Freedom from Fear in Discerning Livelihood

Freedom from Fear in Discerning Livelihood

Armor-plated window behind which is a beautifuil red and yellow butterfly.

Freedom from fear in discerning livelihood is the freedom to choose it. Fear is what makes it hard to choose. Composite image illustrating the Aung San Suu Kyi quotation, “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear” by Caroline on Flikr, copyright-free via Creative Commons.

Livelihood is a Big Deal

I was fascinated to see three rich, substantive comments about last week’s post on discerning livelihood. If you haven’t read them, go back and do so. They are as interesting as the post itself, dimensions of it explored, really. And also, wow! Clearly, we are on to something: what’s the big deal about livelihood?

It turns out discerning livelihood is important to people of quite varying ages. Our parents felt loyalty to an employer was the path to success. Success at that time was a safe, reliable income, and a pension. I honestly don’t know anyone for whom that is true anymore, least of all you and me, co-creating this blog.

Freedom from Fear

Last week, I advised thinking about your vocation or livelihood as an ongoing process of discernment. Age was one factor I advised ignoring. Most of us just use our age to feel bad when it comes to discerning livelihood.

There is no common wisdom that holds true around age anymore. It’s just not a real category. (That means that people who talk about age as though it matters aren’t just wrong, they are making excuses to maintain a story. Watch out for that in yourself, and ignore them.)

Instead, we can choose and choose and choose throughout our lives when it comes to livelihood. (I think we must do this, but that’s my story.) Life, the way we live now, is going to change. Constantly. Before your eyes. If they are open. (Open them! I don’t care how old you are!)

What gets in the way of choosing? Fear. The Aung San Suu Kyi quotation in the image caption above is right on: the only thing that seems to ever hold me back is me.  And that’s always changing too. The Universe is constantly trying to give me a bigger space in which to give my gifts. If you are reading this, it is doing this for you, too. I guarantee it. .

Oh, Fear, How Do I Know Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

There are lots of fears in listening for a vocation’s “call.” (Because that’s what “vocation” means–a call, your “calling.”) I find fear has much less purchase (pun intended) if I name it. (It can’t purchase me that way. I don’t have to ransom myself from fear if I name it.)

Let me show you. When you declare, “This is my calling (at least for now)” you may feel you are/the world will say you are too

  • young
  • old
  • uninformed
  • overeducated
  • impractical
  • overly practical.

These are some of the most common fears. By pairing them this way, I want to show they offer no real information.  It’s safe to ignore them.


Helps for letting go of fear are allies–of three kinds:

  1. People
  2. Knowledge
  3. Chutzpah, guts, moxy, courage, heart.


You need people who will tell you you are smart and can do it. It’s important to know people in your chosen area of work who can encourage you in specific detail about how right you are for the work. Don’t know anyone? Keep reading.


Knowledge is important and you should get plenty of it. Research is your friend. The library is your friend. The reference librarian is your friend. That’s their vocation: helping you find out what you want to know. Interlibrary loan is your friend. (Trust me, I’ve lived in two tiny library systems now, and have got materials from as far away as the Library of Congress through my tiny local library. Ask and keep asking.)


The origin of the word “courage” is heart. If you know the people you need to know, and you know where to find them, it takes only courage to find them. Knowledge is your friend, and so is your heart. Courage is the path of freedom to  choose (and choose and choose) livelihood.

Note: Calling is Distinct from Livelihood

A calling isn’t necessarily your livelihood–and your livelihood may or may not be your calling. I do and think a lot with calling. Here’s my page devoted to resources on your calling.

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