I remember trying to learn to play tennis when I was in high school. My girlfriend, Carrie (now my wife), would encourage me to “Hit the ball in the sweet spot!” Of course, I didn’t know what she meant, so she explained that if I hit the ball in the center of the racquet, with the right ground stroke and proper footwork, I would get the result of hitting the sweet spot! And bingo! On the few times I could actually manage that, the result was outstanding.
I have also noticed in my career journey a similar application; when I’ve found myself in the right workplace culture, with the right people, doing the work that best suits my skill set and passions – where I’m valued and adding value – I’ve gotten great results! The work actually feels easy too! It’s simple to recognize when you’re experiencing the Sweet Spot, but difficult to get alignment on the components to make it happen.
In our new Crossroads Career workbook, Hear God Calling You, we guide you through a framework and process to help you discover what your Sweet Spot components are and how they can come together to be able to articulate what your Sweet Spot is. It’s actually the last piece of the Calling Canvas we’ve explored with you, following your identity, unique distinctions, core values, purpose, and calling. Galatians 6:4 states, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” By paying careful attention to who God created you to be, and the work He’s prepared for you to do (Ephesians 2:10), you will receive increased job satisfaction!
Defining the Sweet Spot
Let’s start with a definition. We’ve chosen to define an individual’s Sweet Spot as the intersection of your unique design, your vocational calling, and God’s positioning. Let’s illustrate the outcome we’re looking for with a story that will also give us some descriptions for those terms as well.
When I served on the pastoral search committee for our church a number of years ago, one of the committee members said, “I want to find a pastor who is like my hunting dogs!” Most of us were surprised with that remark, so we asked for clarification. He responded, “I have two hunting dogs. When it is hunting season and I take them out to the field in my truck, they are eager and ready. As soon as I open the door to their travel carrier, they jump out into the field with their little bob tails wagging faster than a helicopter blade! They are so excited to get going after birds! They were born to be bird dogs, and they now have the opportunity to fulfill what they were born to do! I want a pastor who is just like that. I want to find someone so glad to be in the pulpit sharing God’s word with us that he just can’t wait till Sunday morning to do that! Like he was born to do it! Just like my hunting dogs!
Those bird dogs don’t go through a lot of analysis to figure this out – they intuitively know it! As humans, most of us need a little time to figure it out. Plus, most people have been conditioned by external influences that actually may even make seeing the Sweet Spot clearly as problematic. So let’s break this story down a bit.
Finding Your Sweet Spot
Similar to bird dogs, each of us has a unique design based on our experiences, abilities, and skills.
Also similar to the bird dogs, we’ve been built to fulfill a vocational calling, i.e., the role that our design enables us to best do. For example, a bird dog can make a great pet, and that may be all they’re given the opportunity to do; however, pointing birds is the function in which they excel.
But they also need to be in the right position, pointing at sparrows through a living room window is very different than their freezing into the pointing position four feet from a quail nestled in the brush.
As humans, not as simple as driving to a field and opening the carrier door, but I’ve found that most of us have not given ourselves the gift of time to reflect a bit and discover our calling, our unique design, and our positioning. And once you’ve discovered those, spending a bit more time to see how they intersect to your Sweet Spot is well worth the exploratory journey.
So, as Paul told the Galatians, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given…” (The Message). Let’s gain clarity in these areas, so we can be more effective in His Kingdom service.
Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.