I’d always thought it was normal to dive head first into five projects at once. Doesn’t everyone work like this?
No, I later found out. Apparently they don’t.
While being a multipotentialite is fantastic, it does present certain challenges. Unfortunately in our modern, specialist-oriented world, we’re often left feeling unprepared for how to handle your very unique characteristics.
Our pluralist desires go against most of the conventional wisdom and what we’re taught by all those around us: our parents, schools, universities and workplaces. The wisdom they dispense tends to all be for specialists.
So how can we learn to manage our very unique set of needs?
For this I’ll need an example multipotentialite. Let’s call him Bob.
Bob has just found out that having multiple interests isn’t some kind of “problem” that needs sorting out. It isn’t anything to do with him needing to “pull himself together” or be “more focused.”
“Yes!” he declares, “I’m a multipotentialite!”
Bob gets very excited. All of those interests, which he’s been denying himself for years, are finally within his grasp. All of the pressure that had built up from ignoring his extensive back-catalogue of unexplored interests, is about to be released.
No longer does he need to pretend to be a specialist.
No longer does Bob need to ignore the gleam of the shiny new ideas as they dangled temptingly in front of him, as though adorning a jewel-encrusted fishhook.
In fact, Bob now eagerly awaits the opportunity to get hooked. Hooked on everything.
“Finally I get to do ALL the things I’m interested in…” he exclaims, “…and seeing as there’s no time like the present, I’m gonna make a start on everything RIGHT NOW!”
So there he is, beavering away intensely for a few weeks.
He subscribes to about a hundred newsletters, enrolls in at least twenty courses, buys a whole new library of books and concocts ideas for more than a handful of start-ups.
He has hardly come up for breath, until one day, he runs straight into it…
Complete and utter overwhelm.
Bob is exhausted. He’s barely able to scan, never mind absorb, the fifty newsletters that arrive daily in his inbox. He hasn’t even had time to open the covers, let alone crack the spines, on all of those new books.
With his initial enthusiasm severely dampened, Bob begins to wonder if all of this is worth it. What the heck has he gotten himself into?
He looks back at all the effort he’s already put in (and on top of his day job to boot), and wonders what it was all for. He can’t see that he’s made the merest hint of progress on any of his endeavors. His house is strewn with the half-started, half-finished remains of dozens of projects.
What Bob hadn’t realised yet was that:
Multipotentiality is for life. You don’t have to do everything THIS week.
New ideas, projects and interests are the drug of choice for the multipod. We crave every new learning opportunity and are always on the search for more, more, more to feed that addiction.
You may well recognise yourself in Bob and his overriding urge to dive straight in to all of those interests. He had bottled it up for so long, denying himself the permission to follow his interests for years. It can be tempting to try and start everything at once, trying to cram it all into the space of a couple of weeks. But as the old saying goes, “that way lies madness.”
So what can you do to avoid the same pitfalls as Bob? Here’s what I’ve learned on my journey so far.
My top 3 tips for going the distance
1) Practice self-care, and treat it like you’re running a marathon
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember that you’re a multipod for life – not just this week! So you don’t have to start everything right now, however tempting it may be.
It might be OK to run at full pelt with a range of projects for a few weeks, but doing it long term is a whole different ballgame. Few of us are superhuman. Accept that your energy, and enthusiasm for different projects, will ebb and flow.
Practice saying ‘no’ when you begin to feel over-committed, however exciting it is to get started on something new.
And finally, try to take regular breaks. There are no prizes for getting completely overwhelmed and burned-out.
2) Celebrate your achievements (however small)
Forward progress is forward progress, no matter how small it might be. When you have a handful of projects on the go at the same time, it can feel like you’ve been putting in loads of time without seeing any results.
It’s also normal for us multipods to abandon projects once we get bored with them. Often it’s the learning experience we were after anyway, finishing was never our goal. But not finishing can make you feel as though you haven’t achieved anything.
What is Finishing, Anyway? Finishing is the traditional method by which we’ve all been taught to benchmark our progress. As multipotentialites, we need to reinvent how we view finishing. If you get the experience you wanted, why should it matter if your project isn’t finished? And who decides what ‘finished’ is anyway?
Being a multipotentialite is not just about getting to a destination (e.g. becoming an expert or specialist), it’s about the experience and knowledge you gain along the way, as well as the tangents it might take you off on.
3) Build a multipod-friendly, support network around you
No (wo)man is an island. We all need help, support, reassurance and someone to talk with about the issues we’re facing. Being a multipod can by its very nature be overwhelming.
Talk to others about the ups and the downs of your journey. Help to blow open the myths by sharing stories about your own experience (this is why I find resources such as the Puttytribe so important).
What’s your experience of trying to manage all of your projects without suffering total overwhelm? What strategies do you use to help you cope?
Bev is an artist, creativity coach and founder of Kickass Creatives, a website offering practical support to frustrated creatives. She’s over 20 years of working in the arts: experimenting with everything from performing in a fire circus and managing a hiphop dance company, through to web consultancy and jewellery design. Bev is passionate about using her experience to enable others to fully develop (rather than hide) their multitude of talents too. Connect with her on Twitter @creativekickass.