Are intellectuals suffering a crisis of meaning?

Having high levels of cognitive complexity doesn’t assure that one will actually be motivated to utilize their cognitive ability. High achievement is more likely to be associated with high levels of motivation. Also, while high achievers may be more motivated by outward markers of success, the results of this study suggest that those with extremely high levels of intelligence are more motivated to simply create something of lasting value to the world.

The self-compassion findings are also relevant here, because many children with high intelligence may feel too much pressure to live up to societal expectations based on their label as “gifted.” As Carole and Charles Holahan note, being labeled “gifted” might cause unrealistically high expectations of success, and this may foster self-devaluations as a consequence. This pressure may make it more likely that bright individuals will put too much pressure on themselves to live up to their potential. Cultivating more self-compassion may be a protective factor against these pressures. The Holahans suggest that helping gifted individuals “to appreciate and accept their achievements within a balanced and realistic view” might increase their self-compassion, thus increasing meaning and happiness in life.