Have you ever felt anxiety from the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?” In high school while many of your friends decided what they wanted to pursue, did you wonder how they could be so certain of their decision? Do you love learning and researching a variety of different subjects? Does the idea of having to choose one thing to do for the rest of your life sound boring. unsatisfying, and trapping? If you’re an entrepreneur, do you have trouble deciding on your one business, your one niche, or your one area of expertise to focus on?
If you answered yes to any one of these questions, you might be a “multipotentialite.” Keep reading to find out if you are and to hear my tips for the dream-chasing multipotentialite.
Emilie Wapnick gave an amazing TED talk which popularized this term of “multipotentialite.” She defines it as, “someone with many interests and creative pursuits.”
Jumping into the TARDIS and traveling back in time, we see a similar term called “the renaissance man/woman“, inspired by the well educated people during The Renaissance who gained knowledge in a variety of fields. One such man whom you’d probably recognize is Leonardo Da Vinci. This brilliant multipotentialite explored mathematics, science, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, inventing, painting, sculpting, architecture, writing, and more! During the time of the Renaissance, such a well versed person was considered the ideal (quite counter to our culture, right?). One of our 21st century best friends, Dictionary.com, defines a “renaissance man” today as “a present-day man who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field.”
Jumping into the TARDIS one more time, we can find a term derived from Greek — πολυμαθής — — or what we today would call a “polymath.” Visiting our dear friend, Dictionary.com once again, they define a polymath as “a person of great learning in several fields of study.”
These terms are practically synonymous with each other, all describing the type of person who doesn’t focus on only one field of study or career forever (like most Americans do today). They have a broad field of interests, passions, skills, and knowledge. These are the people who probably wouldn’t say they only have “one true calling”; they feel they have the potential to do any multitude of things. And this can often give them anxiety, especially in a culture that expects you to only be one thing.
After reading all of that, do you think YOU might be a multipotentialite? If so, first of all I’d like to tell you that you are an amazing human being! You are NOT a freak, there is nothing wrong with you, and you actually have some incredible strengths (or “super powers” as Emilie says in her TED Talk). If you are someone like me who lives in a culture that puts pressure on its people from a young age to decide the ONE thing they want to be and do, let me lift that burden off your shoulders and guide you into a beautiful freedom.
Second, here are a few things I’ve learned through the years that have personally helped me as I navigate this whole “dream chasing” thing as a multipotentialite.
1. It’s ok to be multi-talented and multi-passionate.
No, it’s MORE than ok. It’s fantastic! In our quickly growing and changing world, we need more people who can adapt and pivot easily to fit into the rapidly changing roles. We also need more people who are creative thinkers and problem solvers. My friend, you are not a misshapen puzzle piece unable to fit into the puzzle, you are a desperately needed piece of the puzzle.
2. Learn how to combine your skills.
Your sweet spot can often be found where two or more of your passions and skills intersect. Your unique combination of very different fields may even be the next best innovative idea that takes off in this uniform world.
3. Know that you are not fickle.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve beaten myself up for feeling like a fickle, flaky person because I became bored with mastering one skill and wanted to pursue something else. Now in all honesty, there may be times where we are just straight up fickle. BUT you are NOT fickle for dreaming many dreams and liking so many different things! So don’t feel bad for pursuing yet another interest. Take joy in it, learn from it, and apply what you learn.
4. Learn and practice discipline.
Though you are not innately fickle for liking so many different things, flakiness can be a weakness we develop if we don’t first develop discipline. When you have interest in many different things, sometimes it can be difficult to excel at anything.
I played saxophone in middle school and some of high school. I was first chair for awhile in middle school, but once the other band kids started joining marching band and devoting more and more time to practicing their instruments, they passed me up and became way more skilled than I.
Why? Because I didn’t want to devote all my time and life to ONE instrument. I liked way too many other things for that! I worked hard in school, I wrote fiction, I learned guitar, I sang on our worship team, I enjoyed reading many books, I dabbled in photography, I loved art, and the list probably goes on. So while I was good at a multitude of skills (probably way more than anyone I knew), I wasn’t the best at any one thing. I had spread out my time to several skills instead of devoting it all to one skill. Now, as this whole post has hopefully shown you so far, I believe there is great strength in having skill in a multitude of fields; however, I also believe there is value in practicing discipline and devoting seasons of time to hone one or two skills.
5. Know that you might not be able to use ALL of your skills ALL the time.
Most likely, you probably won’t find a career that uses every single one of your passions and skills. As stated in #2, there may be a job that combines a few of them or you may be able to create your own job that combines several different elements, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t find a way to use all of your skills in that ONE role. You might use a few skills in your “real job” and then pursue more of your passions in your free time or in the form of hobbies or even a side business.
6. Ask yourself: what’s best for this season of my life?
If you have more than 3 interests, you may not have the time in the week to pursue every single thing you want to, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. Growing up as a multipotentialite (though I didn’t yet know this term) in a family of other multipotentialites, my parents gave me the wisdom and encouragement that God may use some of my skills (or even one skill) for a certain period or season of my life and use a different skill during the next season.
For example, during high school and college I devoted more time to music and art in my spare time. Today, post-college, I’ve decided to pursue writing (what you’re reading now, huzzah!) the most and then art second. There are many more skills and interests that go into being a blogger and writer today, as well.
Perhaps this season of your life is for focusing on bettering one of your skills so that it can be developed enough to also become your bill-payer in the future, but this might pivot in the next decade as you learn other new skills and knowledge. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the time to develop one skill you’re interested in right now; you may be able to give it more time in the next season of your life.
7. Test. Test. Test.
Sometimes you don’t know how truly passionate you are about something until you do it for awhile. So many people have excitedly started blogs but then quit because they discovered after several months of blogging that it’s not something they really wanted to keep up long term. Sometimes you won’t know for sure until you try.
8. However, don’t be TOO quick to pivot.
It takes time for a dream to really take off. Using a blog as an example again, I’ve heard it takes 1-3 years AT LEAST before you really start seeing bigger results for your hard work. That’s a long time of pursuing something without much feedback or evidence of its “success.” So give your “dream” focused time for a season. Make sure you really think it through before you put an end to a dream. Analyze what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback from trusted friends and from others who work in your field. Develop the skills you may need to improve to make your dream work. Give it some time.
9. Don’t view a dropped dream as a waste.
So you’ve pursued this one skill or dream or field of study only to drop it like a hot potato and pursue something else. Perhaps you feel guilty or like you’ve wasted your time pursuing this thing; time you can’t get back. But I want you to stop viewing it as a waste and begin viewing it as gained knowledge. You may never pursue that one thing again, BUT you may be able to apply the skills or knowledge you gained to something else in life.
Here are a couple additional resources if you’d like to learn more:
- Emilie Wapnick’s TED talk on “Why some of us don’t have one true calling”
- Marie Forleo’s video on “How to Pursue All Your Passions Without Looking Flaky”
What have you learned as a multipotentialite dreamer?