Welcome to the Gift Library

A collection of more than 180 quotes, videos, links to articles, and books about discovering your gifts and living a purposeful life.
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Gifts and Purpose Books

Parabola: The Magazine of Myth and Tradition. *Highly recommended. This link will take you to the archives of more than 150 single-theme issues over 40 years. Purchase and download. Examples of issues that relate to gifts include Rites of Passage, Initiation, Pilgrimage, Crossroads, The Shadow, Thresholds and The Path.

The Abundant Community.  Peter Block and John McKnight. San Francisco, CA. Barrett-Koehler. 2010.  Approaching neighborhood abundance through “gift-mindedness,” associational life and hospitality.

The Active Life. Parker Palmer. New York, NY. HarperCollins, 1990.  Engaging in the world through meaningful action. In the middle of the book, he dissects the Woodcarver story which has elements of gifts within it.

An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture. Peter Block, Walter Bruggemman, John McKnight. Hoboken, New Jersey. Wiley and Sons. 2016.  We need a new narrative, a shift in our thinking and speaking. An Other Kingdom takes us out of a culture of addictive consumption into a place where life is ours to create together. This satisfying way depends upon a neighborly covenant—an agreement that we together, sharing our gifts, will provide abundance.

Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring young adults in their search for meaning, purpose, and faith. Sharon Daloz Parks. San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass. 2000.  An examination of the importance of providing opportunities for people in the teens/early twenties to have structures of mentoring and reflection in place that encourage answers to purpose, meaning-making, developmental transitions and faith.

Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life. Gregg Levoy. New York, NY. Random House. 1998.  Points to callings as the way to understand life purpose and discern the gifts and contributions to make.

Creating a Life: Finding your individual path. James Hollis. Toronto, Canada. Inner City Books. 2001.  Hollis, a Jungian therapist and theorist, examines how we can unstrap ourselves from carrying the generational struggles of our families, and move forward into genuine vocation and healthy relationships by paying attention to our true selves underneath the clutter of our usual lives.

Creators on Creating. Edited by Barron, Montuori, and Barron. New York, NY. Tarcher/Putnam. 1997.  From da Vinci to Frank Zappa, stories and interviews about gifts in mostly well-known individuals. The conditions that spawned their gifts, the rituals they use when creating, and why nurturing imagination is important.

The Crossroads of Should and Must. Elle Luna. New York. Workman Publishing. 2015.  An energetic, amusing, fun and art-oriented approach to determining life direction. Full of color, quotes and questions, all with an underlying respect for the deep philosophical and cultural roots of purpose, spirituality and encountering difficulty on the path.

Crossroads: The Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage. Edited by Mahdi, Christopher and Meade. Peru, Ill. Open Court Publishing. 1996.  Wide-ranging group of contributing essays on initiation, rites of passage, meaning-making and rebirth. Focus is on youth.

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Ken Robinson. London, England. Penguin. 2009.  Explores the intersection of when talent meets passion. Robinson shows why finding your “element” is essential for all of us and explores the conditions that lead to this discovery.

The Enigma of the Gift. Maurice Godelier. Chicago, IL. University of Chicago Press. 1999.  A dense, theoretical book that refutes some of the original gift exchange ideas of Mauss, one of the original documenters of the practices of gift exchange in tribal culture.

The Enigma of Gift and Sacrifice. Edited by Edith Wyschogrod, Jean-Joseph Goux, Eric Boynton.  New York, NY. Fordham University Press.  2002.  A distinguished group of gift theorists submit chapters outlining their views on freely-given gifts, cycles of obligation, pure gifts, and many other facets of gift giving.

Everyone Has a Gift. John McKnight. Toronto, Canada. Inclusion Press.  A timeless video of the master storyteller describing the differences between seeing deficiencies and seeing gifts in those around us. Particularly pointed at helping professionals, but applicable to everyone.

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life. James Hollis. New York, NY. Gotham Books. 2005.  Hollis explores the ways we can grow and evolve to fully become ourselves when the traditional roles of adulthood aren’t quite working for us. Topics include career versus vocation, the shadows that stop us from moving forward, the components of mature spirituality and relationships, and the struggle between who we really are and what the outside world is asking of us.

The Genius In All of Us. David Shenk. New York, NY. Anchor Press. 2010.  Shenk blends recent neuroscience and motivation theory into a study of what creates giftedness/genius in humans and debunks the theory that giftedness is reserved for just the few “special” people.

The Genius Myth. Michael Meade. Seattle, WA. Greenfire Press. 2016.  Meade proposes that each person born participates in the genius of life and that that the world at this time is in great need of an awakening of the genius qualities hidden in each of us. Meade combines ancient stories and modern examples of the necessity and wisdom in each of us discovering and contributing our gifts.

The Gift. Lewis Hyde. New York, NY: Random House, 1983.  Through the lenses of art and creativity, Hyde walks us through the theory of gift exchange and initiation/passage events. Author of one of the most-oft used gift quotes, “A gift is not a gift until it is given,” his writing has formed the foundation for many that have come after him in the world of understanding gifts.

The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. Marcel Mauss. New York. Norton Publishing. 1990.  First published in 1954, many consider this work to be one of the several foundational classics about gift theory. It was the first systematic study of gift exchange documented in cultures around the world. Focus is given to the hidden obligation to return gifts.

The Gift: Poems by Hafiz. Translation by Daniel Ladinsky. New York, NY. Penguin House. 1999.  Ancient poems of love, gifts, spirit and purpose.

The Gifts of Imperfection. Brené Brown. Center City, MN. Hazelden. 2010.  Her work has resulted in a framework for living a “whole-hearted” life. Within that framework, she found a necessity for people to have meaningful work. Knowing and giving your gifts is an essential part of having meaningful work. She also identifies the gifts of courage, compassion, and connection as being essential gifts resulting from imperfection.

The Gift of the Stranger: Faith, Hospitality, and Foreign Language Learning. David I. Smith and Barbara Carvill. Grand Rapids, MI. Eerdmanns Publishing. 2000.  A Christian perspective on foreign-language teaching that can be applied universally to welcoming and seeing the gifts in strangers.

The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling. Stephen Cope. New York, NY. Bantam Books. 2015.  Using the ancient Bhagavad Gita as a road map for discovering your primary gift to the world, Cope takes us through the journey within the book and offers illustrations of well-known people in modern times who have heeded the call.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Joseph Campbell. Princeton, NJ. Princeton University Press. 1968.  Traces the story of the hero’s journey and initiation processes through many world mythologies. The model of the hero’s journey includes the transformational receipt of gifts from life ordeals.

A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. Parker Palmer. San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass. 2004.  Reflections on the tasks living an undivided life—a life that is congruent with our inner truth. What it means to be in a “circle of trust” with the other and recognize the gifts that emerge from inner and outer reflection.

Holy Eros. James D Whitehead and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead. Maryknoll, NY. Orbis Books. 2009.  Eros is the vitality energy that courses throughout the world animating every living thing. The book has a surprising concluding chapter that offers a brief and clear explanation of the differences between a market economy and the vitality energy in a gift economy and describes the eros benefits of gift exchange.

The Identity Code: The Eight Essential Questions for Finding Your Purpose and Place in the World. Larry Ackerman. New York, NY. Random House. 2005.  Ackerman offers a structure of eight essential questions, with activities, that help a person see themselves in a larger, more capable way. Finding your gift is one of the activities.

The Logic of the Gift: Toward and Ethic of Generosity. Edited by Alan D. Schrift. New York, NY. Routledge Press. 1997.  A scholarly collection of some of the most important and impactful writings about gifts and gift exchange.

Making Good: How ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives. Shadd Maruna. Washington, D.C. American Psychological Association. 2007.  Maruna follows the Liverpool Desistance study, which investigated convicts that did not return to prison. The study showed it was not housing, jobs, or any of the usual government funded programs that reduced recidivism. It was the ex-convict developing a “generative script” involving a way to contribute to their community that was more motivating than criminal behavior. Uses the gift theory of suffering into transformative behavior of “redemption rituals.”

Men and the Water of Life. Michael Meade. San Francisco, CA. HarperSanFrancisco. 1993.  Storyteller and mythologist Meade carries forward the ideas of initiation, gifts, and purpose into modern times. Full of old stories, examples from his own experiences meeting with men struggling with making sense of their lives, and wise observances of the dilemmas we all face in modern times.

My Sister, My Brother. Henri J.M. Nouwen. Ijamsville, MD. Word Among Us Press. 2005.  A prolific writer and practitioner of the importance of gifts and belonging, Nouwen writes from a Christian perspective that connects us to each other through our shared stories of difficulty, grace, and love for each other.

Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. The journey of Maidoma Somé out of his village and then returning is a story of initiation and purpose told through the cultural eyes of his people in Burkina Faso, Africa. He has spent several decades traveling back and forth between his village and the western world teaching ritual practices.

The Path to Purpose: Helping Our Children Find Their Calling in Life. William Damon. New York, NY. Free Press. 2008.  Damon credits helping a young person develop purpose as being a critical task in nurturing youth who will thrive. Contains a logic model for the importance of purpose. The steps involve a young person noticing something that needs improving in the world, and then knowing and developing their contribution to that particular thing.

The Purpose of Your Life. Carol Adrienne. New York, NY.  William Morrow. 1998.  Using a “spiritual and energetic approach,” Adrienne lays out a model for discovering what she calls a “working purpose statement,” defining the dominant gifts you are designed to bring to the world. Includes extensive discussion about the “shadow-side” of gifts and how they can stop you on your path and bring harm to others.

Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart. Edited by Bly, Hillman, and Meade. New York, NY. Harper. 1992.  A broad and deeply beautiful collection of poems about nurturing gifts and purpose, enduring through it all and cultivating heart.

The Rites of Passage. Arnold van Gennep. Chicago, IL. University of Chicago Press. 1960.  Van Gennup coined the term “rites of passage” and most modern gift and initiation writers and practitioners have built their work on the foundations of his analysis of different cultural patterns/rituals related to the ceremonies accompanying “life crises” of all kinds.

Rites and Symbols of Initiation. Mircea Eliade. New York, NY. HarperCollins. 1958. Covers ancient rituals of transformation in humans through the death and rebirth pattern of rebirth/transformation across many cultures. Book shows the need for reclaiming the paradigm of initiation in the modern world along with more substantial forms of mentoring, elders and ritual.

Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition. Charles Eisenstein. Berkeley, CA. Evolver Editions. 2011. Eisenstein urges us to follow the path from money economy to gift economy as a part of a global movement towards individual and collective right-livelihood. He describes the historical development of cash economies, their downsides and the theory of modern gift economies and their upsides.

The Souls Code. James Hillman. New York, NY.  Random House. 1996.  Drawing on the biographies of figures such as Ella Fitzgerald and Mahatma K. Gandhi, Hillman argues that character is fate, that there is more to each individual than can be explained by genetics and environment. The result is a reasoned and powerful road map to understanding our true nature and discovering an eye-opening array of choices—from the way we raise our children to our career paths to our social and personal commitments to achieving excellence in our time.

The Teacher’s Gift: Discovering and Using Your Core Gift to Inspire and Heal. Bruce Anderson. Seattle, WA. Island Press. 2006.  Describes how the gifts within a teacher both help and insert difficulty into the act of teaching. Includes a six-part interview with five teachers describing how gifts intersect with their life as a teacher.

Transforming Suffering: Reflections on finding peace in troubled times. Edited by Donald Mitchell and James Wiseman. New York, NY. Doubleday. 2003.  A gathering of significant spiritual leaders from around the world, in dialogue about the meaning of suffering and the pathways to use it and find peace and healing.

Uncommon Genius. Denise Shekerjian. New York, NY. Penguin. 1990.  A fascinating study of forty recipients of the MacArthur Award, given for creative genius in many fields. Stories of where recipients believe their unusual ability comes from, the conditions that nurture their creativity, and why it’s important to know your genius.

Unique Ability: Creating the Life You Want. Catherine Nomura and Julia Waller. Toronto, Canada. Strategic Coach, Inc. 2009.  A workbook that contains a step-by-step process for discovery of your “unique ability” and how to apply it to your life.

The Way of Transition. William Bridges. Cambridge, MA. Perseus Publishing. 2001.  Bridges modernized the ancient idea of “initiation” through relabeling it as “transition”, and also renaming the three stages of initiation into the gentler language of “letting go”, being in the “neutral zone,” and having “new beginnings.” Faithful to the underlying theory of initiation, the book is full of examples of how transformation happens and the gifts from transition that are used to move forward.

Walking Your Gifted Path. Bruce Anderson. Core Gift Institute. Seattle, WA. 2018.  Photographs of beautiful walking paths and essays of the elements of the gifted paths of uniqueness, commitment, legacy, mentoring, leadership, shadows and the never-ending path.

We Need Each Other: Building Gift Community. Bill Kauth and Zoe Alowan. Silver Light Publishing. 2010.  From the authors: Our book is part of an emerging “gift culture” worldview. It is a manual for designing personal community based on the gifts that each person brings. Focusing on non-residential, place based and committed community, we present tools to support and fortify the longing of the human heart for intimate, conscious connection.

The Wounded Healer. Henri J.M. Nouwen. New York, NY. Doubleday. 1979.  One of the original writings about how the suffering we experience can transform into gifts we offer to each other. Nouwen encourages helpers to identify the brokenness within themselves and use that as the starting point of their service.

Section photo by Donatella D’Anniballe on Unsplash

Gifts and Purpose Video/Article Links

Embracing Your Gifts Sobonfu Some´, was a healer and teacher from the Dagara people in Burkina Faso, Africa. In this video, she says Westerners spend little time and attention finding and embracing the gift—the real reason we are born in this world. As a result, most of us cannot make sense of the various events in our life. Drawing on Dagara wisdom, this talk brings to light how everyone has a personal gift that is vital to the well-being of the individual and the community.

How Do We Move Forward? Charles Eisensteinwrites about the shift from money economics to gift economics, explores the question ‘how do we move forwards?” and explains how this is a flawed question because we are all individuals with a multitude of choices. In the end we have to listen to what calls us.

The Theory of Gift Exchange Alex Gendler and Avi Ofer have created a short animation that describes the theory of gift exchange and offers examples from around the world.

The Safe Communities Task Force in Clark County, Washington partners with youth to help them discover their Core Gift and purpose in life.

Opening the Neighborhood Treasure Chest John McKnight speaks to the need to rebuild neighborhoods based on the gifts of residents.

Community Building Through Gifts One way of thinking about how communities get built, according to John McKnight, is by seeing that the principal resource people have for the task is their gifts.  So, when we ask, “How could this neighborhood be built?,” the answer is not about bringing in institutions to label people with their deficiencies and provide programs that enable their dependency. Building strong neighborhoods becomes a matter of everybody contributing as many of their gifts as they can to each other and to the whole.

Choose Must: 10 Hands-on Exercises to Find and Pursue Your Passion Join Elle Luna, artist, designer, and author of The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion for a tactical and inspiring exploration into identifying and following your Must. Elle walks you through a series of 10-minute, self-exploration exercises and tactical practices that will help you connect the dots and surface insights for your journey to Must. (Note: requires establishing a free account with Skillshare, an online learning collaborative)

7 Ways to Identify Your Calling Tara Mohr is a writer and personal growth coach. In this short video, she doesn’t use the word “gift”, but she identifies seven clues you’re focused on your Core Gift as a calling you must pursue.

Best of Connecting Point: James Hillman on Your Calling We come into this world with a companion that knows who we are. We find clues to our Gift through our suffering and our calls.

Community Living St. Marys, a helping organization in a small town in rural Ontario, Canada, have been learning about and applying gift practices for several years now. They created a video that includes some of the theory and how they are using gifts.

Recognizing Gifts John McKnight’s approach gathers all of the people who live in a community, and the wealth of their combined gifts, abilities, and skills, in order to create a welcoming and wholly inclusive environment.

Three Different Kinds of Gifts. Bruce Anderson, Director of the Core Gift Institute, describes the three different kinds of gifts.

The Core Gift Discovery Interview  Bruce Anderson, Director of the Core Gift Institute, describes how the Core Gift Discovery Interview is different from usual strength inventories, and the three reasons why it’s useful.

What is a Core Gift? Bruce Anderson, Director of the Core Gift Institute, describes a Core Gift.

To Build Community, an Economy of Gifts Charles Eisenstein describes Gift Circles and the underlying shift from a money to gift economy.

Building Community by Organizing Events in the “Gift Economy” Style. A practical example of offering a workshop using the principles of a gift economy.

The Diversity of Gifts John McKnight’s approaches community believing that the diversity of gifts is often unrecognized, and that diversity contains the capacity to create community change.

Your Genius is Calling Michael Meade says much has been written about having a vocation or calling in life; but often overlooked is the idea that a true calling is aimed at the genius qualities already set within each person. Most know that the call to awaken to a genuine path in life begins in youth; but fewer know that the calling keeps calling even in later life. Not only that, but in mythic terms, the Fountain of Youth that people have roamed the earth seeking waits to be found within oneself.

Fate and Destiny Part IV: Gifts and Wounds Michael Meade reads from his book, Fate and Destiny. Describing how everyone is gifted. It’s part of a person’s fate and is intended to be given. In order to give our gifts, we have to heal from our wounds.

Your Calling Keeps Calling “Because what calls to us is timeless, the calling can come at any time. At each turn in the road our life’s work awaits us; thus, our calling keeps calling no matter our age or position or condition in life.” Michael Meade video.

Unconditional Basic Income Orland Bishop, founder of Shade Tree Multicultural Foundation, talks about the idea of unconditional basic income for everyone, and the importance of living out the contribution you are meant to be making.

We Come Bearing Gifts: The Most Commonly Asked Questions About Using Gifts to Navigate Change. Community Activators. Bruce Anderson

When Gifts Come Dressed as Trouble: Using gifts as a tool for understanding and reducing undesirable student behavior. Community Activators. Bruce Anderson

New Possibilities for Recovery-Based Employment: The gifted job seeker. Community Activators. Community Activators. Bruce Anderson

Seeds for Recovery: Using Core Gifts to Inspire Hope and Action Bruce Anderson. Community Activators.

Section Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

Gifts and Purpose Organizations

Mosaic Multicultural Foundation.  A wide-ranging collection of audio, video, and written material about genius, the finding and following a purposeful life.

Asset-Based Community Development Institute  The original source for information about discovery and harnessing of the capacity of a group or community. Focusing on abundance rather than needs.

ABCD in Action  A forum for discussion about ABCD community development strategies and discovering and harnessing gifts to create abundant communities.

Trek Epic  An innovative organization focused on helping emerging adults discover their Core Gifts while walking in small groups “on trek” in Europe.

Core Gift Institute  CGI has a mission of developing gift-discovery and gift-giving tools for use with individuals, helping organizations, and community groups of all kinds.

Section Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Gifts and Purpose Quotes and Excerpts

More than 100 quotes, from ancient to modern times, from the fields of spirituality, psychology, anthropology and community development.
Have a favorite quote? Send it to us!

Comparing gifts is our mind’s safety mechanism kicking in. Because there is hardwork and uncertainty in using our gifts, the mind looks for a cop-out, an opportunity to get off the hook to act. If we can convince ourselves that our gifts are unimportant compared to someone else’s, then we justify our staying put.

— Three Lies About Gifts, Unknown author

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We waste our cancer if we believe it is a curse and not a gift.

— John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Cancer

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The greatest gift you can give one another is rapt attention to one another’s existence.

— Sue Atchley Ebaugh

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Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out, it’s not merely benign or “too bad” if we don’t use the gits we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. …we feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief.

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

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There are so many gifts Still unopened from your birthday, There are so many hand-crafted presents That have been sent to you by God.

— Hafiz, So Many Gifts

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Leadership springs from the pursuit of purpose. Purpose is longing—love for what the soul wants most to pursue in and through this life. The Greeks called it Eros—the capacity to follow what is most intensely missing or unfinished in our lives. Purpose wells up from the soul. It is not something we invent. It finds us—if we pay attention.

— Bob Anderson, Mastering Leadership

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A King sent you to a country to carry out one special, specific task. You go to the country and you perform a hundred other tasks, but if you have not performed the task you were sent for, it is as if you have performed nothing at all. So man has come into the world for a particular task and that is his purpose. If he doesn’t perform it, he will have done nothing.

Rumi

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So, when we seek our birthright gifts, it is important not to equate them with the techniques our society names as skills. Our gifts may be as simple as a real interest in other people, a quiet and caring manner, an eye for beauty, a love of rhythm and sound. But in those simple personal gifts the seeds of vocation are often found, if we are willing to do the inner and outer work necessary to cultivate our mastery.

— Parker Palmer, The Active Life

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An occupation is the only thing which balances the distinctive capacity of an individual with his social service. To find out what one is fitted to do and to secure an opportunity to do it is the key to happiness. Nothing is more tragic than failure to discover one’s true business in life, or to find that one has drifted or been forced by circumstance into an uncongenial calling.

— John Dewey, Democracy and Education

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…initiation lies at the core of any genuine human life. And this is true for two reasons. The first is that any genuine human life implies profound crises, ordeals, suffering, loss and reconquest of self, “death and resurrection.” The second is that, whatever degree of fulfillment it may have brought him, at a certain moment every man sees his life as a failure. This vision does not arise from a moral judgment made on his past, but from an obscure feeling that he has missed his vocation: that he has betrayed the very best that was in him.

— Mircea Eliade, Rites and Symbols of Initiation

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What would really be a lesson that everybody should learn is that…things come out of nothing. Things evolve out of nothing. The tiniest seed in the right situation turns into the most beautiful forest, and then, the most promising seed in the wrong situation turns into nothing… But with this insight you could have another kind of life. You could say, “Well, I know that things come from nothing very much and start from unpromising beginnings, and I’m an unpromising beginning—I could start something.”

— Brian Enno

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Each child may be a gift to its people, but each can easily become a burden to the community until their inner abilities are found and used. Each has the ability to become a boon or a bane to the rest of the human village. The difference depends on whether people feel welcome in this world and whether they find ways to use their natural gifts and make a meaningful way in life. When a culture forgets this, it will fail to welcome the newborns, it will neglect its own youth, and its old people will cling to lives not fully lived.

— Michael Meade, Fate and Destiny

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Despite what we say to ourselves about wanting to know who we really are, there is a very strong chance that we will steer clear of decisive meetings with ourselves for as long as possible. It is far easier to walk in shoes too small for us that to step into the largeness that the soul expects and demands.

— James Hollis, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

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I want to know if you are prepared to live in the world with its harsh need to change you. If you can look back with firm eyes saying this is where I stand.

— David Whyte

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I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.

— Carl Jung

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Consider this: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

— Howard Thurman

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We may choose careers, but we do not choose vocation. Vocation chooses us. To choose what chooses us is a freedom the by-product of which will be a sense of rightness and a harmony within, even if lived out in the world of conflict, absent validation, and at considerable personal cost.

— James Hollis, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

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The thing about a natural gift is that it can be a curse, too. We should all be so lucky to have that kind of curse in the way that you’re cursed with the drive for the never-ending pursuit of whatever it is. Whether it be excellence, or having a better message, or more empowering, or whatever it is. You have that never-ending pursuit. It’s pretty tricky, because, it’s like this fire that you gotta keep putting wood in and it’s like, ok, the woods getting low and you gotta fill it up again. And how do you make the transition from doing it from anger, which is where we usually start from, to all of a sudden this new transition to, O.K., let’s do it from being content…..oh, that’s tricky. Wow, that’s a rough one. Or from anger to happiness, oh, that’s even harder.

— Laird Hamilton

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…we sometimes summon our cynicism and decide that the free gift was an illusion. We say, “there is no free lunch,” forgetting that women have been cooking lunch for free for millennia.

— Genevieve Vaughan, The Enigma of the Gift

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I don’t mean to be sentimental about suffering, but people who cannot suffer can never grow up and can never discover who they are.

— James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

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A pitcher cries for water to carry. And a person for work that is real.

— Marge Piercy

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Punishing a person, when their gift is being given in ways that are not helpful, sends a message to the person’s psyche that the most valuable part of who they are is not worthy of others’ attention and gratitude. The likely result is a building of resentment, a purposeful lack of appreciation of others’ gifts, and a continuing escalation of the disruptive behavior.

— Bruce Anderson, The Teacher’s Gift: Using Your Core Gift to Inspire and Heal

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Often, people working with the homeless get bogged down providing services for addiction, mental health, abuse, behavioral issues and employment. What gets ignored is helping people rediscover, and in some cases discover for the first time, their giftedness. It is so critical. Where people find hope, where their soul and their spirit are resuscitated, it’s in being able to give expression to their gifts.”

— Louis Nanni, past Director, Center for the Homeless, South Bend, Indiana

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The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

— Mark Twain

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Most of us are unfamiliar with a deep and abiding sense of purpose, not because we don’t have one, but because we have not integrated a discipline of silent attention into our lives. Without this discipline, we run the risk of becoming seriously o course and never living into our true destiny. Discovering purpose is simply a matter of paying attention to what our life has been telling us. Life has been speaking to us for a long time about what matters most. It has been leaving clues. It remains for us to have the courage to maintain a discipline of attention to the subtle way our soul calls to us.

— Mastering Leadership, Bob Anderson

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We all feel that we’re not enough to make a difference. That we need to be more somehow. What if we were exactly what’s needed? What then? How would I live if I was exactly what’s needed to heal the world?

— Rachel Naomi Remen

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It just gets you deep to the core. I have relationships with clients that are fundamentally different after helping them find their gift. I recognize how many judgements, prejudices, and fears I have about people…and how deeply homeless people are hurt by not being seen for who they really are.”

— Philip Bates, Seeds for Recovery Publication, Community Activators

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We are supposed to live out this big dream. The problem is, our families either don’t know or they forget this is supposed to happen and they repress the dream. The good news is this: an imperfect family gives us the opportunity to walk out wounded, looking for a blessing. Families are the rough material from which gifts are formed.

— Michael Meade, Speaking at a youth and mentors’ event

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I cannot give what I do not possess, so I need to know what gifts have grown up within me that are now ready to be harvested and shared. If the gifts I give are mine, grown from the seed of pure self, I can give them without burning out. Like the fruit of a tree, they will replenish themselves in due season.

— Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

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When we mistakenly give our gifts believing we are doing so only out of service to another person, we discard one of the most beautiful and essential ideas about gifts—the reciprocity within the gift means that both the giver and the receiver benefit. The receiver gets the gift that is given, and the giver receives the healing and a conscious awareness of the increased ability that results each time the gift is given.

— Bruce Anderson, Being En Pointe: Dancing with our gifts

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This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

— George Bernard Shaw

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Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.

— Rumi

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Hospitality, then, is our grateful Christian response to God’s gift of a home. Like all true gifts, a home does not belong entirely to the one who received it, for it bears the mark of the Giver, who wants us to share it with others.

— Smith and Carvill, The Gift of the Stranger

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After a few weeks among the poor in Lima, Peru, I was so impressed by their gifts of joy, peace, and gentleness—not withstanding their great needs—that I came to realize that my vocation was as much that of receiver as of giver. Perhaps it was more important for me to receive from the poor the many gifts born of their love than to try and make myself valuable in their eyes.

— Henri J.W. Nouwen, My Sister, My Brother

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What each must seek in their life never was on land or sea. It is something out of their own unique potentiality for experience, something that never has been and never could have been experienced by anyone else.

— Joseph Campbell

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Go all the way with it. Do not back off. For once, go all the goddamn way with what matters.

— Ernest Hemingway

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Each person has a variety of ordinary and extraordinary gifts. The people whom we call handicapped are people who are missing some typical ordinary gifts. However, such people also have a variety of other ordinary and extraordinary gifts capable of stimulating interaction and meaning with others. Seeing disability somehow prevents us from seeing the gifts in a person, at least at first. And so we are surprised when we find ourselves experiencing pleasure, meaning, and opportunity in the presence of a disabled person.

— Judith Snow, What I Know About Community

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Your gifts rest deep in your bones—yet, when you give them, they become a visible and actionable oath demonstrating over and over again your faith in the thread of life you are woven into.

— Bruce Anderson, Walking Your Gifted Path

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A key covenant is to see the gifts of the widow. And the orphan. And the immigrant. Anyone on the margin. We were all there once. People of any prosperity or power are always surprised when the gifts of those that they blame or look down on are revealed. This exposure of gifts is the way into the kind of community that we want. It’s one of the most significant acts that we can do.

— Peter Block, Walter Bruggemann, John McKnight, An Other Kingdom

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Amidst a period of world-wide uncertainty there is an acceleration of calling and a great need for the natural genius of each person to awaken. There may be no better time to learn the pattern set within the soul and claim the mythic thread that brought us to life to begin with. When aligned with the soul’s mythic thread we can express the natural genius of our lives and be of genuine service to others and to a world in increasingly in need of inspiration, imagination and healing.

— Michael Meade, Workshop descriptor: Personal Myth-The unique story trying to live through you.

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It’s lovely when you find someone who is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing and their work is an expression of their inner gift and in witnessing to that gift and bringing it out they actually provide an incredible service to us all. And I think you see that the gifts that are given to us as individuals are not for us alone, or for our own self-improvement, but they are actually for the community and to be offered.

— John O’Donohue, Inner Landscape of Beauty, On Being with Krista Tippet

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Living well is not about eradicating our wounds and weaknesses, but understanding how they complete our identity and equip us to help others.

— Rachel Naomi Remen

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“No good thing is easy.” They told us that, While we dug our fingers into the stones And looked beseechingly into their eyes. They say the hurt is good for you. It makes What comes later a gift all the more Precious in your bleeding hands.

— William Stafford, Consolations, from The Darkness Around Us Is Deep

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…the most subtle barrier to the discernment of our native gifts is in the gifts themselves: they are so central to us, so integral to who we are, that we take them for granted and are often utterly unaware of the mastery they give us.

— Parker Palmer, The Active Life

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The critical problems of becoming male and female, of relations within the family, and of passing into old age are directly related to the devices which the society offers the individual to help him achieve the new adjustment. Somehow we seem to have forgotten this—or perhaps the ritual has become so completely individualistic that it is now found for many only in the privacy of the psychoanalyst’s couch.

— Salon T. Kimbal in the Introduction, Rites of Passage

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Leadership is fundamentally the act of articulating and acting in pursuit of a vision that flows from our commitment to a higher purpose. Each of us has a unique and personal purpose that is seeking expression through our lives. Vision is a picture of how we want to actualize that meaning in tangible ways. It is a way of perceiving the specific direction our spirit longs to go. True vision is specific, strategic, loyal and communal.

— Mastering Leadership, Bob Anderson

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Integrity means to live from the place in you that has the greatest truth.

— Rachel Naomi Remen

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There is a place in the soul where neither time, nor space, nor no creative thing can touch. Your identity is not equivalent to your biography. There is a place in you where you have never been wounded. Where there is still a sureness in you, where there is a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.

— John O’Donohue, Inner Landscape of Beauty, On Being with Krista Tippet

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Knowing your gift is a matter of personal dignity. This seed of dignity is bigger thanthe degree of tragedies or disappointments we experience. It can be hindered by too much suffering and abuse, but it cannot be taken away from us. Our dignity lies in knowing our path and having the courage for a renewed start to the giving of the gift.

— Gina Anderson, Seeds for Recovery Publication

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The healing road’s not a highway It’s a path where speed’s not king. It’s a slow road, it’s a toll road to unlock the gifts you bring. Look forward while looking back And see what looks the same The gift you bring’s on a well-worn path Part of your true name

— Bruce Anderson, The Gift—Refrain lyrics

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It’s an old idea of each of us having one or two ideas in life and spending our years expressing them, and expressing them, and expressing them.

— John Ashbery, poet

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It’s worthwhile making a distinction between talents and gifts. More important than our talents are our gifts. We may have only a few talents, but we have many gifts. Our gifts are the many ways in which we express ourhumanity. They are part of who we are: friendship, kindness, patience, joy, peace, forgiveness, gentleness, love, hope, trust, and many others. These are the true gifts we have to offer each other.

— Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

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Intelligence minus purpose equals stupidity.

— Toba Beta, Master of Stupidity

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…our job is to make choices that create the right conditions for the dharma to flourish. The Gift is indestructible. It is a seed. We are not required to be God. We are not required to create the seed. Only to plant it wisely and well.

— Stephen Cope, The Great Work of Your Life

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There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

— Holy Bible, 1 Corinthians 12:4

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A gift is not a gift until it is given.

— Lewis Hyde, The Gift

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Talent is like the marksman who hits a target which others cannot reach; genius is like the marksman who hits a target … which others cannot even see.

— Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation

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What have you learned From the burn of the stove left on too long? What can you offer humanity If you dance all night To someone else’s song? At your core lies the door Which only can be opened By the key of community. Set free by the need And the absence of greed Because our cups do runneth over.

— Dawn Solomon,A Young Persons Response to the Idea of Gifts.

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In the longing for our giant selves, there lies our goodness.

— Kahlil Gibran

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The social structures of the gift still serve a purpose: to remind its members of the truth of their connectedness, to rein in anyone who may have forgotten, and to provide gift structures that work to meet the society’s needs.

— Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics

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God created you with unimaginable gifts. It is the affirmation of others that makes that gift possible. You only know you have a gift when there is someone to say, ‘Thank You’. Affirmation creates community.

— Henri J.M. Nouwen

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Surrendering to the pull of your identify is like tumbling into the safety net that has always been there for you, waiting for you to see it and take the plunge into its woven warmth. What you are doing is handing over the reins of your life to the part of you you can count on the most to make wise decision, to build meaningful relationships, to guide you through pain, to steer you to a place in this world you can call your own.

— Larry Ackerman, The Identity Code

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Receiving often is harder than giving. Giving is very important: giving insight, giving hope, giving courage, giving advice, giving support, giving money, and, most of all, giving ourselves. Without giving there is no brotherhood and sisterhood. But receiving is just as important, because by receiving we reveal to the givers that they have gifts to offer. When we say, “Thank you, you gave me hope; thank you, you gave me a reason to live; thank you, you allowed me to realize my dream,” we make givers aware of their unique and precious gifts. Sometimes it is only in the eyes of the receivers that givers discover their gifts.”

— Henri J.M. Nouwen

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Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

— Mary Oliver

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Everyone has a gift for something, even if it is the gift of being a good friend.

— Marian Anderson

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Societies have progressed in so far as they themselves…have succeeded in stabilizing relationships, giving, receiving, and finally, giving in return.… Only then did people learn how to create mutual interests, giving mutual satisfaction, and, in the end, to defend them without having to resort to arms.

— Marcel Mauss, The Gift

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Finding your gift, and finding ways to give it, brings a palpable sense of peace. Your search is finally over, along with the anxiety it creates. The emptiness that has eaten at your gut subsides. Authenticity, and the strength it produces, is yours: nothing about you is made up.

— Larry Ackerman, The Identity Code

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Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

— Holy Bible, 1 Peter 4:10

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All individuals have distinct biologies, but no one has a predetermined biological fate. Every individual is built with the capacity, as Patrick Bateson says, “to develop in anumber of distinctly different ways.” To discover your own potential, add water, love, perseverance, and lots and lots of time.

— David Shenk, The Genius In All Of Us

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Every problem is a gift. Without problems we would not grow.

— Anthony Robbins

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A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.

— Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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How little we understand of the gifts we have been given or the shape of the path we took to reach our salvation.

— Harley King, What I Was Meant to Forget

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Some people today are wandering generalities instead of meaningful specifics because they have failed to discover and mine the wealth of potentials in them.

— Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

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Gift ain’t what you take by effort, as swag ain’t what you worthy have.

— Toba Beta, Master of Stupidity

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The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.

— Joseph Campbell

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Between the time a gift comes to us and the time we pass it along, we suffer gratitude. Moreover, with gifts that are agents of change, it is only when the gift has worked in us, only when we have come up to its level, as it were, that we can give it away again. Passing the gift along is the act of gratitude that finishes the labor. The transformation is not accomplished until we have the power to give the gift on our own terms.

— Lewis Hyde, The Gift

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Instead of trying to be weird in a normal world, maybe be normal in a weird world, In other words, you should always go where there is a “you-shaped-hole” in the world. Don’t wait for permission, give yourself permission. Don’t wait to be seen, see yourself. Stop waiting for a big idea because you can make your idea big. Instead of waiting for a place to fit in, make a hole in the world that is right for you. In other words, own that spot in the world only you can stand in, the place of your history and experiences, visions, and hopes. Stand in youronlyness. It is a position of real strength and, from that place, you can dent the world.

— Nilofer Merchant, Go Where There is a You-Shaped Hole

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When bartering for commodities or buying them with money, at the conclusion of the transaction, the partners own what they have bought or traded…This presupposes that the things or the services that are bartered, sold or bought are wholly alienable, detachable from the sellers. This is not the case in an “economy and a moral code based on gift-giving,” since the thing given is not alienated and the giver retains rights over what he has given, and subsequently benefits from a series of “advantages.”

— Maurice Godelier, The Enigma of the Gift

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When people are in the zone, they align naturally with a way of thinking that works best for them. I believe this is the reason that time seems to take on a new dimension when you are in the zone. When people use a thinking style completely natural to them, everything comes more easily.

— Ken Robinson, The Element

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There are several problems with this (Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator) …test takers often don’t settle neatly into any of the categories when they take the MBTI.…More telling, though, is that many people who repeat the test end up in a different box when they do so. It’s true in at least half of the cases, according to some studies.

— Ken Robinson, The Element

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Their (helping professionals) conscious intent is to be of service to humankind, or they say they find the work interesting, but they are often extrapolating the wound of the family of origin to those of humanity in general. Thus, the archetype of the wounded healer is ubiquitous. It can both constitute one’s vocational calling and at the same time be the chief source of stress and burn-out as the primal wounds are evoked over and over again, unceasingly pulling the caregiver back in the place of wounding to suffer it anew.

— James Hollis, Creating a life

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Furthermore, giftedness grows from different roots making it possible to speak of three different sorts of gifts. First, some gifts seem to arise simply because of the unique makeup of the individual. One person picks up whistling at age 5, another has always enjoyed listening to other’s stories. Secondly, some gifts are tied to a general characteristic. Only women bear babies. Lastly, many gifts arise from the efforts that an individual makes to deal with her or his experience. After a long fight with cancer a person may develop a high tolerance for pain, an appreciation for beautiful sunrises and the desire, time and capacity to visit severely ill people.

— Judith Snow, What I Know About Community

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“I had a dream last night,he replied.And in my dream the Angel of the Lord asked me a question, and it upset me so that I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night.” “But you’re a holy man!, they exclaimed.You study God’s law, you know the Torah; what question could have bothered you so?”“In my dream, the Angel did not ask me, ‘Zusha, why were you not a Moses, leading God’s people to freedom?’ The Angel did not ask me, ‘Zusha, why were you not a David, conquering kingdoms in my name?’ The Angel did not ask me that.” “But Zusha, they cried. What was the question?” “In my dream the Angel asked me, ‘Zusha, why were you not Zusha?’And for that, I have no answer.”

— Reb Zusha

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As William Stafford says, “Who are you really, wanderer?” At a certain point, closure should come to the wandering and we should enter the quest. We become custodians for our gifts.

— Orland Bishop

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In the same way that each infant arrives with a unique set of fingerprints as well as precise brain printing, each soul bears an inner imprint and unique psychic pattern. Human nature includes the hallmark of genius and a stamp of uniqueness provided by great nature. Nature produces life on a massive scale, yet each person born remains singular, never to be repeated. Just as there is no such thing as an average rainfall or an average tree, there is no such thing as an average person.

— Michael Meade, The Genius Myth

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Your dominant gifts are a clue into the problem you are assigned to solve.

— Holy Eros: the section on the The Eros of the Gift, James Whitehead & Evelyn Whitehead

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Why is there such a vast self-help industry in this country? Why do all these selves need help? They have been deprived of something by our psychological culture. They have been deprived of the sense that there is something else in life, some purpose that has come with them into the world.

— James Hillman

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Everyone is gifted. This means that everyone has something to give. A person who does not feel gifted is lost in a pit of oblivion and confusion…The question is: what happens when what you do does not align with who you are? It means you are betraying the very vitality that defines you and are thus inviting great pain into your life. Malidoma Some´

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…the gift is a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it; we cannot acquire it through an act of will. It is bestowed upon us.

— Lewis Hyde

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Our gifts are often simultaneously our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses. When we accept this in ourselves and others, we can begin to become truly whole people and create space in the world for others to do the same.

— Caitlin Childs

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A gift is not a gift until it’s given.

— Lewis Hyde

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To receive help, support, guidance, affection, and care may well be a greater call than that of giving these things because in receiving I reveal the gift to the givers and a new life together can begin.

— Henri J.M. Nouwen, My Sister, My Brother

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The courage to participate with others in reciprocal gift exchange is at the core of hope, both in individuals and in our collective lives together. The hope that we will not simply survive, but thrive, if we believe that all of us have gifts worthy of leading with. There is abundance all around us all the time.

— Bruce Anderson, Walking Your Gifted Path

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The naming of their gifts is the most powerful thing that will ever happen to a child.

— John McKnight, Recognizing Gifts

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There are deeper names we carry that we don’t know about or fully understand.

— Luis Rodriguez

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There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive.

— Oprah Winfrey

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The exceptional status of each human being derives from the unique significance of suffering and flourishing in the context of our remembrances of the past and of the memories we have constructed of the future we anticipate.

— Antonio Damasio, The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures

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There are two parts to the rediscovery of the place of genius. In one, we sense the golden light of the flame in ourselves,; in the other, someone else must see the flame in us. Both are necessary for the fire to grow. When both occur, there is an outbreak of spirit that changes the course of our lives. If neither of these things happen, we may die, either literally or inside. If others see the flame in us but we don’t recognize it, we will burn just for them and eventually burn out.

— Michael Meade, Men and the Water of Life.

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Figure out who you are. Then do it on purpose.

— Dolly Parton

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“Where is the power of gifts organized in a community?” is the central question.

— John McKnight

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To give anything less than your bestis to sacrifice the gift.

— Steve Prefontaine

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The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.

— David Viscott

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Realize that your gift does not belong merely to you.

— Sunday Adelaja

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AA has “twelve steps to recovery,” which more or less summarize the program. The twelfth step is an act of gratitude: recovery alcoholics help other alcoholics when called up on to do so. It is a step in which the gift is passed along, so it is right that it should be the final one. In AA they speak of “2-steppers”—that is, people who take Step One (accepting they are an alcoholic) and then jump directly to Step Twelve ((helping others) without the in-between steps where the labor lies. They try to pass along something they themselves have not yet received.

— Lewis Hyde, The Gift

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The gift, to be true, must be the flowing of the giver unto me, correspondent to my flowing unto him. When the waters are at level, then my goods pass to him, and his to me.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gifts essay

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…what has been so amazing over all these years is that I think we come to a point where our commitment to the truth is so strong that actually there’s a feeling of delight in seeing the flaws, in seeing the defilements. Now, when I watch my mind, I’m so happy to see them because in the seeing of them is the possibility of being free to make choices that are guided more by loving kindness and compassion.

— Joseph Goldstein, Buddhist, contributor, Transforming Suffering

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We will be most nearly real when we serve our vocation. We will not be spared suffering, but we will be granted a deeply felt sense that our life is right, even when suffering isolation and rejection.

— James Hollis, Creating a Life

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We all must grow up in the circumstances we are born into. We all become, to one degree or another, the products of our environment and of the times in which we live. Yet, we also carry within us something that is timeless and able to transcend our immediate circumstances and commonly accepted limitations.

— Michael Meade, The Genius Myth

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Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb;the farmer, corn; the miner, a stone; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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…the gift that you’re going to give and keep on giving is an invisible gift that will take many different forms and that you learn more of each time you allow it to take a different form. You move from your 20s into your 30s, and you suddenly find another larger form for it or a different shape that makes a different connection. And then you deepen it in your 40s. And you get overwhelmed by it in your 50s. And then it returns to you again in more mature forms, settled forms, in your 60s. This is the gift that keeps giving, and it’s that internal, deeper source. It’s you becoming more and more real and more and more visible in the world.

— David Whyte

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