Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Clarity and Courage: A Vocation and Transition Program

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Clarity and Courage: A Vocation and Transition Program

Article excerpt

This article describes a program that begins with identifying the questions one is asking and not asking, realizing what is clear and not clear, and reflecting on gifts of and need for courage to move forward.


During 25 years as a congregational minister, I saw first hand people's struggles to make sense of their lives. What were they here on earth to do? I became fascinated with the idea that life is a series of chapters. I thought of the transitional stages as doors that connect the chapters, sometimes tenuously. At times, all of us are trapped by indecision between two worlds: I learned that for all of us, we can easily get stuck between "If I don't know I won't go, but if I won't go, I won't know".

Before my ordination in the Anglican Church of Canada, I had two related careers in broadcasting and corporate communications. My own questions led to several years of indecision. After exploring options, I was ordained and spent a major portion of my life in congregational ministry. I noticed that many people like me could use help in identifying their direction. This notion was reinforced when I began to offer a listening ear and some things to think about to those in transition. They said that I was helping them to choose among the doors of possibility that life presented to them.

This interest led to the Doctor of Ministry program at the Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto. There I studied vocation by taking courses in Work and Well-being, Social Analysis, Scripture and Spirituality.

My doctoral research project was designing, implementing, and evaluating a pastoral guidance program. What I wanted to study was the phenomenon of a pastor meeting individually with congregants. The program I designed used self-reflection exercises. What I learned was that such a project was very worthwhile for the participants and also for me their pastoral guide. They reported increased clarity and resolution about their life. I learned a lot about what it means to care for people in a structured, negotiated and supportive process. I felt that I was on holy ground as things opened up for them. My dissertation was entitled: Work and Vocation: A Pastoral Guidance Program (Toronto School of Theology, University of Toronto, 1988). I learned many things as a result of this earlier research, some of which are reflected in this article. I noticed that most people find their way through transitions with the help of family and friends. Some people, however, need more help and support. I concluded that those who would benefit from support needed: some one to listen respectfully while they sorted things out; some one to ask the right questions and to help them see what they were dealing with; some one to encourage them; and finally a framework to connect their unfolding journey with a vocation so they could move forward in faith.

I took early retirement to pursue this vocational interest and began to offer my services to people in transition, using self-reflection exercises I had developed as part of my research. I developed a new approach and called the program Clarity and Courage.

The Clarity and Courage Program

Many people find themselves in the middle of one of the 'hinges' between the chapters of life. They are caught and pulled between two worlds - the old and the new, the comfortable and the frightening, the known and the unknown, the now and the not yet. It is like a room full of doors. Which one do you choose? Many want to rush ahead and just do something to remove the pain. "At least I'm doing something". They are heeding the advice, "Don't just sit there, do something!" I advise people, on the other hand, "Don't just do something, sit there!" I counsel them to do some research, take some time, to pay attention to this experience. For most, their life hurts and they want to do something about it. A structured program offers a way to move forward.

There are several important conditions for someone to enter courageously into transition. …

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