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Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
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Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  3,698 ratings  ·  321 reviews
With wisdom, compassion, and gentle humor, Parker J. Palmer invites us to listen to the inner teacher and follow its leadings toward a sense of meaning and purpose. Telling stories from his own life and the lives of others who have made a difference, he shares insights gained from darkness and depression as well as fulfillment and joy, illuminating a pathway toward vocatio...more
Hardcover, 117 pages
Published September 24th 1999 by Jossey-Bass (first published September 1st 1999)
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Finding Your Own North Star by Martha N. BeckLet Your Life Speak by Parker J. PalmerThe Magic of Conflict by Thomas F. CrumStrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom RathHearing with the Heart by Debra K. Farrington
Vocation / calling / discernment
2nd out of 31 books — 13 voters
A New Earth by Eckhart TolleThe Power of Now by Eckhart TolleSmall Wonder by Barbara KingsolverThe House at Pooh Corner by A.A.  MilneLet Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer
Books that keep you sane
5th out of 86 books — 13 voters

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Community Reviews

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Sometimes our crises find us. We run; In my case, it was a failed engagement, a tenative jump to Portland, OR. This led to several years flailing about. Love affairs both meaningful and empty. A career change. New Meds. Bold new psychotherapies. Upgraded software.

No dice.

Every indicator on the dashboard was red, a little iconographic arrow flashing in yellow. The books that used to console me were empty, or page after page of disconnected garbage like Borges proverbial 'Book of Sand.'

The pastor...more
Thomas Holbrook
A friend whose Spiritual walk has given me a deeper understanding of courage and integrity suggested I may like this little book. I quickly became aware that the only thing diminutive about this tome was its size. When I began reading it, given the few pages it contained and the dimensions of those pages, I thought I would be finished reading it in a few hours. I spent 30 minutes reading the first five pages, I would read a paragraph and stare into the Middle Distance for five minutes consideri...more
Leslie Reese
This is a small book both in page count and actual size but it packs much thought-provoking, soulful stuff. I took notes in my journal in order to be able to return the book to the library on time. Originally, I wanted to read it because I am one of those birds who---no matter how many years I live---I am always trying to ascertain if I am in the right place at the right time doing the right thing! This book doesn't talk about "vocation" as one's fantasy job or bread and butter career, but more...more
With warmth and wisdom throughout, Palmer describes in a most linear fashion his own triumphs and travails from institutions of many kinds: social, spiritual, and higher education. He is as inclined to quote some calming poetry as he is to lecture on leadership. He taps all the right people for their own thoughts on life and leading (Buechner, Dillard, Rilke, Rumi) and organizes the book's five chapters beneath simple metaphors--the changing of seasons, and those in one's life. He loves an analo...more
I was reluctant to read this in a time when so few jobs are available; wouldn't it be worse to know my "calling" when there's little or no opportunity to practice it? In fact, there is no better book to help me confront and enlighten such pessimism. No matter if I never find a dream job, I still have a vocation. Palmer writes about big ideas in a small, quiet, reflective tone; I can't wait to read more of his work.

Though his book was given to me at an Episcopal group for underemployed recession-...more
a book which posits a question that it doesn't quite answer: how is one to know one's vocation when it calls?

at a certain point in life, those of us who have not found perfect satisfaction with life start asking Big Questions: what am i here for? how can i find my purpose, since my dissatisfaction is evidence that heretofore i have not? what can i know with certainty about choosing a new path to set my feet upon?

this is not the same question as: what job should i be doing? vocation and bill-payi...more
Certain books prove that it takes depth of experience and a lot of contemplation in order to be both profound and concise. Parker Palmer is one such case. If his experiences haven't been as harrowing as Frankl's or as isolated as Merton's, they are in some ways more directly relevant to the modern experience of career's as a quest for fulfillment. Palmer has been an academic, a social worker, a teacher, and a writer, not to mention what can only be described as a Quaker-monastic. The summary sen...more
Kasey Jueds
When you're totally confused about a major life issue, it's so much nicer to think about what you're going through as a "process of discernment" rather than just a mess. I really appreciate Parker Palmer's gentle, thoughtful way of exploring how to make choices by being our best, truest selves, instead of thinking about what we should do or what we think other people want us to do. He also explores depression as a way of discovering that true self; not that he recommends becoming depressed, but...more
I read this too fast, like eating an incredibly rich piece of cake that gives you a stomachache and a desire to never eat again. I read this too fast, because it's only 109 pages, and these days that's a Post-It note to me in a world of dissertations.
I will buy this book, and I will read it again, and I will take at least ten minutes for each page.

The thing about Palmer's writing is not that it is lofty or erudite or accompanied by some hidden soundtrack of thunderous drums and resonant string s...more
For Senior Seminar in English.

It's hard for me to rate this book, because I feel like I was told to go about it in a wrong sort of fashion. It was the first book assigned for my senior seminar in English--a class designed to help us figure out what to do with an English Major.
The Prof assigned this book to be read in a week, and told the class (more than once), that it could be "easily read in a sitting." About 30-40 pages into the book, I realized that that was not the best way to go about a...more
Received the book through a subscription I used to have from the Leadership Institute - called Leader to Leader. Book's premise is to find Leadership or vocation through inner truth. It is extremely spiritual and existential writing. I got lost in some parts about the book struggling to find the author's point. I did gain some valuable perspective with the examples he gave of Vaclav Havel - former President of the Czech Republic - who through the absolute depths of despair from communist rule ro...more
Recommendation from Reverend Jim

Interesting reading about his lifepath and seeing some struggles similar to my own. His honesty in describing his vocational path is refreshing.

"We arrive in this world with birthrights- 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 help by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit...more
Wow. Parker Palmer is a genius. Best book on vocation/finding life's work EVER. I adore Parker Palmer anyway for being so freaking wise, and this book is a superb example of his wisdom. Highly recommend it.
I bought this book because it kept getting mentioned in other books and articles I was reading, and even alluded to in songs I was listening to (Parker Palmer and Carrie Newcomer are friends and colleagues). But when I ordered it from my local bookstore, it didn't feel like it was time to read it yet; then all of a sudden it was time, and it just opened up a number of issues for me: the relationship between discernment and depression, the need to ride down into the darkness to get through to the...more
I tried to like this book because Palmer had some really good messages to get across, but unfortunately I found his writing way too self-indulgent and dramatic. The book is barely over 100 pages but it took me forever to read because I kept getting so frustrated and annoyed with the author's voice. I also disagreed with the main premise of the book that we all have a destiny....I think we make our own.
Bailey Urban
Lots of things from thing book are tied into my own work and my own beliefs on society as well. From the importance of solitude to the fear of failure that all people have, I connected to this book on many levels. He made a good observation that made me think - we should consider deeply the things we know about ourselves as children to shed light on who we really are today. Palmer also points out that he found a way to teach in all of his jobs, and I think it's a good exercise to have people thi...more
This is a deeply spiritual book (though not necessarily religious) about discovering and listening to those promptings that guide us towards our unique life's purpose. It is a sad book for in reading you will see the many times you ignored Life's call. But it is also full of hope, life-affirming, life changing hope. For there is yet time. There is all the time you need.
There seems to be an epidemic of inflicting this drivel on poor recent graduates. DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK AS A GIFT FOR ANYONE THAT YOU KNOW! It is meaningless, cliche, indulgent, and ultimately preaches a very self-focused message. There are so many better ways to figure out what to do with your life than reading Palmer's inane prattling.
First, I have to come clean as a self-help junkie with a high tolerance for new-age-iness. Let Your Life Speak was a soothing, quick read, with some surprisingly honest insights on depression. In fact, the main emphasis of this book seemed to be more on owning up to and utilizing the low points, the fear and loneliness and sadness that life inevitably contains, than on finding your true purpose, as the title suggests. One of my favorite quotes from the chapter devoted to depression was this, "I...more
I don't like giving bad reviews or negatively critiquing the works of others, but this is hands down the worst book I've ever read. It was stale, dry, and a chore to get through. If I hadn't been reading it with a group of friends, I never would have finished it. Instead of a slam, please consider this review a warning.
I tried to get into this book, but the the author's way of writing was too flowery or something...too poetic. I don't know. I kept trying to pick it up again, but I wasn't able to finish it (very unusual for me). I finally just took it back to the library.
I have been in a vocation study group this year and for the spring we have several books that we are reading together. Although this book is optional, I got it first so I read it first and then promptly gave it away. I have a friend who is changing jobs unexpectedly and I thought he might find Palmer's words useful.

In the first chapter are these words, "Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life tell me who I am." Palmer struck me in my gut. For many years I ha...more
Palmer's short read is nothing less than enriching and moving. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation is a guide in understanding how to find the very things that speak to your abilities and sacred humanity. Palmer does this marvelously by alluding to his life experiences - especially his high and low points. In doing so, he comes to share how he has connected to his inner "voice", the fabric of his being and purpose. In turn, the reader comes to understand that there is more t...more
I ordered this book on the recommendation of one of my blog readers -- and hot damn, this book was written for me. If you're in a place where you're questioning what you want to do with your life, I'd strongly recommend it.
I was introduced to Palmer's writing about a decade ago, and some of his quotes litter my journals. I don't know why it took me ten years to actually read one of his books. I'll read it again. Wise words.
Fr. McKee recommended this book to me as a guide for my discernment of life calling, as he knows I'm in the midst of this career change.

UPDATE: I got lost in the self-help style. Never finished.
Awful, awful, awful. Since reading, my life has been speaking a lot. It keeps asking me why I subjected myself to this.
my old advisor sent this to me. i read it. i didn't think it was too great. but it did make me think, so that's a positive.
I loved The Courage to Teach. I wrote my first teaching philosophy after reading it, and his ideas from that book stick with me to this day. When I saw this little book by Parker Palmer on the shelf at the library, I thought that I had found another little gem full of Palmer's wisdom and insight. This book, however, is a collection of presentations that Palmer said he manipulated to make a book. I never found the cohesive theme. There were some interesting ideas and some really bizarre personal...more
Rochelle Reding
Our path to true vocation sometimes comes not from recognizing the path we should take but from accepting doors that close to us. There is as much guidance in ways that close behind us as there is in ways that open before us. It is hard not to bang on those closed doors but we just need to turn around to see the landscape that now lays before us.

He reminds me of the importance of just being there for others and not trying to 'fix" problems. The simple act of foot massage provided him the deepes...more
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Trinity Episcopal...: Let Your Life Speak (discussion) 1 5 Jul 03, 2013 09:59AM  
  • Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner
  • An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
  • This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers
  • Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith
  • Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life
  • Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups
  • Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer
  • Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas
  • Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace
  • Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion
  • The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture
  • The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery
  • Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God
Parker J. Palmer (Madison, WI) is a writer, teacher and activist whose work speaks deeply to people in many walks of life. Author of eight books--including the bestsellers Courage to Teach, Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness--his writing has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates and many national awards, including the 2010 William Rainey Harper Award (previously won by Margaret Mea...more
More about Parker J. Palmer...
The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life To Know as We are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring

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“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” 113 likes
“In my own life, as winters turn into spring, I find it not only hard to cope with mud but also hard to credit the small harbingers of larger life to come, hard to hope until the outcome is secure. Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility; for the intuitive hunch that may turn into a larger insight, for the glance or touch that may thaw a frozen relationship, for the stranger's act of kindness that makes the world seem hospitable again.” 16 likes
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