In our work as counselors and psychologists, we support clients in their effort to identify relative personal strengths and weaknesses. The resulting self-awareness is a building block towards setting goals for what clients hope to gain from their treatment. When it comes to intellect and ability, accepting one’s place on the bell-shaped curve can be difficult. We live in an individualistic society that uses weighted scales to elevate GPA and gives out blue ribbons for finishing. As a practice, we encourage our clinical and performance clients to set goals and consider how they might grow beyond their current capabilities. At the same time, our psychoeducational assessments, in general, reflect what decades of research prove: most people fall within the average range for intellect and ability.
Unfortunately, psychoeducation is lacking in academic institutions and society at large about what it means to be average. In Liz Bohannon’s book, Beginner’s Pluck, she encourages readers to own their average. “Owning your average is actually a remarkably freeing and powerful acknowledgement because being born inherently gifted or above average isn’t a prerequisite to living an extraordinary life” (Bohannon, 2019). In accepting one’s average range of ability, Bohannon is not encouraging living a life of complacency. Instead, when we free ourselves from the internal dialogue that shames average intellect and ability, we open ourselves up to a better opportunity. The opportunity for a positive redirection of energy. A redirection that allows us to invest more effort towards self-improvement, learning, goal setting, and maximizing our potential.
I think it can be easy to assume all successful or highly influential people are “gifted” or “special.” However, many people with impressive accomplishments to their name fall within the average range of intellect. Personal growth has no prerequisite for unique intellect or ability. No matter where you fall on the bell-shaped curve, your life can be infused with impact, meaning, contentment, and purpose. Average is not an enemy.