Young Adults Recognize and Develop Core Gifts on Hikes

Two kids laugh while hiking through woodsThe practice of young people going off on a trek to find themselves is ancient. Recently, though, we’ve found ways to integrate walking treks into the Core Gift Process framework.

In my educational counseling practice, I became aware that some of the individuals I worked with needed something extra: a catalyst that would lead to a life-changing revelation and move them to a new place in life. We felt that treks could provide this catalyst.

We believe the journey going on within the participants is as important as the journey going on around them. We employ the Core Gift Process, developed by Bruce Anderson. In a nutshell, the core gift process holds that each of us has the motivation and the means to contribute to the world through our own skills and gifts. Gifts consist of wisdom, passage, and talent. Navigating a hard period in one’s life creates the “core gift” for each person.

On our treks, trained guides assist hikers in this process through a structured self-assessment discussions and exercises. The process requires the hikers to draw from themselves and each other. By the end of the trek, they should understand their core gifts and be motivated to go out into the world and use them. In our March 2013 trek, we were fortunate enough to have Bruce Anderson accompany us and lead participants himself.

According to Anderson, people have several personality components. One is each person’s strengths, things a person is naturally good at, but many people may not enjoy their strengths and not use them. People also have skills, which they neither like nor dislike, but are simply things they learn to do out of necessity. Another part is a person’s talents, which involve an enjoyable activity, but each person must work to develop talent.

Finally, people have gifts, which are what most motivates them as to what they want to do, even if they don’t recognize what it is. Gifts may draw on some combination of strengths, skills, and talents, but another important aspect to a gift is that it extends beyond the person and into the community. Gifts may be born out of struggles in our lives but gifts are neither mysterious nor deep inside us, according to Anderson. They’re usually on the surface, waiting to be recognized, although others might see and understand them.

Core Gift has been applied in many different settings, but we have seen good results using it in treks. The unfamiliar setting and exhaustion of the trek help break down barriers, allowing participants to more readily assess their lives and consider themselves. With guidance, participants actively help each other in exploring their potential and finding their core gift.

“It just felt good to get out there and do something that was challenging that I could manage,” said one participant from the August 2012 trek. “What you bring to the group becomes clear in a couple of days and the accomplishment and interaction with other people helps you understand yourself better.”

During the treks, guides lead participants through an interview process to discover their Core Gift. The participants are expected to work with each other on the discovery and development of the gift, whether they’re walking, having a meal, or sitting around a campfire.

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  • FG


    May 25th, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    Sometimes we can be blind to our own gifts. Have seen this in a friend. She was so good at cooking but never realized its full potential until prompted by others.

    Not seeing your gifts and abilities could keep you from something you can go out and achieve, which can be frustrating. Discovering such a gift is not an overnight process but when it does happen it is important to not let it go, to develop and foster it, to grow yourself.

  • Margaret


    May 25th, 2013 at 4:42 AM

    There are cultures for which this is an integral part of growing up, for becoming a man or a woman. But for us it seems kind of foreign. Many wonder why you have to go on a journey like this to find yourself? Don’t you already know who you are? But I think that for a lot of us it takes that journey off the beaten path of life to discover not only who we are, but the things that are ultimately the most important to us and to face the reality that when there are challenges and obstacles we are indeed strong enough to overcome them.

  • glen


    May 26th, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    have always pushed myself to try anything new,be it a trek,a foreign language class or any other activity.why?because unfamiliar setting help us grow!when we go out and experience something new,something we are not used to,we adapt and we meet new people,take in newer perspectives,which are all important factors to grow as an individual.

    this can really help once you start doing such things on a regular get out there today and do something may feel uncomfortable at first but trust me,it will make you feel good and help you immensely in the long run!

  • branson


    May 26th, 2013 at 5:32 AM

    This not only helps children but this is beneficial for adults as well.

    I think that as we get going through life it is so easy to forget about the important things. A core value like this can help you get recentered and come to see once again all of the things in our lives that really do matter but that we have sorely neglected over time. I like for my family to do these things together where there are no outside influences, no distractions and together you can all just get back to basics. Wonderful teaching tool for families and individuals of all ages.

  • Taylor


    May 26th, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    My kids LOVE TO HIKE! They always beggin’ me to go whenver we don’t have nothin else scheduled. Even when we do sometimes.

  • darryl


    May 26th, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    just getting kids to turn off the tv, video games, cell phones, and all that stuff is a gift.

    kids nowadays don’t even know how to be without sitting in front of something that is turned on.

    get your kids outside lock them out of the house if you have to.


  • Stephie


    May 26th, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    I just adore the work of Bruce Anderson. I am so glad you are using this practice!

  • Darren


    May 26th, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    Well I am a little confused about the core gift thing so like is it something you are born with or something you learn.
    I can’t tell if you are supposed to discover it about yourself or if you are supposed to learn it based on your experiences in life.

  • Phillip


    May 26th, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    Just curious as to how the kids respond to this:
    do they act like normal kids and run around all over the place and not take anything seriously and talk when you are trying to talk and smack each other when your back is turned and not eat anything you brought cuz it’s nasty and pick on each other.

  • Betsy


    May 26th, 2013 at 11:02 PM

    I think strengths are things people have that a lot of times they don’t realized they have. They are just innate and natural and obvious that people assume it’s just a normal thing and that everybody has that particular strength. They don’t even think about it in context of strength, or really even think about it at all. I think that’s why a lot of people don’t use their strengths. Whatever it is comes so easy to them they assume everyone is capable of doing it so they don’t even need to.

  • jillian


    May 26th, 2013 at 11:05 PM

    i think my gift is working with animals but i have no idea what to do with it i keep asking god to help and show me what he wants me to do and where he needs me but no answer yet

  • Josh


    May 26th, 2013 at 11:08 PM

    While I find this interesting, I didn’t really see much mention of how this applies to kids. I am sure applying this to kids and adults has got to be different. I mean, how far can you make a kid trek? What sort of strategies are used to make sure the kids stay focused? How did the trek affect the kids after they went home? Did they discover their gifts by working with counselors one-on-one or in a group? I think this article could use some more detail!

  • Penelope B

    Penelope B

    May 26th, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    This sure dont’ sound like something a kid would say

    “It just felt good to get out there and do something that was challenging that I could manage,” said one participant from the August 2012 trek. “What you bring to the group becomes clear in a couple of days and the accomplishment and interaction with other people helps you understand yourself better.”

    At least no kid I know. and I know alot of kids.

  • Charlotte


    May 26th, 2013 at 11:13 PM

    Sounds like a complete disaster for me.
    I have no interest in being outside walking around trying to find myself.
    That’s why we have houses.

  • Maisy


    May 27th, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    I am very interested in this concept but whenever I think about doing this there is always someone there to undermine me and tell me I am ming a mistake.
    Think that I should just pack up and go do it?
    I really need to get away and clear my head and I think that this might be just what I need.

  • hewitt


    May 27th, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    creative ideas thanks to nature, good health, sunshine and exercise.and a discovery of your gifts.all this in one activity?please sign me trekking event I hear of,I am not going to look away!

  • Martin Johncox

    Martin Johncox

    May 30th, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    Hello, I assist TrekEpic with publicity. Lots of terrific discussion here, thank you all for the thoughts. I should clarify the program is intended only for young adults, people in the late teens and early 20s. If you’re interested in learning more about treks – and know of someone who could benefit from them – follow the link to on Andrew Bryan’s name above. TrekEpic is a nonprofit and foundation support pays for program costs, so participants just have to pay for transportation and walking-around money.

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