The Gifted Adult

Drive: motivationally different

Insatiable curiosity

Indifferent and laxVersatile and engagedImpulsive; invasive or nosy
Ineffective decision maker; avoids information gatheringAdventurous and inquisitive; capable of doing many things competentlyOver-researches and can’t decide; ruminates after decisions are made
Uninformed; narrowInnovative; diverse competenciesOverextended; lacks expertise
Involves nobody; underestimates collaborationGood collaborator; knows when to work together and alone Involves everybody; overestimates collaboration

High standards

Chronic procrastinator; wavering and unprincipledHolds firm to visions of the ideal; discerningly pushes for excellence; lives by solid standardsChronic perfectionist; stubbornly holds out for perfection and loses ground
Uncertain; acquiesces prematurelyBroad-minded; acquiesces; accepts the step-by-step process of success, excellence, and wisdomConstantly critical and dissatisfied; intolerant; demands instant gratification
Disorganized and inefficient; erratic or aimlessMaster of organization and discipline; order is balanced with creative freedomObsessed with systems and orderliness; trapped in methods and over-planning
Self-denigrating; lowers standards to fit inTakes a stand; willing to go against the grain when necessaryGoverned by strong opinions; self-serving and unbending

Exceptional perseverance

Good starter, bad finisher; low self-esteem; underachiever; chronically behind scheduleHigh achiever; internal sense of self-worth; supports achievements of othersRushes to finish; self-worth directly tied to achievement; constant one-upmanship
Terrified of setbacks; doesn’t know when to startResolved and ready; superb time managerTerrified of wasting time; doesn’t know when to quit
Gives up too early; lacks competitive edgeManages obstacles and setbacks; knows when to persist and when to let goSticks it out no matter what; neglects health and relationships
Too malleable; easily defeatedResilient and self-directedCan’t shift in midstream
Avoids hard work; trades actualization for easeBalances work and play; achievement remains part of larger pictureAll work and no play; confuses labor with life — “I work, therefore I am.”


Dependent and conforming; limits own independenceSelf-reliant; regulates needs of self and others Rigid and controlling; limits others’ independence
Easily controlled; buries beliefs and aspirationsSelectively autonomousResists input and advice; insists on reinventing the wheel
Co-dependent and needy; avoids autonomy to feel protectedMutually independent in relationships; individuality enhances intimacySolitary and obstinate; avoids closeness to maintain control
Fears risk; hides out in the safe lifeFlexible and unconstrained; takes reasonable risksReckless and confrontational; mistakes the risky for the creative


Needs permission and continual reassurance; chronically doubtfulGuidance from within; able to reassure self and othersNever seeks guidance; chronically over-confident
Self-sabotaging; lacks internal resourcesResourceful; skilled at sustaining energy and renewing enthusiasmContrary or obstinate; lacks external resources
Waits to be pushed and then resents it; lacks initiative; frustrates othersConfident self-starter; skillful motivator of othersPushy and headstrong; jumps in too soon; demoralizes others
Distrusts self; operates via external ruleSelf-trusting; operates via inner ruleEgocentric; operates via rigid, self-serving rules


Jacobsen, M. (1999). The gifted adult: a revolution guide for liberating everyday genius. [Kindle version]. Toronto: Random House, Inc.