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Are You a Multipotentialite? What to Do When You Have Many Interests

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“I think a singular identity isn’t very interesting, and I’m a little bit more multifaceted as a person than that.” ~Catherine Opie

Are you a person who gets inspiring ideas every day? Do you wake up, galvanized with such thoughts, only to end up feeling sore as the day ends because you failed to act on these bright morning ideas? Perhaps you also end up blaming yourself and feeling guilty for not having taken any action.

Then welcome to the world of multipotentialite, a word I first encountered when I heard a TEDX talk by Emilie Wapnick. In her talk, Emilie talks about the challenges multipotentialites face and how to embrace them.

Multipotentialite Defined

So who is a multipotentialite? The urban dictionary defines it as “somebody who has potential in multiple fields.” Sounds cool, right? It seems that such a person would lead a meaningful life. They’d never get bored, as there would always be something to catch their fancy.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work out that way. How do I know? I happen to be one.

I am a software engineer turned writer, counselor, web designer, and trek guide. I haven’t stuck to any particular field, so I cannot say I am an expert or a specialist—words the world loves.

I detest family gatherings. Do you know why? People around me talk about promotions and their success while I talk about beginnings. I don’t mind; I’m a learner. But it’s difficult to explain to your family, who wishes to see you settled in your career, that you have multiple interests.

Without a supportive environment, several things can go wrong. Here are some of them.

Great ideas but no follow through

You get plenty of ideas, so much so that it becomes overwhelming. There are countless things you’d like to do right away. Sometimes it’s difficult to choose, for fear that you’ll leave it mid-way. Or you have a desire to do a multitude of things, all at once. Or the dissatisfaction of the earlier half-finished projects may bog you down, so you don’t start at all.

You’re labeled “irresponsible” or “afraid to commit”

You begin to feel that you’re not a responsible person because you don’t stick to anything. After all, hasn’t it been drilled into you that success depends on your level of commitment? And a lack of commitment could mean anything from not being serious to being irresponsible and careless.

The blame game

You start blaming yourself. The pressure to perform and stick to one particular career or task intensifies. It may be a self-created vortex, or others around you will contribute to the pressure by saying things like, “get serious” or “discipline is just what you need.”

Not fitting in

Finally ,you realize you don’t fit in. You start feeling something’s wrong with you, that you’re not like other “normal” people around you who commit to doing things. You believe you’re different and feel you don’t belong anywhere. This can also lead to loneliness or a sense of being alone in the world.

Disappointments greet you

When you’re unable to come up with a goal for yourself, it can hurt. You know you’re ready to put in the hard work, but goals keep changing, as nothing interests you for long. The hurt and disappointment can erode your self-confidence, as well.

The matrix

Yet you try. You keep searching for that single purpose that will make you feel whole again. Maybe you feel there’s something out there that is “you”—something that’s meant especially for you. You only have to find it and then you’ll be okay. Beware: This path is full of lies.

The feeling of being abnormal

You begin searching for mental disorders on the web. Maybe this is a symptom of a condition, or maybe it signifies a psychiatric illness. The web is extremely helpful here, as it displays twenty or more different disorders that you could box yourself into.

You suppress

You start sticking to a goal even if it kills you. You wake up day after day reassuring yourself that things will work out in the end. The suppression does not get you anywhere. Instead, you feel a disconnect, an overwhelming feeling that something is missing.

So this, in a nutshell, is the world of multipotentialites.

In spite of their vulnerabilities, multipotentialites can get a lot done. They’re generally quick learners who are able to grasp varied things, a strength that they could capitalize on. In a team they can come up with innovative ideas; the jack-of-all-trades does not lack solutions. Belief in yourself is the only thing that’s missing. Well, that and a couple of other things.

Trust that the dots connect.

Nothing ever goes to waste. The skills you learn along the way will help you in the future.

For a brief period I got a job as a travel writer when a magazine editor realized that I had explored quite a number of places within my city.

A web design course helped me juggle multiple roles at a start-up that was always short on staff.

The counseling degree gave me a better understanding of people around me. It also helped when my friend needed a student counselor for her tuition center.

So my skills were put to good use and I sometimes got paid too, without any conscious effort on my part.

Take small steps.

A quote by Katie Kacvinsky sums this aptly. She says, “You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance.”

Especially when you have hundreds of things that you would like to do, it helps to make a list. Write down your desires and start with one of them. That’s it. Don’t expect anything except the desire to learn.

When you feel saturated, stop and proceed to do the next thing on your list.

The list will grow and so will you. Drop the expectations that you need to finish the project. It’s the learning that counts for you.

Looks for creative ways to contribute.

Maybe you could utilize your skills to earn more, by writing in your particular field, coaching, or even speaking. The important thing is not to give up on your interests; instead, look at them closely and see how you can proactively pursue them to better your situation. This removes the pressure on you and you start feeling less anxious.

Connect with people who can relate.

Joining a like-minded community helps put things in perspective. Forums and websites like Puttylike, started by Emilie, can help you restore your faith in yourself and move ahead in your life.

In the end it’s all about perspective. A quote by George Carlin sums it rather well.

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”

So choose to focus on your strengths. Success will surely follow.

About Usha Mv

Usha is a freelance writer with varied passions—trekking, walking, history, and books to name a few. You can contact Usha at impulsetraveller@gmail.com.

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  • TheAllShark

    Oh god. That write up gives me chills. I am a web developer. But simultaneously I am developing a nature blog and writing contents for it. Also, I’m writing a novel with a friend. With this, I have interests in automotive industry. My day starts and ends with hunting new knowledge of cars and trucks.
    As you said, it gets terribly overwhelming. And being a 23 year old, the society expects me to have a stable career which I never see in coming years. It gets though dealing with family. Day by day my confidence is falling, and I see others progress which worries me and constantly gives me tension about future.

    Thanks for this. At least I know I’m not alone in this weird narrow minded world. If possible, please write a follow up article for this.

  • sian e lewis

    just remember that you’re very probably more interesting than a lot of people – just take care to rest occasionally!

  • Keerthana R

    It’s me! And lately have been checking online for solution for my issue because no one, not even my parents accept my “multi personality “…. Kidding 🙂 When i am compared with my sis who is the master of one art, I felt awful for being what I am. I’m 28, nowhere in my career. I feel hopeless when I am comparing myself with anybody which I’m so used to.. but when I just see myself alone in my own planet, I am a queen to myself. I play violin, sing, draw, sew, teach (pays me few bucks), dance, swim, write, make videos and many more. I improve myself in one thing, I see myself growing in all others as well. My journey is MY journey! It was a good read, thanks for letting me know people like me exist!!!!

  • Are you familiar with Barbara Sher? She refers to these people as “scanners”. And oh, I can so relate. I was a hospice nurse a number of years ago, quit to homeschool my kids for almost a decade, and now spend my days blogging and running a nonprofit my husband and I started which promotes music and the arts in our community. These activities allow me to learn new skills every day and are varied enough to suit me. But there are SO MANY other things I’m interested in, if only I had the time. I will never understand boredom.

  • “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time”. Desiderata.
    This helped me tremendously to calm down.

  • Lars Nielsen

    Thanks, Usha. This is a terrific post. I am one of those people, and the trick is to stay positive about your many talents and interested, kind to self, patient, and continually productive. Not enough people talk about this, so thanks, again!

    Lars Nielsen

  • Fatma Rashad

    So comforting to know that I am not the only ” Jane of all traits ” out there , I have so many interests , that I feel I have ten different hats I change into daily , therefore different social circles and lives within a life , I am a Reiki healer , fitness instructor, flute musician, painter , runner, rower , cyclist,hiker with a stinking sense if direction , and my most recent aquired career.. Sports nutrition consultant ! I’ve worked In The airline business , tought arts and crafts and the list goes on .. I laugh at myself and tell people that it’s hard being me .. But seriously ! It can get a bit hectic , and I feel like I am a ” master of none ” thanks for your article ,good to know to that this has a name !

  • Solecita

    My sister sent me this link. Guess she was trying to tell me something (¡¡??). I sure am just like it. I have this question to you all: how many of you had been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD?? Because I always thought it was because I have ADD that my mind works this way. Literally addicted to learning ALL kinds of things, good at many things, work hard on projects that everybody seems to think will be a success but seldom take them anywhere. So please, do tell me how many of you have ADD. Or can this be a different thing?

  • Sharon

    Hi Solecita, I’m almost 44yo and Yes I have ADHD but I haven’t been formally diagnosed. My daughter has though and I see so much of myself in her struggles with everything. I do a lot of arts and crafts now as it keeps evolving therefore keeping my interest, it seems to be the only thing I can actually stick to as it’s so varied and I can make it as easy or complicated as I need to at that particular time. Don’t worry you will find your niche as there is something out there for us all, good luck xx

  • Patricia Neild

    Oh boy I jusy needed to read this today having been told yet again that I do too many things,by someone who does very little.

  • Great post Usha! I can relate to much of this. I especially like the George Carlin quote.

  • GawkFace

    It doesnt sound cool when someone asks me what I am good at (sw pgming etc) and I say I am a jack of all trades; but using the term multipotentialite sounds more exotic!
    I wish being a multipotentialite could reap financial benefits too :p

  • Solecita

    Hi Sharon. Same here! I am Mexican. I was living in the US when I had both my kids and it was there where they were diagnosed, the girl with ADD and the boy with ADHD, I knew then, I had the same thing and a bunch of things started to make sense. When I moved back to México they were 8 and 6. This was 26 years ago and at that time nobody here had ever heard of ADD and thought I was making it up!! So for more than a decade I learned all I could find about it and eventually became a Parent Coach to be able to work with families going trough that. I also held a steady job for many years as a hotel manager, hotel remodeler and hotel purchased. Because I had and office to go daily, bosses, deadlines, customers, suppliers and all that structure and being such a multitasker, I was very successful in the hospitality industrie but since I retired from that, I have gone trough a dozen of projects and once I have all organized, I loose interest. So be it! I do all kinds of crafts and now, if I manage to accomplish it, will soon open a furniture flip workshop and e-shop. I alone have develop the paint, the waxes, dozens of drawer knobs, moldings, stencils, transfers and a bunch of other products!! I have everything ready and still won’t open to the public without a real reason. We’ll see when I can!! In the mean time, I keep myself buzzy with that. Best regards!

  • AF

    Oh well, it does not have to be that negative! It is not always that negative.
    Comparing to your activities I’m missing counselor, but I can add photographer, entomologist, tourist operator and I’m now officially starting a +1 year course on construction engineering.
    But do you know what really bothers me? Being bother. So I very rarely am! If it starts I just pick something of my list of interesting things to to/learn and get on it as serious as possible.
    If I find out after all it is not for me I leave it and get to the next one, like that part of spending an year trying to learn guitar. I really tried but it was not for me. Yes, one year, I busted a couple of string sets, it was not just a fancy.
    I learned fast that the best, for me, is to get things accomplished, do something that not everybody can do on a whim, then evaluate, see if it is worth to keep doing it even better and if not, try something else, always seriously.
    I’ve just returned from a trip where I photographed one of the last two wild orchids I need to go ahead with my orchids photography book that will also be a field guide. One that I’ll be able to show when guiding people through the mountains where those orchids can be found. I’ve been guiding people like that for years now. And photographing wild orchids for more than 10 years but only for the last couple of them have I forced on this subject, after I’ve written my 4th novel book (published 3 of those). And on those mountains I found crystals (those are on my list for when I have time) and people that work with birds of prey, which I know from when I was working with an environmental organization that also worked on planting native trees. And then there’s always those people that do want to know about the spiders and insects we have all around and I love to share the knowledge I have of them.
    I can have a conversation, a meaningful conversation, with such a variety of persons that I can almost always find a place to fit in wherever some minimum level of brains is required. Electronics, physics, construction, computers and software, finance…
    To be honest I don’t have time to feel bother and I love being what I am, even when people think I’m a serious weirdo. But not a dangerous one 🙂

  • Dee

    Thank you! This speaks to my very core.

  • stephanie

    This is me, but I am not ADHD. Nobody ever thought I was either because I did well in school. Makes me wonder whether some people were inappropriately diagnosed because they were bored and not challenged. I used to play cards or read instead of paying attention in class. My teacher sent me to AP and it was great. I still read during class some, but not like before 🙂 And BTW, I am not opposed to diagnosing people with ADHD. My brother certainly is ADHD and the diagnosis enabled him to make adjustments. He is much more focused than me as far as career. lol. I just say that because I think some people don’t like labelling (like the article mentioned), but for me, labelling allows me find ways to work around problems.

  • Isignedup4this

    You and me both!

  • Isignedup4this

    When ppl open their mouths it shows their insecurities. They bring themselves up by putting you down.

  • Isignedup4this

    Hi Fatma. This isn’t my post but it seems like you might want to take a step back. You are very talented, however I noticed you stated ‘I am’. These things are not you. They are things you are physically capable of. I have started a search of who I really am, not what I can do or not do… that not who we are. Think about it. Most ppl would proudly say they are a doctor and probably whisper that they are a custodian. Just one of the things I hate about society. I talk to my 3 month old all the time and I tell her ‘you already are’ so that when someone starts to ask in a couple of years ‘why do u want to be’ she will state that she already is and correct them with what she wants to do professionally. Sorry for the rant.

  • Isignedup4this

    Thanks a billion for this post. It could not have come at a better time. I’ve professional been a office assistant, HR Recruiter, childcare giver, real estate school, cosmetologist, music producer assistant, movie producer assistant, and currently a certified personal trainer but I’ve discovered I’m over the personal training because it’s redundant, I prefer to train myself. I use to envy celebrities and I thought it was because of the money but I’ve searched deeper and I think the envy comes from seeing their discipline. I just want the discipline. Now I have the urge to write but I’m somehow afraid, due to being a perfectionist. Sometimes being weird is great but then other times it sort of sucks because my kind is all over the place with ideas that I never seem to implement. I’m in desperate need to settle into something that I love and want to be dedicated to for at least a year.

  • GawkFace

    So you face trouble in specific syntax interview questions but glide smooth on high level ones too :p ?
    Sorry this reply seems like hackernews forum chat instead (so you can consider my question as rhetorical)
    Being jack of all trades is difficult in sw field i guess

  • Isignedup4this

    I generally think that people like us are very unique and we make excuses instead of creating our own lane. I know you see the genius in liking a little of everything.
    Society just tells us there’s no way to be successful or commit to everything. I believe it can be done but maybe not all at once. I’m great with ideas but I overthink which lacks implementation.

  • GawkFace

    You got the “liking genius” and “overthink” part bang-on 🙁
    I am glad to have found a similar thinker / attitude friend online 🙂
    About the unique part, it makes me a bit happy/smug too (being INFJ unique and all that) but somewhere I have tried to explain to myself its just self-serving bias / forer effect / snowflake syndrome :/

  • Molly

    I really needed to read this! …i’m multipotentiate but i lost interest in everything! I’m a dentist but i hate my job ..i’m good at writting and i wrote for a magazine but i quit… worked as makeup artist for a couple of years..also good in drawing but i stopped for a while ..and i feel lost and confused having no purpose or passion

  • GawkFace

    I think ‘loves to do many things’ and ‘not liking any single thing’ are closely related. Its because no single thing sparks that “passion” that the society puts as an essential ingredient for success and so we try other things but we don’t find what we are (not) looking for.
    I also think that liking to do many things is not the same as being excelling at every such thing so just enjoying bits and pieces is fine and I don’t take stress over touch-and-go instances (like a pinterest quote ‘not everywhere you fit is where you belong’)
    Hence I have reverted to old wisdom of not trying to extract purpose or passion from things I might enjoy and keep career (that pays) and hobbies (that panders) as separate sets (even if overlapping sometimes).
    And also, volunteering gives a pleasure always because your are not expected to gain from it anyway 🙂

  • This can be a strength just as it can be a weakness.
    Some people have too much interests that they can’t focus on one task and end up not finishing what they started.
    I used to have a problem with this because I have so many interests, but I make sure to focus on the things that I choose, and commit until they are finished or if I’ve mastered it.
    In my opinion, it depends on whether you reach your goal before getting distracted with another. 🙂

  • Solecita

    Well said!

  • Solecita

    Loved your post!

  • Alisha West

    I love your last sentence!

  • Jenny Car

    I just heard this term recently, and realised it’s who I am. Big relief! I used to worry that I don’t ‘set goals’… worried that there must be something ‘wrong’ with me – that I couldn’t forward plan my whole life.. sheesh.
    And that dreaded question..’what do you do?’ My snappy reply? “Whatever I want.” hehehe

    Thanks for the great article.

    Travel safe 😀