Gifts that Come Naturally v. Gifts that Require Great Efforts
In my other job besides doing dream work I work in the area of physical education with young children between the ages of 5-7. The other day I was reminded of the principle in the title after meeting with the parents of one of my six year olds. The student received great evaluations in all areas except for mine where in comparison to others his age, he is developmentally behind. The parents were well aware of his situation because they have a two year old who in many ways is more advanced in terms of coordination and motor ability. The child is very bright and will sit down with the father watching The Discovery Channel and then having long conversations about science-related things.
When the child comes to me for class, I see him as needing a lot of work to develop the physical education skills, but in most of the rest of the curriculum teachers see him as gifted. This is sometimes the case with physical education, but usually it is the opposite where we have very gifted athletes who are not so gifted academically.
The meeting with the parents reminded me that the child was very gifted naturally in the area of science, but in order to develop competence in the area of physical education, it was going to take massive efforts. So then it dawned on me that, in my view, it was perfect for that child. He has a natural gift for science, but he also has a responsibility to develop his body. The former he breezes through with little effort and gains all kinds of key insights, but up until this point the latter has suffered to the point where he gives up so easily on himself with physical activities. I told the parents that it was great for him that he had to make so much effort to make physical progress because that is where he was going to learn how to solve the very most difficult problems that require effort. Up until this time everyone had given recognition to his gifts in science, but had given up on his physical abilities.
Something magical happened between the time that I met with the parents and the next class which was today. When he came to class, he made a massive effort and started accomplishing things that I didn’t believe he could hitherto ever accomplish. It was pretty spectacular.
If you had read the book, The Element, by Ken Robinson, you know that his focus is on recognizing the gifts that come naturally to a person, but are often missed in school. This is because schools are not oriented toward looking for gifts and developing them. They are looking to develop abilities to serve the current machine. If a person has a natural gift such as someone like the great tennis player, Roger Federer, basically the work of developing their ability is to put them in the right environments with the right teachers, and then they flourish. This is what is usually missing in our culture because we are fearful of our children living a life of poverty outside of the current economic culture.
The less explored territory is how to take an area that is extremely weak in comparison to the rest of yourself or others and develop it until it becomes a gift. The traditional approach is to look at someone’s weakness and then try to develop those areas by a lot of extra work. For instance, if a child is great tennis player, but a poor math student, then the thinking is to give the child a lot more math. The reason it doesn’t work very well is that the being of a person puts up a great deal of resistance when the natural gifts are not first recognized and nurtured. So the first step in the development of the above scenario is to provide the environments were the tennis can grow. When that is secure, then the being relaxes and becomes open for the secondary so-called weaknesses to become strengths. Both practices seem to need to go on simultaneously.
If I am in doubt about myself, then I usually rely on my dream life to tell me where the priority is, but generally speaking if you have developed in the area where you have a great deal of natural skill, then at some point the weaker areas will want their turn. This is where the really difficult transformations take place and where most of us do our hiding from ourselves. This is where we get lazy and give up on ourselves and tell ourselves that we cannot change.
Before anyone starts the secondary work, you really have to do the initial work which is to go against the culture and forefathers to develop your primary gifts which always have a rebellious element to them because they are intrinsic designed to change your family and culture. The primary gifts, the ones natural to you, transform the world. If you actualize them, people’s lives around you change for the better. The secondary work gives you a belief in yourself that absolutely anything is possible because you change the most stubborn part or weakest one.
To do the secondary work, you first need to ask yourself where you are most likely to give up on yourself or in your life. Where do you feel the least amount of hope for change? Once you have discovered the answer to those questions, then you need to have a strong belief that you can transform the weakness into a gift.
Then you can do the transformation work daily until that weakness becomes a strength. You know you have done the complete work when your identity changes. So for instance, if people used to call you shy, now they would name you as outgoing or courageous. If you used to call yourself sloppy and disorganized, now you would name yourself organized. These gifts take a lot of work because there are usually a great many negative emotions wrapped around them that need to be dealt with, but when this work is done you get an even a great satisfaction than developing your natural gifts and then anything becomes possible.