As a gifted person, what should you do with your life? How should you use your talents? How can you find your inner callings and attain excellence in your domains of interest? Robert Greene’s fifth book Mastery is an exceptional step in helping all of us in search of answers to these often complicated life questions. Greene’s process toward mastery mirrors my own coaching method and process remarkably well, outlining the specific steps of the very same process I have been intuitively guiding my gifted clients through for years. If you are curious about where the coaching process would take you, are currently coaching and want to accelerate your progress, have been coached before and want a useful review and resource, or plan to start coaching and want to ‘get a head start’, I highly recommend you read this book!
The discovery that you’re gifted as an adult has personal and social implications that are known to create some measure of chaos in your self-understanding and in your understanding of the world, until you learn to integrate your gifted mind fully into your life. In my experience as a psychologist and coach, I have witnessed a fairly predictable pattern that follows the discovery of one’s giftedness. It includes some of the famous stages of grief from researcher Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, as well as some key aspects of giftedness researcher Kazimierz Dabrowksi’s Levels of Positive Disintegration.
If I ask you how a bicycle works, you probably will say yes; but if I ask you for a precise explanation of exactly how all of the bicycle’s parts work together, you may have to think longer, and might even need to consult an actual bicycle in order to answer the question competently. It is similar with our values: we think we know what we value in life, but when it comes to fully understanding our highest values, and living by them consistently, we aren’t so sure anymore. Sometimes, we need to consciously examine our most authentic values, and like with the bicycle, observe them closely to fully understand how they work. This article holds a favorite values exercises that I regularly do with clients in coaching.
Sometimes hurrying up is to our advantage in life – when we’re running to catch a train, when we’re faced with an important deadline, or when we’re joyfully accomplishing a personal challenge. However, hurrying, beyond a certain point, becomes self-destructive. As a constant way of being, it is not sustainable. It is a “yang” energy in our lives which must be balanced out by the “yin” of slowing down, if it is to be effective and valuable. It is a “doing” micro-energy that can only have meaning and value in the context of a “being” meta-energy. Clients are often initially disappointed to learn this, because they arrive at the coaching process in a race to reach their goals, and are often impatient to move forward. But it is the wonderful yin meta-energy that gives their goals context; and to see this, they first must slow down and observe.
Observing others’ behaviors is, in itself, rather healthy. It allows us to appropriately anticipate and react to kindness or threat from others, which serves to give us motivation (anticipating kindness) or information to protect ourselves (anticipating threat). However, “binocular behavior”, as I call it, is a dysfunctional level of this observation behavior – when we try too hard to anticipate kindness or threat. Relating to the world from a distance, we distort reality in ways that cause us to lose our motivation or to create feelings of insecurity. Gifted people, with their strong imaginative, abstracting and pattern recognition skills – in combination with their general intensity of mind and experience – sometimes use their “binoculars” to create very elaborate, if misguided, theories about what is happening in others’ minds, the results of which can be socially unpleasant and painful. This article aims at helping gifted individuals put down their binoculars and relate directly with the world, and to understand the crucial role that differences in cognitive timing play in the tendency to pick them up in the first place.
Often accompanied by an intense inner disharmony, giftedness has more than once been confused with pathology in the course of history. Kazimierz Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration offers an astoundingly positive and hopeful approach to understanding the seemingly pathological disharmony that the gifted often experience. Rather than mental weakness or illness, he argues that this inner disharmony is the great catalyst of self-actualization.
Clients often come to me in a state of agitation, impatience and panic (real or existential, sometimes both), wanting a “magic solution” for their current dilemma – which is, in fact, a microcosmic representation or symptom of their overall life dilemma. And while I really do have a “magic solution” to share with them, it’s never what they expect, and like any good magic trick, it takes practice to master. The magic solution? Gratitude.