – to avoid writing, you could draw, sketch, collage or record yourself talking!
1. Keep a Calling Journal
When you sit down to journal, ask yourself the following questions and track the patterns you see over time.
- What work were you doing last time you were so absorbed that you lost track of time?
- What issues or causes really move you?
- What problems in the world or work world do you think need solving?
- When you lie awake at night obsessing over the state of the universe, what obsesses you most?
- What are you constantly reading about and talking to people about?
(this exercise is from Whistle while you Work by Richard Leider and David Shapiro)
2. Daily Examen
This exercise is based on/adapted from Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. This is probably most effective written down, but these questions can also simply be prayed through.
- Ask God to help you identify the moment today for which you are most grateful. Recall that moment in as much detail as possible. What made it so special?
- Ask God to help you identify the moment today for which you are least grateful. What made it so difficult?
- Follow this with “When did I feel most alive today? When did I most feel life draining out of me today?”
Try to keep the Daily Examen as consistently as possible. At regular intervals look back over your journal entries and consider:
- What might these writings be telling you about how God is speaking to you?
- What do these writings suggest about your identity? Your purpose? Your direction?
(this originally came from Trinity Western University’s website although it looks like the link is no longer available)
3. The Morning Pages
Every morning before beginning your work, write exactly three pages of everything and anything. “Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only.”
For those of you who cannot imagine ever writing longhand again, there is a 21st century method for doing this is at www.750words.com (750 words equals approx three handwritten pages). This can be especially useful for clearing your mind of all those little nagging items you can’t stop thinking about, worries, anxieties, hopes, or just your to-do list. You’re seriously allowed to write down ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING.
At the end of a month of morning pages, block out an hour or so to reread the morning pages and see what you find there. They’re a great reference point for reviewing your life and the discipline of doing them is a great kick-start to other creative activities.
(This exercise is from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron)
Listening is one of the most important skills we can develop, especially in regards to following our callings.