As a CASIGY (a Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense and/or Gifted You) do you have unconventional views that often cause you trouble? Does your child or loved one? Do you have to be careful when and where you express your views or ask your questions? If you or your child are not careful, can this quickly create conflict or complicate relationships at home, at work or at school? You or your child may be an independent thinking Maverick, and may encounter many challenges in life that are unique to being an independent thinking Maverick. Here’s info about some of those difficulties and how to thrive as an Independent Thinking Maverick.
For example, have you noticed that the Equinox is not actually the day that has equal amounts of light and dark? Yes, I’ve read scientific explanations of why the official equinox is on another day and does not have equal amounts of light and dark, but to me, they are unsatisfying. From my perspective, the day of equal light and equal dark is more of an equinox than is the official one. Why do I bother you with this astronomical trivia?
If you or your child is an Independent Thinker, you may have unorthodox views or questions too. Or you may have a child who refuses to wear matching socks, or who starts college with classes for their Major instead of the General Studies classes…..and then changes their major – twice! Being an Independent Thinker may also not make for getting lots of friends or good grades in school or promotions at work. It may, however, take you off the beaten path to very interesting places in life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In her book based on ten years of research with 100 gifted adults, Gifted Grown-Ups, the Mixed Blessing of Extraordinary Potential, MaryLou Kelly Streznewski identifies three types of gifted people. First are the SuperStars – those who are healthier, stronger, better looking, and achieve highly in academics and athletics and often in student government. As adults, SuperStars are often high achieving in their careers, and often prominent in their communities. Ms. Streznewski says these are the third of gifted people that everyone expects all gifted people to be like, and those who make the rest of gifted people look bad.
The next group that she identifies is what she calls the Strivers – those who are focused solely on high achievement – good grades as students, and later, accomplishment in their chosen careers. Connecting with other people doesn’t seem to be very important to them. Then there is another group of gifted people. These people often perceive the world differently than others do and have a great need for their lives to conform to an inner directive. She calls them the Independents. I call them the Mavericks. Independent-Thinking Mavericks.
In my experience, it is this this third group of gifted people who may have the most trouble in school and in the work world. The creative, sensitive or gifted people, AKA CASIGYs, who talk to me in my counseling office lamenting the fact that they do not fit in and do not belong anywhere, rarely are SuperStars or Strivers. They are usually Independent Thinkers; Mavericks, or a hybrid type that includes being a Maverick.
In movies and literature, and sometimes in history, we admire Mavericks. But a Maverick is the one who sticks out like a sore thumb in many classrooms or workplaces. A Maverick can be challenging to live with, to parent and to teach. A Maverick is also one who may make unprecedented discoveries, or creates and innovates truly original ideas and inventions. Let me say that one more time —
A Maverick is also one who may make unprecedented discoveries,
or creates and innovates with truly original ideas and inventions.
But that can be hard to grasp for a 6 year old Independent Thinking Maverick who has a teacher who expects all students to be Strivers or Superstars. A student who’s an Independent Thinking Maverick may get a low grade on a test not because they don’t know the material, but because they can think of scenarios in which each of the options given in a True-False or Multiple-Choice test are right. Or in their way of thinking, ALL of the answers may be wrong. Or their answer may be, ‘I don’t know; you didn’t give me enough information.” As a consequence, they may get low grades. In order to find out what this students knows, one has to go beyond standardized tests.
An adult who’s an Independent Thinking Maverick may bring up issues or concerns in meetings that everyone else scoffs at, or thinks are irrelevant concerns – until months or even years later, when life catches up with the forward thinking of the Independent Thinking Maverick. But by then, the Maverick may have moved on, been fired or transferred because of the disconnection between their way of thinking and that of everyone else in that workplace.
When an Independent Thinker/Maverick lives, goes to school or works in situations designed for SuperStars or Strivers, he or she may question their abilities, their value as a human being, and even their personhood. They conclude that “there’s something wrong with me’. They feel like they do not fit in, their needs are not (ever) going to get met, and there is not going to be a way for them to make a significant, meaningful contribution in life – and that is often the single most important thing for a Maverick. (For more about dealing with “There’s something wrong with me” see my article, “Different By Design”).
So how can Independent Mavericks survive at school and in the work place, let alone thrive?
For many Mavericks, it can start with understanding this aspect of who they are, how they differ from many others, and also that they are not alone. For a Maverick, it’s often not enough to know that they are highly sensitive or gifted; they also need to know that there’s more than one way to be sensitive or gifted, and that all of these ways are good. Often Mavericks don’t know that being a Maverick is a legitimate way of being in the world and are trying to make themselves fit the mold of SuperStars or Strivers.
For a Maverick, discovering that you are ok just the way you are,
can be like being set free from prison.
Independent Thinking Mavericks often have great creativity. This may or may not involve art; they can have unique perspectives and ideas about any topic or pursuit that exists. When a person has a high level of creativity, exercising and expressing their creativity is crucial for their development and for their happiness. Creative people have ideas rising up within them, or floating down to them, showing up inside of them – and they need permission to catch these ideas and constructive ways to channel this creativity. Otherwise, they may be likely to find destructive ways to express it. When creativity is seen for what it is, and is encouraged and channeled, it turns from a problem into an asset ─ at home, at school, and in the workplace. When a creative person is in an environment in which their creativity is not welcome, it can be experienced as though the person is not welcome. A school or workplace that is unaccepting of a Maverick’s creativity may be a toxic environment for him or her; when this is so, it is crucial to recognize it and get out ASAP.
Independent Thinking Mavericks often do not often respond well to arbitrarily being told what to do, when and how to do it. Thus Maverick Children may get quickly labeled as Oppositional and Defiant. It may be critical for Mavericks to understand WHY we adults want this or that kind of behavior, and HOW it fits into the grand scheme of things. And they may quickly see through any phoniness or hypocrisy of parents or teachers, and are likely to instantly put on their brakes when they do. Additionally, they may perceive that what they are being asked to do and how they are being told to do it will not actually accomplish the desired results, and they may refuse to spend their time and energy in ineffective, inefficient ways.
Independent Thinking Mavericks need to understand the relevance of the tasks and chores we ask them to do AND they often need to find their own way through solving problems. My sons challenged me seemingly endlessly in these ways – if I could persuade my oldest son of the relevance and importance of the chores I put on the list for him, he would do them without any fuss. If not, he wouldn’t do them no matter what consequences I might conjure up. My youngest son balked at homework. I racked my brain and felt like I was banging my head on a brick wall until I eventually stumbled upon what finally helped him engage with it. I would ask him question after question which helped him to identify the relevance of the topic or skill of the assignment for the day. Once he truly understood and accepted its relevance and importance, I then could proceed with asking him questions which then led him to the thinking process he needed to engage in so he could discover the answers on his own. He still balked at the twenty or fifty questions ‘game’ that this evolved into, but he did reluctantly cooperate with it. And twenty years later, he told me that when he faces tough problems at work that he doesn’t know how to solve, he finds himself asking the same kinds of questions in his head that I used to ask him about his homework. Neither of us knew at the time that he was learning first, how to connect his task with the Big Picture, and second, problem solving skills, but that is essentially what was happening. What important skills for a young maverick to develop.
Independent Thinking Maverick adults can also easily get labeled as oppositional and defiant in the workplace for the same reasons. Also, when Independent Thinking Mavericks are not included in problem solving processes, there is little buy-in and a battle often ensues. They need to be asked what they observe – both the good stuff and the bad, how they define the problems, and what ideas they have to solve the problems that exist. When they have a part in both identifying the problems and in creating potential solutions and experiments around these, and when they have freedom to use their own methods to carry it out, they are usually internally motivated to carry out the plans.
Yes, this does require more time and energy on the front end. That’s one reason why most families, schools and workplaces don’t do it. On the flip side, it saves even more time and energy on the back end. Once this kind of process has taken place, often the only thing that’s needed on the back end is to follow up to discover the unanticipated problems and what actually works and what doesn’t. There isn’t nearly as much follow-up needed on the back end to enforce anything, because of the buy-in that the participatory process created in the first place, and because of the positive results that often ensue.
Mavericks may have trouble finding others who share their unique interests. This can make it tough to find friends in a classroom or in a workplace. A Maverick may need to work hard to find others with similar interests. Fortunately, the Internet can help us find others with almost any combination of interests, whether they are across town or across the world. Finding and maintaining friends who share their interests can be crucial for Mavericks, whether these friendships are in person or in cyberspace.
Independent Thinking Mavericks in the classroom may have to learn a different kind of study or test-taking skills. Getting good grades often depends on providing the answers required by the teacher or a standardized test. So Mavericks need to learn to ask themselves, “What would this teacher say is the right answer?” rather than searching within themselves to discover what their own right answer is. Remember my rant about the Equinox? My right answer is different than the official right answer. I like mine, and I need to learn when to give the official one and when to give my own. Getting good grades and good scores on tests is not necessarily about what you know or what you think; it is more about producing the prescribed result. Yes, this can be excruciatingly painful for a Maverick. So learn to do it, get it over with as quickly as possible, so you can go on to diving deep into things you enjoy and when you CAN follow your divergent, independent path.
In the workplace, Independent Thinking Mavericks may be good at staring new projects, services and programs. Once these are through the developmental, creative phase; that is, once they are up and running and have a routine established, the Maverick may need to move on to new territory – either within that workplace or in a new one. For a Maverick, having a good fit in work may be just as much or even more about the creative aspect of their work as it is about their profession or chosen field of work.
Humans are herd animals. Even Independent Thinking Mavericks need to belong. In terms of belonging, I’ve discovered that it can be very fruitful to check out your family tree, even when it’s a gnarly tree. Once I paid attention to this aspect of family dynamics, I found that my family tree includes inventors, taxi drivers, CEOs, founders of companies, entrepreneurs, teachers, nurses, doctors, chiropractors, artists, pastors, missionaries, and (yes, literally) passengers on the Mayflower – Mavericks all. Who knows what you will find on yours, now that you know what you’re looking for?
Who do you know that’s an Independent Thinking Maverick – in your community and in the world? Mavericks may not be in the limelight and can be camouflaged anywhere. You may want to create a list of them or your children may want to gather photos of some Mavericks you know. Having some great Maverick role models can be important. Knowing that you are not alone as an Independent Thinking Maverick, both in your family and in the world, can also foster a great sense of belonging.