Friendship, Character, Spirituality, and Integrity: Paths to Overall Wellbeing

As a gifted parent/educator your long term vision for the gifted child is that they thrive across their lifespan, and live a good and integral life. This path to thriving is not always easy and is filled with both high and low points. Often the first question we ask is if talent development enough? This brings us to defining giftedness and talent development using François Gagné older model. Actually giftedness and talent are two different things and very often they are used interchangeably. A child is gifted if he is in the top 10% of similar aged peers in different domains like intellectual, creative, socio-affective and sensorimotor. On the other hand talent is a systematically developed skill one might have in various fields and being talented means being in the top 10% of relevant aged peers. To go from giftedness to talent development, there is an informal pathway or a development process of learning and practicing. There are catalysts that affect this process as well and they include environmental (physical, cultural, social), and intrapersonal (characteristics within the child). So going back to our first question – is talent development enough? Looking at lives of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong, the answer seems to be ‘not enough’ based on what we’ve discussed so far.


So what is important for our gifted child? What makes a difference, brings happiness and makes a good life? Positive psychologists believe that flow, happiness, friendship and character is the answer. Flow is a state where the child is at full capacity, is fully involved and loses sense of time, enjoys what he is doing and feels an energized focus. Then there is the faux flow which acts as a negative catalyst and we have to watch out for these in our gifted programs as it may not be challenging enough for the child. Likewise happiness has several correlates and that includes being hopeful, showing gratitude and having close relationships with others. These all contribute to the gifted individual being happy. Among these, having close personal relationships is the single most important factor that makes an gifted individual extremely happy.


In Sayler’s model of gifted and thriving, each individual has an innate ability and the important areas of life that need development is talent, character and unity of life, integrity and in a religious sense, holiness. When these three components are there, a gifted individual is believed to move to a flourishing life, rather than wasting, according to this model. Sayler recommends a 2-dimensional approach – deeply developed friendships and deeply-developed talents – to make the gifted individual a little more rounded. Next Sayler’s model talks of character development. The virtues form the core of character development include wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. The VIA character strengths & virtues model developed by Peterson & Seligman (described in the image below) is another great model to work with and especially useful for educators who deal with gifted children.

The next aspect is spirituality and integrity and it’s not an easy thing to understand in gifted circles as it is usually associates with religious endeavors. Spirituality is an important aspect as it helps develop a strong sense of self, make order in chaos and helps make positive choices. According to Sayler it helps lead to integrity in living. For a gifted learner spirituality can be nurtured by getting that to write, stories, essays or poetry that are reflective, offer opportunities for self expression through drama and the arts. It also helps to investigate the spirituality models of influential individuals and conduct Socratic seminars that help understand others’ perspectives. Engage students in global and service learning is also useful.


So the paths to overall well being of a gifted child includes building strong friendships, character and nurturing spirituality and integrity.


We hope this helps you to take another step in coaching your gifted child/student. Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!