Newswise — The disruption much of the world is experiencing right now from the COVID-19 pandemic could be the best opportunity many people have to pause and reflect on what we want our lives to be like.

“This is definitely a time to really start thinking about meaning and purpose, what are our values and why are those our values,” says Rolyn Rollins, who helps college students find their true calling in life as director of student programs at Furman University’s Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection.

The first step is to think of a “calling” as more than a job or a profession. “It means how we’re supposed to live our life and what kind of person we want to be,” Rollins says.

Their work largely revolves around three core questions: Who am I most authentically? What do I believe most deeply? What does the world need from me?

“It’s a pathway to being more fulfilled,” Rollins says. “If we’re able to do what we love, we can better love ourselves, and better love others and the world.”

And on the other side of the pandemic, Rollins says “if we can recognize our gifts now we can better know how to meet the needs of the world.”

Quarantines and social distancing highlight how personal reflection fits into our on-demand, mobile society. Rollins offers these methods as examples of effective personal reflection:

  • Recognize what’s missing. Rollins says she misses “the energy and the buzz of the students and that connection with them and my coworkers. I just have a gut feeling that that’s something I’m supposed to be doing. By missing it, I realize it’s something that’s incredibly important to me. That’s why I think it’s my calling.”
  • Start a gratitude journal. Listing three things every day that you’re grateful for can provide clarity about what brings you joy and what you’re passionate about.
  • Personalize reflection. For some people, shutting off the TV, stepping away from social media or sitting outside listening to birds is a start, “but it’s not going to work for everybody,” Rollins says.
  • Talk it out. Storytelling and having conversations with others about values is also a great way to learn more about yourself, and a good alternative for people who find quiet solitude unnerving. And, Rollins says, “you can learn about yourself through learning about others.”

One tool the Cothran Center uses that Rollins cautions about is the enneagram personality profile. Working with trained facilitators, people can learn more about their personalities and behaviors, and also what motivates them. But the motivational element is missing in simplified online tests, which don’t provide an accurate picture. If someone’s really interested in using an enneagram, Rollins suggests reading (a specific book?) and studying all nine enneagram personality types.

Katie Brown, a senior English major from XXXXX, got involved in the Cothran Center two years ago when she joined an annual trip of sophomores to Corrymeela, a social-justice oriented conference center in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. Students learned “personal mechanisms for resolving conflict and promoting dialogue,” Brown says.

An exercise the students learned early on their trip was a two-part dialogue. Someone says, “I am here to be seen” and others respond “I see you.”

“We all go about life with these twin needs to receive and offer a sense of connection,” Brown says. Working with the Cothran Center helped her “navigate both of those realms: who I am and what I desire, and how I can more fully contribute to my communities.”