Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why You are Gifted, Part II

When I was in college, I made two very important decisions. First, I decided that I wanted to make good grades. I had been an underachiever for all of my life. At my high school graduation everyone was wearing ropes and medals except me. I was friends with the smart kids, but I did not share in their academic prowess. After my first year of college, I found myself watching the “pomp and circumstance” of a college graduation and I decided that I intended to graduate with honors.

The second decision I made was that my ability to be successful in college would hinge directly on the effort I invested. As my professor and renowned author Willard Tate said: “You cannot have everything you want, but you can have anything you want, you just have to be willing to pay the price.” I decided that I was willing to pay the price to get the grades I desired.

Research suggests that around the time of adolescence, our view of ability changes. Children seem to view ability as the result of a learning experience. Therefore, if a child puts effort into something, he or she will feel good about the resulting increase in ability. After the change occurs, putting effort into something is seen as an indicator of lacking ability. For example, on exam day no one wants to be the last person to turn in his or her test. The extra time we spend on that test suggests to us that we do not have the same ability as the other students, therefore we have to invest more effort and should feel inferior.

In reality, most scientific evidence suggests that effort expended is likely a prerequisite for ability.  The idea seems simple, but it is very countercultural in American society. If you really let this idea sink in, it is quite a game-changer. It was for me. Suddenly new things become possible. You can stop envying others and realize that you can achieve if you want it bad enough.

When it comes to loving God with your strength, you may not necessarily have to spend a lot of time doing strengths inventories and in spiritual reflection. May be it would be better to simply treat as our strengths those aspects of life that we enjoy and in which we have invested a large amount of effort to achieve some level of mastery. Such strengths may not be included in a Bible verse or a spiritual gifts inventory, but I believe God can still use them.

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