As a keen Puttylike-reading multipotentialite, perhaps you’ve heard of the concept of the overarching theme (also known as your Why)– a central concept that links together all of your interests, however disparate they may seem on the surface.
Sometimes the multipod life can feel a little random and unplanned. Discovering an overarching theme can reveal an underlying order that was there all along, and this knowledge helps to plan our future too.
Sounds great, right? Sadly, these themes aren’t always obvious or easy to spot, and many multipotentialites get hung up on figuring theirs out.
Which is why I’d like to mention that finding an overarching theme is not a necessity. It doesn’t make you deficient, weird, or a failure as a multipotentialite if you really can’t figure out what drives you deep down.
But if we do want to find a theme, to help with discernment, to put on our business cards, or just for fun, how do we start to search?
A Bird’s-Eye View and a Question
As we get older, it becomes easier to take a long-term view of our life history, and to recognize patterns. Sometimes others can spot these patterns more easily than we can, and having an outside view without all the clutter and confusion of analyzing our own history can be helpful.
I bet many multipotentialites have experienced moments of huge insight into their deepest motivations, only for their friends or family to say, “yeah, we knew that all along.” Thanks, guys!
But when we get stuck and outside views and long-term patterns are invisible, here’s a question that might be useful:
What is it that you would you like to fix?
You’ve been made the supreme dictator of the universe, so what do you do? What’s your first instinct about what you’d change? Do you cure all disease? End homelessness? Reduce wealth inequality?
I don’t want to limit your options to do-gooding! Maybe you’d prefer to fix your own bank account to have lots of money in it, making your overarching theme “acquisition of wealth.” Being honest about your motivation is the best way to find what truly drives you.
Figuring out what you would fix first if given the choice can be a huge clue to your theme. Let’s look at a couple of examples from right here at Puttylike.
Example One: Emilie
It’s clear that Emilie wants to create a world in which generalists are as equally celebrated as specialists, which is why she created Puttylike and the Puttytribe, gave her now-famous TEDx talk, and is currently writing a book about multipotentiality.
She’s making those changes out of the desire that grows out of her theme.
(Response from Emilie: Hey Neil, hey multipods! I actually think my personal overarching theme is broader than this. I think it has to do with helping people understand that happiness and wholeness comes from featuring, rather than hiding, the things that make us unique. My work around multipotentiality is really just one manifestation of this broader Why. You’ve definitely hit the nail on the head for the overarching theme for Puttylike though. :)
Example Two: Me
If I’m going to pose tricky questions, I should probably be able to answer them myself, right?
After thinking about this for a few minutes, I think I would wave a magic wand to make everybody feel accepted and comfortable in themselves without either guilt about it or judgement of others’ different choices.
I’m not sure of a pithy way to describe the theme that this change points to, but I have long believed my theme to be about self-knowledge and how that helps us each create a better world, so at least my answer ties in!
How has this expressed itself in my life? I can see the motivation right from my choices of study through to my recent creative projects: writing a book about anxiety, giving a TEDx talk of my own, and helping to build a welcoming community here at Puttylike.
Go with Your First Choice
Don’t second-guess yourself or judge your decisions. It may be that you have an immediate answer, but then find yourself thinking, guiltily, “Maybe I ought to be ending all war, or homelessness, or…”
Naturally, given the choice, I’m sure we’d all love to end war, homelessness, inequality, disease, etc. But for some of us, those things will be the first things we think of, because they’re the issues that truly drive us. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be drawn to other things first.
There may even be selfish desires at the heart of our overarching themes. That’s cool too; we’re not all saints! (Realistically, probably none of us are entirely perfect…)
Don’t judge yourself; just ask yourself what you want to change, and see if it helps you figure out what’s driving you. And then use that knowledge to help plan your next steps.
What is it you would like to fix if you could? Let us know in the comments!
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety. Along with writing more books, he puts his time into standup comedy, computer programming, public speaking and other things from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you found him at www.walkingoncustard.com and on Twitter as @enhughesiasm.