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Finding Your Calling

Where do you find joy and meaning?

Having a calling, something worth living for, can make us happier and healthier, even protect against cardiovascular disease (Shirai et al., 2009). Psychologist Martin Seligman describes the sense of calling in  Flourish (2011), I write about it in Your Personal Renaissance (2008), and two scales have been developed to measure it, the Jobs, Careers, and Calling scale (Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997) and the Vocation Identity Questionnaire (Dreher, Holloway, & Schoenfelder, 2007).

Nicole Lamarche, used with permission
Source: Nicole Lamarche, used with permission

For Reverend Nicole Lamarche of San Jose, California, finding her calling took her on a remarkable path. She grew up in Eastern Washington as a member of the United Church of Christ, then went to college at the University of Arizona, majoring in International Relations and experiencing a deep spiritual awakening.  

Wondering how to use her gifts to make a difference, she spent a year as a substitute teacher in English as a Second Language for fifth, sixth, and seventh graders. Then, feeling called to the ministry, she applied to the Pacific School of Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. After the terrorist attacks in September 2001, she experienced her “first political awakening,” beginning to learn about organizing, read the works of global thinkers, and work for social change.

After working part time in a coffee shop to support her education, she surprised her friends by entering the Miss California pageant, becoming Miss California 2003. She won a year’s lease on a shiny black Mustang and spent the next semester traveling around the state, appearing at parades and conventions and speaking to veterans, at-risk youth, and the children’s miracle network. That year she also ranked among the top five finalists in the Miss America pageant. Best of all, she won a scholarship to support her ministerial education.

After earning her Master’s in Divinity, she moved to Massachusetts to serve as minister in two churches, then returned to California to found the Silicon Valley Progressive Faith Community in 2014. “I have spent my whole life in United Church of Christ churches,” she says, “and being a part of these faith communities has formed me and allowed me to become more loving, more connected to the Sacred and to see myself as part of a collective, related to all of creation.”

Church, she says, has always “been a place where I could discern my gifts and how they could contribute to the whole, a place to heal and to belong.” In this new faith community, she wants to “reach new people and to be engaged in spiritual innovation at the heart of technological innovation.”

Nicole Lamarche, used with permission
Source: Nicole Lamarche, used with permission

Dedicated to “personal and social transformation,” church members work together to make a difference in these challenging times. “We have been involved in efforts to reform immigration, reform gun legislation and the movement for Black Lives in San Jose through People Acting in Community Together,” Nicole explains. Church members have also worked to ban fracking in Monterey County, stop oil trains in Santa Clara County, clean up Coyote Creek, and make lunches for the homeless. “All of it is needed,” she says.

That is Reverend Nicole Lamarche’s journey—with all the different steps on the path leading to her calling.

What is your journey? Where do you find joy and meaning and where are you headed now? For every season in life offers new possibilities to discover your calling. As Nicole maintains, “I give thanks for all of the ways that the Divine guides us and lures, like a gentle whisper to follow our joy or the avenues where who we are and the gifts we were given can be a blessing to the whole.”


Dreher, D. E. (2008). Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your True Calling. New York, NY: Da Capo.

Dreher, D.E., Holloway, K., & Schoenfelder, E. (2007). The Vocation Identity Questionnaire: Measuring the sense of calling, RSSSR, 18, 99-120.

Lamarche, N. Personal communication, November and December, 2016. For more information about Nicole Lamarche and her ministry, see

Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish. New York, NY: Free Press.

Shirai, K., Iso, H., Ohira, T., Ikeda, A., Noda, H., Honjo, K., et al. (2009). Perceived level of life enjoyment and risks of cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality: The Japan public health center-based study. Circulation, 120, 956-963.

Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley,  C., Rozin,  P., & Schwartz, B. (1997) Jobs, careers, and calling: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 21-33.


Diane Dreher is a best-selling author, positive psychology coach, and professor at Santa Clara University. Her latest book is Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.

Visit her web sites at