Creativity and Gifted Wellbeing

Madelaine Armstrong Willcocks, MEd

Assistant Programme Manager
New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education
New Zealand

The wellbeing of gifted individuals is a tricky area. People may think that either gifted individuals are somehow destined to struggle with wellbeing due to their giftedness OR that gifted individuals will be fine or even better simply because they are gifted. Of course neither is entirely correct or entirely incorrect. Some things that are seen as part and parcel of giftedness can easily impact negatively on wellbeing: emotional intensity and sensitivity, strong empathy, concern for justice, asynchrony, existentialism, a sense of being different. Some things though, including the very same things just mentioned, can also protect and enhance gifted individuals’ wellbeing. And let’s not forget the abilities to learn quickly and solve problems, and the deep capacity for self-understanding.

Wellbeing is also obviously a complex concept in itself, involving intellectual, emotional, creative, ecological, physical, socio-political, cultural and spiritual aspects. All of these complexities teach us that there’s no one right way to achieve better wellbeing for gifted individuals. But let’s use this quote attributed to Einstein and explore creativity as one possible way to support gifted wellbeing:

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”



I would argue that creativity is so much more than just intelligence having fun. Creativity in its purest sense is bringing something new into being. It’s about ideas and playfulness and originality and imagination. It’s the intellect flexing its muscles. For many gifted individuals, creativity (in its broadest sense) is what makes their souls sing. It’s what fills up and restores the gifted self, and also acts as a release and an expression for complex thoughts and emotions.


Having creative ideas rumbling around in gifted minds is all well and good, but to enhance wellbeing creative action is essential.

Creative action requires:


  • Dedicated time and space – essential for getting to that magical state of ‘flow’, that sense of being deeply ‘in the zone’, immersed and fully absorbed in the action.
  • Active teaching – strategies to build flexibility, fluency, originality, elaboration, risk-taking, complexity, curiosity and imagination, and the use of these strategies
  • An ethos of non-judgemental trust, curiosity, openness – whilst this almost goes without saying, this can be hard to achieve in reality
  • A funnel approach – creative actions should start with widely varied creative opportunities and over time, ‘funnel into’ more favoured creative opportunities. Creative actions can also start with direct teaching and ‘funnel into’ independent and self-directed action.


So, despite these complexities, creativity and specifically creative action is one support that we can readily offer gifted individuals as they strive towards self-actualisation. MindPlus and Gifted Online, programmes offered by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, specifically teach creative thinking as part of the wider specialist programme for gifted students. Time and space is dedicated to active teaching of creativity, broad exploration of a range of creative actions and ‘funnelling’ towards self-direction. This all takes place within a like-minded peer group that builds into a supportive community that promotes wellbeing through creative action.


About Madelaine Armstrong Willcocks

New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education | Auckland New Zealand

Madelaine Armstrong Willcocks has taught children from Years 2-8 in both the Gifted Kids programme and New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education’s MindPlus and Gifted Online programmes and has gifted children of her own. She has also been one of NZCGE's Regional Lead Teachers for many years and part of our Curriculum writing team. Her teaching in mainstream schools in Auckland and London developed her interest in students who sit “outside the norm.” She is passionate about gifted education, particularly the social and emotional aspects, and loves to “fuel intellectual excitement” in our students. A role model for continuous learning, Madelaine completed her second Masters degree, the Masters in Specialist Teaching (Gifted and Talented), in 2017. Madelaine is a member of the Ministry of Education’s Gifted Advisory Group and has recently been appointed as the new Programme Manager for NZCGE.





Posted as part of the 2020 New Zealand Gifted Awareness Blog Tour, run by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

The views and opinions expressed in the Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of NZCGE, their staff, and/or any/all contributors to Gifted Awareness Week.


Creativity and Gifted Wellbeing

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