“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
– Martha Graham
I believe that everyone has a primary innate gift, and that with enough cultivation, that gift — writing, singing, playing soccer, healing people, designing buildings, etcetera — can turn into a superpower.
Unfortunately, too many of us let our innate gift wilt from lack of care and feeding. It hides in the shadows. Maybe we know it’s there, but we choose to ignore it — pursuing it won’t pay the bills, or we’re convinced we aren’t good enough, or that something else is more important or worthwhile. Other times, we’re so distracted by what we think we’re supposed to be doing that we don’t even know what our gift is.
“Not me,” you may be thinking. “I don’t have a gift.” I think you’re wrong. I’m 38 years old and have met a lot of people in my time, and every single one of them has a gift that I can see if I watch and listen closely enough. I listen to what they say, and what they don’t say. I watch: What energizes them? What lights them up inside?
And when they do the thing they were meant to do — I can feel it. When I am lucky enough to witness it, I feel an energy rush through me, which I think is called love. The love you feel when you witness something that is right. Here is a video of my husband, Jordan, using his gift — his singing voice — that makes me feel like the world is standing still:
Too often, we choose a life that lets our gift languish in the corner. In school we are encouraged to make A’s, not to discover what moves us and to pursue it to its fullest extent. Sure, making A’s early on might mean we’re being exposed to a broad array of ideas and information that can help us discover our talents and interests. But for the most part, we teach kids the ideas and the information without also teaching the skills, or providing the space, to help them find out who they are — what lights them up, and what they want to do about it.
Thank goodness for education reformers pushing for things like mindfulness, design thinking and project-based learning in more of our classrooms. Taken together, these approaches can equip kids to apply information and ideas in more meaningful ways, and to answer questions in their own lives, like: What makes me happy? How do I want to be of use to the world?
As those of you who follow my blog closely will know, I am an artist, as are many of my friends. I’m a big proponent of the book The Artist’s Way, which insists that we’re all artists, actually, even those who feel about as artistic as a sock. But when I say everyone has a gift, I don’t just mean an artistic gift. Maybe your gift is teaching. Maybe your gift is listening and helping people really feel heard — my god, what a gift that is, in this world. Maybe your gift is fixing machines, or seeing patterns in numbers, or building support for a cause. Whatever it is, I encourage you to create enough space in your life to tune into finding it, and then, to cultivating it. Learn from others who share your gift. And surround yourself with people who are pursuing THEIR gift.
Nothing is more important. In the wise words of Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it — because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”
Time to come alive.