Are gifted people ever spontaneous or always intentional?
I seem to be the latter. My oldest is the latter. My middle son is the latter but wants to be the former. My youngest is the former. So, I guess the answer from my own observations is they are both.
Recently, over coffee, I asked a friend I consider gifted about this. She agreed that she was definitely more intentional but like my boys, her girls vary in their levels of spontaneity or intentionality.
This not to say we don’t all do things on the spur of the moment, but in my opinion it seems much less likely for a gifted person. Is it because there is an inner struggle to hold our behavior to higher, more ideal, more “perfectionist” standards? (Fiedler, 1998) Or, is it more about the fear of making a wrong decision? Or, is it merely overthinking the “what ifs?”
Gifted people do a lot of thinking and worrying. Worries can range from something more common like performance on an exam extending to much larger topics like climate change, social justice issues, and education reform. Thinking might focus on potential outcomes or how to overcome catastrophic events. All this thinking, worrying, and deciding is enough to keep one up at night and cause anxiety.
It has been a while since I’ve written a post on giftedness. It is a highly charged topic, bearing strongly held opinions on a very loosely defined subject. Last year, I was “called on the carpet” for writing a post on the local status of gifted education. In truth, the post was misunderstood, and I was merely trying to make my exit from the local scene of gifted advocacy. The end of the post reveals that intention, but I’m not sure it was read in its entirety.
In any case, I’ve realized that giftedness is something I cannot get away from so easily. And, the simple truth is that it because of who I am and who I know. I have to live with it, so merely writing that I am washing my hands of the subject, doesn’t work so cleanly.
But, the simple question of whether one is more spontaneous or intentional brought me right back to the subject of giftedness. “Much of the extensive literature surrounding social-emotional issues for gifted students reflects concern about conflicts resulting from their being different from the general population,” says Fiedler. So, if we apply this to tweens and teens who are trying to fit in, we can easily see how being intentional might cause one some anxiety, if not outright conflict.
Giftedness. It is a double-edged sword. Educationally, we need to acknowledge or honor the differences between students but we often downplay the social, emotional, and even cognitive or intellectual needs of our gifted student population. I have some opinions on why this happens, but am I starting to see that ignoring it is a way to help them fit in? If so, I think that is a misguided choice.
It’s taken me most of my life to become comfortable in my own skin, to not make apologies for who I am, how I think, or the intensity I bring to the table. I would think that we might be better off in accepting the traits of gifted students, even if that means they are more intentional than spontaneous in their actions and decisions.
For more reading on the gifted, I would suggest the article referenced in this post by E. Fiedler at:
Other suggestions include:
Most of the content in this post reflects my own opinions, observations, and experiences especially related to intentionality and spontaneity. The post is referenced where I consulted an outside source. Comments welcome, as long as they are polite.