Your Core Gift – Your Thread of Light: The Gift You’ve Been Threading All Along

Every once in a while we do something and a little voice inside says, “There, that’s it. That’s why you’re here.” And you get a warm glow in your heart because you know it is true. Do more of that. – Jacob Nordby

Years ago, in the midst of a heart-aching quest to discover and understand my “purpose” (as though it were the Holy Grail that would solve all my problems), I was invited to a work event as a representative for the non-profit I worked for at the time. Bruce E. Anderson, of an organization called “Community Activators,” introduced our room full of folks in helping professions to something called “Core Gift.” The idea of using “strength-based assessment” in our work as counselors, social workers, teachers, etc, was relatively new in the early 2000s. But this took that notion to an even deeper place, giving us an indispensable tool to use in our work as well as with ourselves and our own families.

Mr. Anderson presented his data and research by starting with a poem by William Stafford that contains this line: “There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it does not change.” Then he walked us through a process, backed by countless case studies, to show us how to help our clients identify what he called our “Core Gift.” We participated in the process ourselves and by the end of the day I had a purpose statement that resonated with my heart for the first time in my life.

It has morphed and changed as I’ve gotten to know myself more deeply. But the essence of my Core Gift has not changed. He presented the case that whatever your spiritual or psychological background is doesn’t matter – everyone possesses a Core Gift. Now he runs the Core Gift Institute where their motto is “Walking your purposeful path,” and they include this in their About Us section:

One thing we know for certain: understanding and using our gifts is both an old and a new idea. Cultures and faith traditions, many centuries old, used specific methods to identify and use gifts in their members. Now, modern neuroscience and positive psychology have backed up older wisdom traditions by proving that individuals thrive when they are able to find meaning in their lives by knowing and giving their gifts.

Up until this point, my young 29-year old self thought I’d have to go through some mystical process to find my sense of purpose, some sudden enlightenment that would come after years of arduous questing. But here, in this little one-day event, in a process that was engaging, fun, and simple yet thought-provoking, I watched my Core Gift revealed before my eyes in a matter of 90 minutes.

The methodology underpinning the process taught us that we and our clients have many skills, talents, and general gifts that we can give in our work, personal life and community, but that we have only one Core Gift that is our thread weaving through life everywhere we go. He also pointed out that our Core Gift comes from our greatest point of suffering (usually sometime in our young lives).

The Core Gift process is a type of interview. The person discovering their Core Gift is the interviewee and the interviewer writes down her answers verbatim – acting as a sort of witness to her discovery. After the interview is complete, the interviewee cuts up the answer sheet and sorts her answers into piles that feel like they have a theme. Then she goes through the piles to decide which theme speaks to her as being the most important or consistent in her life. The other piles become the how of living her Core Gift.

For example, this is my “Core Gift Statement”: My Core Gift is to BE HOME. I live this through feeling at home in my own skin and modeling this for others; and I serve others by cultivating a safe, inviting, and playful space for them to be at home in themselves and in their lives. Everything I do now – in my career, my relationships, my community – is filtered through this statement that rings very true to my heart. It helps me discern where and how to spend my time, energy, and resources.

What I’ve loved about the Core Gift process is that during the sixteen years that I’ve shared this process with others is that it is so elegantly simple and accessible to all. And when someone really “gets” their Core Gift, it is like being truly seen for the first time. Granted, the statement one comes to in the first session is just a beginning, an invitation to step into noticing how and where one has been threading this Core Gift all along.

So how does this apply to our work as entrepreneurs and as women balancing many roles in our lives? Knowing our Core Gift helps us to cut through the noise of everything calling out for us to fix it or save it or just “make it happen.” The myth of the woman who does it all and still keeps it all together is wiping us out. I feel this thread deeply in the calls I get from women asking for coaching.

Parker Palmer observes in his brilliant book, “Let Your Life Speak”:

“When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless—a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. Yes, we are created in and for community, to be there, in love, for one another. But community cuts both ways: when we reach the limits of our own capacity to love, community means trusting that someone else will be available to the person in need.”

So this is how we save the world (and create successful businesses in the process) – we give our Core Gift consciously and fully and then we make space for others to do the same. That is how we are truly #bettertogether!

The diseases of perfectionism, people-pleasing, and doing it all threaten to lead us into burnout or worse, now more than ever. And we don’t want to deprive others of the ability to give their natural Core Gifts by staying married to false responsibility.

Parker Palmer continues: “One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess-the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have: it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.”

What is mine to give? Knowing what our Core Gift is helps us answer this question day in and day out, and can protect us from burnout because we become clear about what is truly ours to give and what is not ours to give.

For more on the Core Gift process and how you can identify yours, contact me at and mention this blog or the webinar for a 10% discount. And for more on Purpose check out a podcast I was interviewed on not too long ago all about that here:

To view previously held WE Forum Series webinars email info@centralsbdc.og


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