A Meaningful Life

A Meaningful Life =

Discovering your Gifts

and Contributing them


Download a printable document (Discovering your gifts and contributing them = a meaningful life in Word) or (discovering-your-gifts-and-contributing-them-a-meaningful-life in PDF)




“Am I living the life that wants to live in me???”

(Parker Palmer in his book, Let Your Life Speak)

Creating meaning in life.

Whose responsibility is it to create meaning in my life?

How does that happen?

What does Victor Frankl say about creating meaning in life?

(Quotes from Victor Frankl)

What are gifts? What is their significance?

Everyone creates meaning in one way: by discovering their gifts and contributing them in a way that makes a difference in the lives around them.

Activity and discussion

A few minutes of contemplation: think about a time when you made a positive difference in the life of another person. Sometimes the things you do are very very simple. One of the most powerful ways of making a difference is just being with another person; especially when they are hurting. That can be a real gift.

Use the worksheet to tell your story. Write down your thoughts and discuss.

From “Make a Difference: a guide book for person-centered direct support”, p. 13


I slept and dreamed

that life was joy.

I awoke and saw

that life was service.

I served and understood

that service was joy.

(Rabindranath Tagore)


Discuss Everyday Heroes (p. 4)

“The fact that people became heroes and sheroes can be credited to their ability to identify and empathize with the ‘other.’ These men and women could continue to live quite comfortable with their slow temperament but they chose not to. They made the decision to be conscious of the other –the homeless, the downtrodden and the oppressed. Heroism has nothing to do with skin color or social status. It is a state of mind and a willingness to act for what is right and just.” (Maya Angelou)

From “Make a Difference: a guide book for person-centered direct support”, p. 29

Naming and Claiming Your Gifts

If you doubt that you arrived in this world with gifts and giftedness, then listen to this story:

The Pearl of Great Price is YOU!

What is the nature and personality they came to earth with? What gifts were bestowed upon them at birth? What impact are their gifts having on those around them? Am I teaching them to listen to their inner light, their inner teacher?

Here’s a story I told my kids from Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak. My 14 year old daughter was particularly intrigued and wanted to know more about the book, like she was considering reading it! (bold and italics mine)

“If you doubt that we all arrive in this world with gifts and as a gift, pay attention to an infant or a very young child. A few years ago, my daughter and her new born baby came to live with me for a while. Watching my granddaughter from her earliest days on earth, I was able, in my early fifties, to see something that had eluded me as a twenty-something parent: my granddaughter arrived in the world as thiskind of person rather than that, or that, or that.

“She did not show up as raw material to be shaped into whatever image the world might want her to take. She arrived with her own gifted form, with the shape of her own sacred soul. Biblical faith calls it the image of God in which we are all created. Thomas Merton calls it true self. Quakers call it the inner light, or ‘that of God’ in every person. The humanist tradition calls it identityandintegrity. No matter what you call it, it is a pearl of great price.

“In those early days of my granddaughter’s life, I began  observing the inclinations and proclivities that were planted in her at birth. I noticed, and I still notice, what she likes and dislikes, what she is drawn toward and repelled by, how she moves, what she does, what she says.

“I am gathering my observations in a letter. When my granddaughter reaches her late teens or early twenties, I will make sure that my letter finds its way to her, with a preface something like this: ‘Here is a sketch of who you were from your earliest days in this world. It is not a definitive picture — only you can draw that. But it was sketched by a person who loves you very much. Perhaps these notes will help you do sooner something your grandfather did only later: remember who you were when you first arrived and reclaim the gift of true self.

“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts — then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, work places, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others.

“We are disabused of original giftedness in the first half of our lives. Then — if we are awake, aware, and able to admit our loss — we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed.”

“When we lose track of true self, how can we pick up the trail? One way is to seek clues in stories from our younger years, years when we lived closer to our birthright gifts.” (Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, pp. 11–13)


“The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. If you are loving, if you are friendly, if you are helpful, the world will prove loving and friendly and helpful to you. The world is what you are.” (Thomas Dreier)

“The world is your mirror and your mind a magnet. What you perceive in this world is largely a reflection of your own attitudes and beliefs.” (Michael LeBeuf)

“The faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?” (Japanese Folklore)

Contributing Your Gifts


Where, in your world, can your gifts make a difference???

Start by seeking valued experiences:

And making connections:


Challenging Limiting Beliefs



“It’s the heart afraid of breaking

that never learns to dance.

It’s the dream afraid of waking

that never takes the chance.

It’s the one who won’t be taken,

who cannot seem to give,

and the soul afraid of dyin’

that never learns to live.”

(Amanda McBrooom)


Stop saying, “I can’t do that.”

Start asking, “What would it take?”

Capacity Thinking

Circles of capacity

What do you believe?

Further Thoughts

Consumer Or Contributor: Leadership In An Age Of Consumption

Letting Go Of Non-Essentials

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