We like to think of some people as particularly gifted or talented in some areas. We think they they are born with innate abilities that make them masters in specific arenas. Yet, the mythology of giftedness is damaging to us as individuals and as a society.
First, the ideology of giftedness is problematic because it is empirically untrue. Second, the belief in giftedness perpetuates social inequality. Third, the myth of giftedness encourages people to avoid the pursuit of their dreams. In this article, I discuss how you can avoid the pitfalls of the gifted myth. You do this by using a growth mindset to fully develop your talents and achieve mastery in your chosen field.
Research has shown that our ideas about innate giftedness does not explain outstanding performers. They argue that we should not think about the distinction between mastery and proficient as the product of innate talent. Rather mastery, and what we call talent, is the product of consistent practice.
K. Anders Ericson’s research produced the 10,000 hours rule of thumb. He observed that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery in any area. That’s approximately 3 hours of practice a day for 10 years. Thus, the difference between the individuals at the top of their fields and the amateurs is many, many, MANY hours of practice.
In a study of young musicians, Ericson and his colleagues asked teachers to rank the students according to their “talent”. The teachers were asked to identify those individuals who were the most talented. These were musicians that the teachers believed to have the most promise for international music careers. Surprisingly, the teacher’s evaluation of the student’s talent was actually a reflection of the students’ hours of practice. Those students who were judged as most likely to have outstanding international music careers practiced on average for about 10,000 hours. Those identified as “good” by their instructors had practiced for approximately 8,000 hours. Those considered the least accomplished practiced for approximately 5,000 hours.
Thus, what we are labeling as evidence of “talent” is the reflection of differential amounts on practice.
Ericson asserts that 50 hours of training is enough to allow you to become competent. This average is applicable for any skill with a moderate level of difficulty. These fifty hours of training allow your body and mind to learn how to make the appropriate response automatic.
Yet, those individuals achieve the mastery level commit to never stop learning. This is what enables them to dominate their field. The masters work with coaches who give them the feedback needed to constantly improve their performance. In the video below, legendary basketball player Michael Jordan discusses the importance of practicing with a coach. He identifies consistent practice and direction from his coach as responsible for taking his game to master level.
The ideology of innate levels of giftedness supports the practice of tracking in our schools. This logic suggests that students will perform at the best level for them when grouped according to ability.
Research shows that tracking doesn’t improve student learning. But tracking does expand social and economic inequalities. Rather than an assessment of ability, the notion of giftedness is often a reflection of social privilege. Those individuals from more privileged families (e.g. higher SES, white) are more likely to be evaluated as gifted and placed the more advanced educational tracks. This is a pervasive pattern that has been observed in a variety of schools and states across the country.
We deny opportunities for learning and success to many students by reserving the “enriched” curriculum for those identified as gifted. Yet, schools that are effectively “detracked” show high achievement across all groups of students. Countries such as Finland that do not practice tracking students according to ability demonstrate the highest overall scores of educational achievement. They also show the smallest range of achievement gap amongst its students. Rather than seeing intelligence and ability as a fixed entity, we now know that our capacity changes with our environment.
In her groundbreaking book, Mindest: The new psychology of success, Carol Dweck shows that perceiving our intelligence, talent, and abilities as something that can grow improves our performance and happiness. This growth mindset suggests that we can expand our ability in any area. But the fixed mindset implies that our level of ability can not be changed by our efforts.
Dweck’s research shows that you truly are what you believe about yourself. Individuals with a fixed mindset experience lots of stress from trying to prove their ability over and over again. They are more likely to give up or not try when things are challenging. Yet, individuals with a growth mindset experience challenges as learning opportunities. As a result of this growth mindset, they are likely to improve from their efforts.
Thinking of yourself and others as possessing an unknown and growing capacity for greatness inspires actions that produce such greatness. It provides opportunities to all. It focuses our attention on learning and growth rather than proving our worth. These are just a few of the many benefits we receive from discarding our erroneous ideas about giftedness.
The belief in giftedness encourages some people to play small and avoid pursuing their dreams. They believe that if a particular skill doesn’t come easily for you, then it’s not likely your area of success. This mode of thinking encourages us to give up on our dreams. We give up because we haven’t already demonstrated our “potential” for success.
Yet, there are many examples of successful people who looked like they had no potential for such success earlier in their lives. James Earl Jones has earned three Emmy awards. He is also the iconic voice of Darth Vader (Star Wars) and Mufasa (Lion King). But James Earl Jones had a stuttering problem for years as a child. In fact, he practiced poetry, public speaking and acting to help correct his speech problem.
Author Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel A Visit From the Goon Squad. But she experienced public failures early in her writing career. In fact, she said her first novel was so bad that even her mother hated it. Rather than throwing in the towel and proclaiming she was not a good writer, Egan continued to learn and improve in her craft as a writer.
Before becoming the youngest self-made millionaire, Bill Gates was a college drop-out. He was also the co-owner of a failed business. Yet he did not interpret these occurrences as a sign that he could not be a successful entrepreneur. Rather, he allowed his passion for computer programming to continue to lead him. Eventually Gates built Microsoft, one of the world’s most successful technology companies.
What these people had in common was a belief that past failures did not prevent their future success. They demonstrated a growth mind-set. They each continued learning and cultivating their interests, regardless of how others judged their likelihood of success.
Don’t fall into the trap of giving up on your dreams just because you weren’t a child prodigy. Don’t assume that just because you haven’t experienced a visible level of success, it is not in your future. Failure is not proof that you can’t be successful. Rather it is an opportunity to learn a key component of your future success.
Understanding that giftedness as a myth liberates us. It frees us individually and collectively to invest in ourselves and others. Rather than thinking about talent as a limited resource and directing our focus on identifying those with innate talent, we are now free to focus on interest and effort. If a person is interested in a particular skill or field of knowledge, they are more likely to invest the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice needed to excel in this area.
What topics, skills, questions, goals interest you? How are you pursuing them? Now there is no excuses for why you “just aren’t college material” or “don’t have the business sense to become an entrepreneur” or any other excuses that may have justified you not pursuing your goals. Whatever you are lacking now can be learned. You only need to identify your method of getting the information and commit to 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
There are many course, books, programs, videos available to teach you the skills needed to become a master in your chosen area. In this information age you can easily identify resources to teach you almost anything you want to learn. Getting the information is only half the battle. The other part of the equation is logging in your 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
Follow the lead of those who have already achieved mastery in their respective areas. Get yourself an expert coach. An experienced coach can design an individualized training program for you and give you the feedback needed to improve your performance. This allows you to focus your full attention on carry out the program. There’s no need for you to try to be both the performer and the evaluator of your performance.
Making the same mistake over and over again will not get you closer to master status. Mastery requires adjusting your performance based on feedback. This feedback loop allows you to get closer and closer to your goal. Your coach provides you with the feedback necessary to recognize errors and correct them. The expert eyes if a coach are a critical component of your journey to mastery. This is how you work smarter, not harder.
What’s the next step in your personal journey to mastery level? Have you identified your goal? Are you learning the skills needed for your craft? Are you putting in your 10,000 hours of deliberate practice on a regular basis? Do you receive personalized feedback on how to improve your performance from a coach?
If your answer to all the questions above is yes, then let me say “Congratulations!” You are well on your way to achieving master status and dominating your chosen field. No matter how far away it may feel, just remember that if you keep your focus you WILL achieve your goal. I am so proud of you and excited for what you will contribute to our world through your commitment to mastery.
If your answer to any of the previous questions is no, you now know the next step in your journey to mastery. The fact that you have the interest and commitment means that you CAN achieve your goal. You still need to combine that with instruction and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to realize your dream. I wish you success on your journey!
If there’s anything that I can do to support you on your journey to mastery, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you have suggestions for others on the journey, share them below. Also, please share your success stories as a form of encouragement to others. Wishing you a life full of purpose, meaning, and joy!
You have a unique set of talents and a distinctive perspective that is unlike any other. Developing your talents and perspective are the keys to your financial freedom and happiness. Yet, you may be undermining your talent, freedom, and happiness with comparison thinking.
Making comparisons is useful when it comes to shopping for cars or shoes. But, it’s deadly for our self confidence and quality of life when we compare ourselves to others. Comparison thinking has always been with us, but the age of social media seems to have kicked it into high gear. Now it seems as if we can follow people’s life moment by moment on FaceBook and Twitter. This tempts us to compare our daily existence with those we see on social media. Are our children as cute? Do we look as good as she does in her selfie? Is our relationship as happy as theirs? Are our cars/homes/vacations as glamorous as theirs?
I once heard an quote “don’t compare your real life to someone’s Facebook life.” There is both humor and truth in this insightful quote. We must remember that Facebook is a constructed image of snapshots of people’s lives. This is equal to the highlights reel of a sports game. Comparing ourselves to anyone else’s life, virtual or real world, is a dangerous error that undermines our success and well being.
Confidence is defined as “a feeling or belief that someone or something is good or has the ability to succeed at something.” In the psychological literature, confidence is referred to as self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the sense that you have the ability to accomplish a task and make good things happen. This feeling of confidence, or self-efficacy, is critical to many our short and long-term success and happiness.
Comparative thinking is destructive because it undermines our confidence in our abilities and perspective. It’s your uniqueness, not your similarity, that is the keys to your freedom and happiness. But, it’s hard to trust in our uniqueness with so much emphasis on being like the others that we see around us.
Psychological research shows that confidence, or self-efficacy, is associated with increased level of success and personal well being. Self-efficacy produces positive mental health, high levels of educational achievement, improved physical health, and increased earnings. There are many reasons why confidence is connected to these various forms of success.
Confident people view new activities as tasks that are to be mastered rather than tasks that avoided. They are willing to begin activities with which they have little experience because they believe they can learn new things.
Since confident people believe in their ability to learn new things, they are more likely to see challenges and setbacks as learning opportunities than failures. Thus, they remain engaged in getting better at the tasks even when it is difficult. This ability to begin and sustain engagement in difficult tasks, increases their level of mastery and their confidence that they can achieve.
Thus if there’s something that they find displeasing in their life, they focus on how they can improve the situation. Whereas less confident people tend to see life as happening to them rather than being shaped by them. Thus, they tend to focus on what is negative about their life rather than how to change it. This type of thinking is associated with increased levels of stress and depression.
You may think of confidence as something you have or don’t have. But research suggests that confidence can be developed by particular ways of thinking and behaving.
A large part of communicating confidence is through nonverbal behavior. We broadcast our levels of confidence to others constantly without knowing it. More recently, scholars and practitioners have been telling us the benefits of “fake it till you make it”. We are instructed to learn and use the nonverbal behavior associated with confidence until it becomes a natural part of our identity.
I definitely agree with the validity of this behavior your way to success approach. Yet, I’d like to draw your attention to how your thinking influences our levels of confidence. Comparative thinking is destructive because it undermines our confidence. Here are two ways that making comparisons undermines your levels of self confidence.
You may see the success that the person you admire is experiencing and think that you have to be “just like them” to achieve similar results. Since it’s clear you are not like them, you may stop trying before you actually begin. Or you may ignore your distinctiveness and try to immediate the other person in the hopes of experiencing their successful outcome. You will always be a second rate someone else, but you can be a first class version of yourself. Living with courage means embracing your unique gifts and sharing them with others.
Even comparisons in which we see ourselves “on top” undermine our confidence and success. Rather than focusing on your continued growth and development, this kind of comparison leads you to a path of atrophy. You lose the fire because you think that you’ve already won. Yet the race is not run against other people; it is always within yourself. This is why I loved being a cross-country runner. I realized from a young age that my race is a race of one. I am focused solely on betting my personal best from last time. Focusing on others around you, distracts your focus from accomplishing your personal best. This leads to overconfidence where your confidence exceeds your ability and effort. Don’t allow comparisons to draw you into this trap.
The key to building your confidence and creating the success you desire is to eradicate comparison thinking of all forms and at all time. In comparing of yourself with people you’re never comparing apples to apples. Just because she is a woman, or a singer, or a mother doesn’t mean that she is like you. You are so much more than those titles. You perform the same activity or where the same dress, but the way you do will be totally different. There are people who will be moved only by your voice; by your perspective; by your vision. You owe it to them and to yourself to be authentically you.
Instead of comparison, think collaboratively. The next time you see someone and and tempted to think of yourself as in competition with this person, ask yourself “How can I use my unique gifts to complement this person?” This perspective will allow you to celebrate the success of others and nurture your own.
Confident women collaborate, they don’t compete. Hold yourself up to your own independent standards and encourage others to do so as well. Then you can have success without envy, confidence without arrogance, and pride without self-centeredness.
Where are you comparing yourself to others? Make a commitment to live collaboratively rather than competitively. If you would like support and a reminder to live without comparison, consider writing out the affirmation below. Post it in places where you will see it daily.
“I can now see the destructive pattern that’s produced in my life by making comparisons. I refuse to do that to myself and my dreams. I am not them, but that does not mean that I can’t have the desires of my heart. Being fully myself can bring me all the success I desire….Being fully myself will bring me all the success I desire….Being fully myself will bring me all the success I desire.”
Please share below your suggestions about how to build your confidence and live a life without comparisons. We all have a gift to share with the world. Help others live into their gift, as you nurture and share your own!
Discovering and developing your talents is your key to freedom, success, and happiness. Developing your talents may or may not include formal schooling. Sometimes your career will be the manifestation of your life’s purpose. Other times your career may be the vehicle that supports your ability to do your life’s work. Either way, a meaningful and successful life is dependent upon celebrating your talents.
Celebrating your talents involves reconnecting with your innate curiosity, interests, and abilities. It also includes designing a plan to nurture these talents. But how do you identify your innate curiosity, interests, and abilities?
For people still grappling with identifying your specific talents, this article can guide your self-discovery process. Learning and self-discovery is a iterative process; so you need not know all the answers now. The questions and interests that you identify now will lead you along a path. As you proceed on that path, you will identify even more questions and interests.
Isn’t it exciting to know that this process of discovery and growth continues throughout your entire lifetime?
Once you learn how to ask yourself the right questions, you never have to worry about being bored or retiring from life. Connecting with your inner fire and curiosity will fuel your productivity, energy, and growth. Activating these resources will make you a life-long learner and contributor to our world.
The quality of any relationship is based on the quality of the conversations that occur within that relationship. In my coaching practice, I support my clients in improving the quality of the conversations (and thus the relationship) they have with themselves.
So how do you improve the quality of conversations with yourself? Simple. By asking more powerful questions of yourself.
Questions are more powerful than answers as they open up a dialouges and invite new ways of seeing the world.
A good answer can do the same thing because good answers also contain more questions. Unfortunately, our model of schooling often teaches us that answers close the dialogue. We are taught that there’s no more need to raise a question because “we already know”. This shuts down curiousity and is the opposite of learning.
In both my personal and professional life, my focus has been on asking better questions. I’ve found that the right question can fully activate our whole being, mind and body. Asking myself the right questions gives me energy to sustain my process of growth and discovery.
Below I’ve listed some powerful questions that can help you discover your unique gifts and abilities. These gifts are the basis of your contribution to our world. Thus, it’s important for us all that you discover, develop, and share your talents.
I urge you to write down your answers so that you can more clearly see patterns in your responses. These patterns are your clues to discovering the talents and interests that may have been suppressed by the expectations of others. You owe it to yourself to identify your unique gifts and share them with the world.
Grab your journal and ask yourself the following powerful questions:
Whether they gave you messages of encouragement or discouragement, the feedback from these people was more about them than it was about you. In the spiritual book The Four Agreements, we’re advised not to take anything personally. This is because people’s responses to you are actually their responses to projections of themselves. Even messages that seem discouraging or critical may have been grounded in love. A father may discourage you from pursuing a career as a dancer because he is concerned about your ability to become self-sufficient in that career. His comments are products of his worldview, his fear, and his love for you.
The purpose of this activity is not to judge others for the way that have or are currently responding to your life dreams. It is only to allow you to see that their responses do not have to shape how you respond to yourself. You have the power to choose to honor your dreams and decide how you want to nurture your talents.
Now you can more clearly see what you admire about yourself and what you desire in your dream job and life. You can distinguish your own desires from those of your loved ones. You are prepared to take responsibility for your dreams and begin making them a reality.
If you’d like additional support in building a life that engages your talents in fulfilling your life purpose, sign up for my free Life Planning Tool and for an advanced order of my upcoming book Your Life as a Celebration.
Each day is an opportunity to make a change, to shift direction, to come a little closer to the desires of your heart. This is accomplished by identifying your unique gifts and committing to develop them on a daily basis. Do it for yourself!
Comment below some of your unique gifts as well as how you plan to nurture these abilities.
“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.”
― Shannon L. Alder
When you understand your value and power, you develop boundaries to honor yourself and protect your freedom. Emotional boundaries in relationships aren’t a set of legalistic rules that constrain our freedom. Boundaries are the guardrails that protect our happiness and the security of our relationships.
If you are feeling emotionally exhausted, frustrated, or resentful, chances are you need to strengthen your boundaries. Many people are still unclear about what it means to establish boundaries. They’re also unsure about why boundaries are important and how to do it properly. As you read on you will learn the answers to these questions. You will also gain a quick, easy method for setting healthy emotional boundaries. Protecting your boundaries will increase your level of happiness and satisfaction in your relationships.
Emotional boundaries are the psychological acceptance of the uniqueness, dignity, and freedom of each individual. Boundaries are what separate us from another person. We recognize that while we may love and strongly identify with another person, we are not the same. Thus, we do not have to feel or act the same.
Through establishing boundaries, we give ourselves and other people the freedom to be unique. People without emotional boundaries need conformity as a demonstration of love. These people often expect you to take responsibility for their emotional state and “fix” their problems. Neither of these interpretations of reality are true or possible. No two people can be exactly the same no matter how much they love each other. No person can fix the emotional state or manage the life of another. Lack of boundaries create unhealthy expectations and behaviors. These unreasonable expectations drain the life energy out of people and their relationships.
Women are particularly vulnerable to ignoring emotional boundaries. We are socialized to think of our identity as primarily determined by our relationships. There’s nothing wrong with valuing relationships. But, this value can easily morph into unhealthy thinking such as:
“I’m nothing without this relationship”
“I need to do all that I can to remain in this relationship. Even if it includes sacrificing my freedom, dignity and value.”
A subtler expression of unhealthy boundaries is the thought that:
“My biggest contribution to the world is that accomplishments of my child or partner. “
Such distorted thinking places tremendous pressure on your child or partner. You expect them to live out your dreams of success and accomplishment. It also robs them of the freedom to spend their time and energy discovering and living out their own life dreams.
Accepting responsibility for your emotions and behavior without taking responsibility for the feelings and actions of others is a healthy emotional boundary. Emotional boundaries also mean giving others the freedom to not like your feelings or choices. Boundaries are a core component of emotional intelligence. As such, they contribute to our health and happiness.
If you can not tolerate other’s disapproval of your feelings or choices or if you can not tolerate others possessing emotions and actions with which you disagree, you are in desperate need of setting emotional boundaries. The decision to not set healthy emotional boundaries damages you and your relationships.
People without emotional boundaries have a distorted view of their own power. They either understand themselves as completely powerless or all powerful.
People who understand themselves as powerless, play the victim role in their relationships. They rely on others to manage their life and emotions. This is because they consider themselves incapable of making their own dreams come true. Victims see the relationship as the source of their security and happiness. Thus, they seek to maintain the relationship and the other person’s favor at all cost. This promotes people pleasing behavior for the victim.
People pleasing sets unrealistic expectations that the victim will (or should) always agree with the martyr. Because the victim does not feel comfortable saying no, s/he often agrees to actions that are personally undesirable. Yet, the victim often does not follow through, or execute well. This inconsistency makes the victim appear even more helpless. The inconsistency is actually the victim’s ineffectual way of acting on his/her own desires.
These “victims” often associate themselves with “martyrs”. Martyrs have an over-inflated view of their own power. Martyrs take on the responsibility of managing their own life as well as the lives of the victim. They accept responsibility for the other person’s emotions and work diligently to “fix” the other person’s life. The martyr denies the victim the freedom to choose and feel differently. This seems appropriate to the martyr because the victim is “clearly” incapable of managing life. That’s why the victim needs to trust the martyr’s judgment over his/her own. The martyr is left feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of managing two people’s lives. S/he is also frustrated that the victim doesn’t just “go along” with the plan.
Both martyrs and victims eventually feel frustrated and resentful of the other person. This codependency prolongs the unhealthy relationship dynamic. It also promotes physical and psychological dis-ease in both parties.
The key to establishing healthy emotional boundaries is to embrace your own power. This is true for setting boundaries in leadership, marriage, parenting, and friendships.
People pleasing is giving away your own power. Playing the role of a martyr is accepting responsibility beyond the constraints of your personal power. As you embrace your personal power, you learn how to say no to things that do not honor you and your life purpose . You also learn the importance of saying yes to those that do.
There are only two things you need to do to establish healthy boundaries. First create the boundary. Second, give others the freedom not to like them. Many people give up their power out of fear or a misunderstanding of love. But, as you follow the steps below, you reclaim your power by setting healthy boundaries.
Real power comes from focusing on what’s important to you. To exercise control over your life, you must first see yourself as worthy. You need to see your uniqueness as something to be treasured. This perspective helps you to see the value of protecting your difference in the face of social pressures for conformity.
As you get clear on your unique contribution, your motivation for protecting that purpose increases. You recognize that this gift has been invested in you and needs to be advanced by you. Power is acknowledging what you have to offer to the world and behaving in a way that demonstrates your faith in yourself and your gifts. Learn to align your life 100% with what’s important to you.Embrace your ability to act
Real power is a process, not a destination. No one is completely helpless. There is always something that you can do for yourself. When you act in your own best interest, you feel and are powerful.
Power as a destination is understanding power as a finite object. It is something that you have and that can be taken from you. Power as a noun refers to differential amounts of power. Someone may have more or less power than you.
Yet, power as a process describes your capacity to act. Taken from the word Anglo-Norman French word “poeir” and the Latin word “posse”, power means “to be able”. This version of power is something that everyone has and can not be taken away. As you change your understanding of power, you immediately see that you always have the capacity to do something.
Whatever the situation, you can put your gifts into action toward accomplishing your goal. This is your power. As you act in your best interests, you increase your capacity to do so in the future. As long as you are alive, your power is there for you to use.
No one else has your gifts or unique combination of experiences. You show your power by embracing your gifts and sharing them with others. You have a role to play in this world that only you with your unique gifts and experiences can play. To downplay your power is to reject your gifts and your purpose in the world. Living out your purpose in the world means that you are willing to show up and embrace your unique contribution. No one else can take your place. If you don’t do it for you, it won’t be done.
The real measure of power is your ability to choose for yourself what’s important to you and ignore the rest. Owning and reclaiming your power means using your power to support your dreams, needs and wants.
Boundaries breathe life into broken relationships. Reclaim your power and individuality. Acknowledge and respect the power of others. Choosing to establish and maintain your boundaries will increase your happiness and relationship satisfaction.
Comment below your thoughts about boundaries, personal power, and healthy relationships. What shifts occur within you when you see power as the process of living into your gifts rather than a destination?