Do You Feel Like You Focus On Too Many Things? You Might Be A Potentialite

Are you a bee flying from flower to flower?

I recently came across the term multipotentialite, also known as multipod or generalist, among other names. It’s roughly defined as someone with many interests and creative pursuits, as opposed to a specialist, which is someone who specialises in one particular interest.

[Click here to watch Emilie Wapnick’s TED Talk about this topic and here to dive deeper into it].

At first, I wasn’t sure this term applied to me. Sure, I have many interests, but I’ve often thought of myself as a person in search of her one true calling, trying out one thing after another and never feeling fully content. I would get bored of all my pursuits and give them up so, surely, that would mean they were the wrong choice!

That is a common sentiment between multipotentialites.

Our society promotes specialists. It is built on this mentality. You pick something and stick with it for the rest of your life until you become an expert. I see the logic in it, but this idea has always felt stifling to me. Do I love one particular thing enough to devote my full time and attention to it? Even as I reconcile with the writer in me —and that is the identity I feel the most at home in— there are other identities I want to nurture as well.

Emilie Wapnick explains there are different types of multipods: Some focus on one thing for a long period of time and then shift their focus to something else, some have a bunch of different projects going on at the same time and some fall somewhere in between. This can also change throughout our lives. Our personalities are not clear cut.

After learning this, I looked back at my own choices in life: I pursued a degree in Psychology, then abandoned it. I studied Photography and then decided to do an English degree because my old love for words tugged my sleeve once more. I became a translator and dog sitter and, at the same time, I decided to learn massage therapy. But when I was offered a job as a masseuse on a cruise ship, I decided it wasn’t for me. Then, by chance, I ended up working in the tourism field and, on the side, I studied to become a life coach. But when I started offering my services as a coach, I got bored with it.

Besides these pursuits, I’ve run a variety of blogs over the years, I’ve done animal activism in the form of writing and photography, I’ve learned languages, I've done yoga, I’ve sung and done creative voice-over work, I’ve been a proofreader… I even have the tendency to read several books at once. For the longest time, I felt embarrassed to be this way. It felt unfocused, immature. I felt like there was something wrong with me. Perhaps you share similar feelings, so let me throw the question:

What if it’s okay to be the way we are?

In fact, what if we accept society needs both specialists and generalists?

Over time, I’ve learned I feel more comfortable having a variety of projects to work on. Not too many, because I can get overwhelmed easily, but a number between three and five feels good to me. This means I progress more slowly but it also means every time I go back to each project I have renewed energy and feel more passionate about it. And, who knows, perhaps I’ll find the spot where these interests intersect and create something new.

“Embrace your inner wiring, whatever that may be”

—Emilie Wapnick

Let’s shatter the illusion that we need to choose or force ourselves to be someone we’re not. Instead, let’s explore what works best for us and pursue that which makes us feel joyful, that which makes us fall in love with life over and over again. Ultimately, I believe that is the whole point of life. To learn and explore and fully experience it —whatever that looks like for each one of us.

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