This is Your Life Calling

A carpenter decided to change careers. He had two children and his wife was expecting twins. They needed a larger house, and he needed a job that made more money. He went to his boss to explain. The boss was reluctant to see him go, as he was a very fine carpenter. But the carpenter was determined. Finally the boss asked if he would build just one more house. The carpenter agreed. And he did build the house. But preoccupied and distracted with his family and his future, he just went through the motions. He worked on autopilot and the house wasn’t up to his usual standards.

Finally the day came when the house was done. The boss came to inspect. As the two stood at the doorway, the boss handed the carpenter the key. “This is my gift to you for all the fine work you’ve done over the years.” The carpenter was in shock. If only he had known this was to be his own house he would have paid better attention to what he was doing.

In many ways, we all live our lives like this carpenter on his last house. On automatic pilot. We go through the motions of our day without paying attention to what we’re doing and end up living a less-than-stellar existence. Scientists tell us that 90 percent of our daily lives are spent in routine. Depending on what our habits are, they can become prisons of misery. Habits of negative thinking, of self-destructive behavior, of patterns of inertia that are very hard to overcome. We’ve practiced those things over and over so they’ve become automatic. And so now we are living in the shoddy house of our own making.

That’s why when we want to create new habits or change old ones, our most important ally is intention–making a commitment to what we want. And the first step is to truly see your life as the precious, limited-time opportunity it actually is. You can make it a beautiful mansion.

Each of us holds the potential for our unique form of greatness. Whenever we bring something positive in ourselves into being, we come closer to living that greatness in all its dimensions. No matter what new habit or dream we choose to cultivate, we’re also growing our souls. For the process of change itself teaches patience, humor, resolve, gratefulness, tenacity, and compassion for ourselves. These precious soul qualities alone are worth the effort.

You can achieve what you set out to. As Christopher Reeve, one of my heroes of greatness, reminds us: “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” In one of the last interviews he gave, he exhorted all of us to “Go forward.” May his example inspire you as you begin this month-long journey to finding and fulfilling your intention.

To try: What are the soul qualities you want to grow in yourself this year? Write them down.

Ready to get started? Post your intent and find community support and content to help you achieve it!

In this monthlong learning series, M.J. Ryan, author of the best-selling book This Year I Will…: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True, will take you through four steps, each lasting one week, to help you figure out what your most important intentions are and give you the tools to make each a reality. Just joining the learning series? Go here to start at the beginning. provides content and community for who you aspire to be–personally, socially and globally.


David C
David C9 months ago


Sue H
Sue H9 months ago

My intent is to biodegrade gracefully.

Peggy B
Peggy B9 months ago

Clare O.... In US houses are made out of timber. No blocks and no need for a plasterer.

Clare O
Clare O'Beara9 months ago

Story is a bit stupid as a carpenter does not build a house. He or she might build a cabin or a shack but here we make houses out of blocks and plaster, and timber is a part of the job. Also nobody builds a house alone so his foreman, plasterer or colleagues would have pointed out shortcomings. Anyway he can always sell that house and use the money to build another house, probably in a much better location for his wife and kids and flood avoidance. Whoever invented the story didn't know much about building.

Clare O
Clare O'Beara9 months ago

Thanks. You could have left out the bit about growing your soul to make it a much stronger piece. That paragraph will lose you a lot of readers. You should have said about opportunities now open due to the internet, and getting what results you focus on.

Tim Cheung
Tim C6 years ago
Thanks Ryan.

Lin Moy
Lin M6 years ago

read story b4 a few times. it's a great teaching tool

Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago


Darla G.
Darla G.7 years ago

Awesome! Haven't seen that familiar old story in a while. Great reminder thanks!