Multipotentiality

You might have heard that being gifted means you can “write your own ticket” (as I was told), or that you have a complicated, multiplex potential, also known as “multipotentiality.” Is this true? The answer is, well, complicated.

The first validated intelligence tests were oriented towards predicting elementary school achievement across subjects. Furthermore, there are a wide range of mental abilities involved in such a wide range of school subjects. Because general intelligence (g) has since been found to be the sole common general ability across all these lower abilities, it’s not surprising that a strong relationship relationship between general intelligence and school achievement continues. High general ability, usually identified via an IQ test, is therefore often thought to contribute to success in a variety of areas. Gifted should mean “gifted everywhere,” right?

This is possible, but not a given. There are lower-order abilities which also play a role. For example, processing speed may be low, which makes rapid uptake of simple information slow (compared to other abilities), or working memory may be low, making higher-order organization more difficult. Next, deficits in achievement may occur because of a specific learning disorder such as dyscalculia.

It goes without saying that ability does not necessarily lead to achievement, and I’ve only touched on cognitive factors! Of course, learning emotional regulation and how to deal with failures and competition—not to mention having an interest in the first place!—are just a sprinkling of what is needed to build a successful career in a given field. Many people succeed despite mediocre ability, and many of supreme talent go on to fail (or don’t even try).

That being said, multipotentiality is much more common for gifted folks more than it is for the norm, especially for the highly gifted. Clearly, I’ve left one clue above about how to handle it: follow your passions. If something doesn’t hold your interest, let it go. If many things hold your interest (as many did for me!) weigh them against each other. Consider not only your chances of success (however you define that), but also think about how fulfilled you would be if you were to succeed. You might be fulfilled as a successful artist, or maybe as a successful leader, or a successful innovator. Which of these might make the biggest difference to your heart? Consider whether something you love is better served as a hobby rather than as a vocation.

I know from experience that these are not easy questions to ponder, and that sometimes backtracking or reinventing yourself are needed. That’s okay!

Keep in touch!

~Cliff

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