Is This The Biggest Multipotentialite Fear?
Photo courtesy of Ramona.Forcella.

Is This The Biggest Multipotentialite Fear?

Written by Neil Hughes

Topics: Fear

As part of my ongoing battle to overcome procrastination, I’ve been working hard on observing what’s actually happening inside my head when I feel unable to work. And I’ve noticed something interesting.

A new project is always a scary time. What if no-one likes it? What if I do it badly? What if…? Well, you get the picture.

Unless we’re superhuman, we all struggle with self-doubt. I’m now so used to these fears that I can mostly ignore them.

But there’s a more insidious fear that paralyses me more than these standard doubts. It takes me from “can I do this?” to “should I do this?”, which is an impossible question to answer for certain. And if I need certainty, I have no option but to get stuck.

The Most Toxic Fear of All

This is the fear that I suspect might be the most toxic fear of all:

What about my freedom? What if I want to do something else later? What if I change my mind?

Freedom is important for everybody, of course. But it seems to be a powerful need for multipotentialites, which makes us even more susceptible to this fear than normal. 

The reason this fear is so toxic is that it’s a Fully General Fear; it can apply to anything and everything. Once we start feeding it, no activity is immune. This is because it’s not about the thing we’re choosing to do; it’s about the very concept of choosing to do something.

I can think of a few times I’ve experienced this fear:

Starting a new job or role: Day One in the office is always frightening, but for me it comes with an extra layer of unpleasantness. Part of my brain is convinced I’ve voluntarily entered a cage, even if I was previously excited for this job.

Signing a contract: Contracts are scary. But, for me, part of the fear isn’t what’s in them, but the fact I’m signing one at all. What am I signing away here?

Getting accepted to a program (or similar): Even amidst the excitement of getting accepted onto a new commitment – a degree, a volunteer scheme, a local community group – I sometimes feel a sinking feeling of “Oh… Now I have to actually do this. For how long, again?!”

Doing anything at all: Sometimes just putting something in my calendar makes me think, “Well, there’s that day gone.” Even though I have to spend the day doing something. And I actually want to do whatever it is I’ve agreed to.

It seems I’ve over-fed my need for freedom, and inadvertently created a monster!

Hold On… Isn’t This Just a Commitment Issue?

No. I don’t believe so. Even though this sounds like a classic case of commitment phobia, I think that, if anything, the problem is the opposite: multipotentialites like commitment so much they want to be able to commit to OTHER things too.

We love the excitement of a new interest. And we’re aware that initial enthusiasm inevitably fades, and that soon enough a new thing is certainly going to grab our attention. So it’s logical to want to be free to commit to that new thing when it comes along.

Multipods love commitment so much that we want to be available to commit to everything.

Of course, maybe some of us do have the standard commitment issues. I can’t speak for thousands! But perhaps this alternate way of framing it may help us to avoid a negative self-blame cycle about it. Don’t beat yourself up for your own nature.

What Can We Do about It?

Here are a few ideas of what we might do when we’re terrified we’re caging ourselves and restricting our future options:

Change the cage itself

Maybe we’re genuinely entering a tricky cage to escape. Perhaps that means it’s rational to change the circumstances we’re scared of entering. Is there a clause in the contract you’ve been offered that says you have to sell your soul if you sign it?! Maybe the people writing the contract will be open to a gentler renegotiation (perhaps just half your soul)?

Or maybe this four-year course can be tackled in less-scary bitesize chunks. It’s always worth taking a look at the options and seeing if we can make the cage a bit less scary.

You can always change later

Very few things are permanent. If we take a job we don’t like, we can take a new one further down the line. It might be difficult to revert a decision, but it’s unlikely to be impossible. And are we really scared of a little difficulty?

As a multipod, change is probably one of your strengths. It’s a paradox that we’re often so afraid of change, when picking up new things is basically our home territory.

When we struggle to make a decision, we’re normally fighting only our imagination. We imagine we are more limited than we are in reality. Ask yourself – will it be truly impossible to change this decision six months down the line?

If it’s not a permanent (or obviously unwise) decision then you can always try it and change later if you’re unhappy. And if you’re happy: problem solved!

It’s GOOD to be “caged”

We can reframe the situation in another way by remembering that unless we commit to something we’ll never get anything done.

It’s helpful to remind yourself of the reason you’re doing this. Perhaps you want the qualification, the job, the money, the contacts, or the sweet sense of satisfaction at having finished something.

Whatever it is, tap into the source of excitement, and remember that without at least some commitment you can’t get the reward at the end.

Every other alternative is just a different cage

Someone wise once said that “alternatives exclude.”

In other words, whatever we choose, we have to choose not to do everything else. And even doing nothing is a choice.

In a sense, battling this fear entails battling the existential concept of time and reality itself! We have to successfully accept the fact that whichever path we choose there will always be a million others we could have taken. This fear is tied to some deep stuff. (So when you manage to get past it and stick to something, you should feel extra proud.)

But this problem also provides the solution: If there are no options we could take where this fear wouldn’t show up, then listening to this fear is never a good option.

I don’t know for certain if this is the “Biggest Multipotentialite Fear.” (Maybe that’s spiders. Or heights. Or taxes.) But it’s something I’ll be learning to battle all my life.

Your Turn

Do you feel the fear of being caged when starting something new? Do you have any tips for getting past it and committing anyway?

neil_authorbioNeil 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.

104 Comments

  1. Oh. My. Lanta.

    This post really struck a chord with me. I love doing things I love to do, but I hate being *scheduled* to do them. Even going to work (I work 6-9 hours a week outside the home) feels like a trap.

    I really resonated with this: “We can reframe the situation in another way by remembering that unless we commit to something we’ll never get anything done.”

    Today I’m going to commit to my writing. Stop procrastinating as much as possible and just write. Challenge myself to get as many words as possible out of my head.

    Thank you!!

    • Neil Hughes says:

      That’s exactly it! It’s like I permanently want to be “free” but that means never actually doing anything.

      You’re right – taking concrete action is a fantastic way to deal with the fear, as we get to see the results of committing to something… even if just for a few hours.

      Good luck with the writing, and hope you can share it with us someday soon :)

  2. Maryam says:

    This is my biggest problem right now. Well, It has been my entire life problem. The fear of knowing that I will decide to do something and I will later leave It because of boredom has brought me to a standstill. I have fear about choosing one way and not being able to develop the many other ways that I would also like to choose. It´s good that I am having time for myself right now to get to know me better.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      Self-knowledge is certainly the best way to move forward. I find it also helps to think “I might get bored later, but I’m not bored of this idea NOW so I might as well go with it and deal with later when it arrives”.

  3. Nikki says:

    Great post. I’m currently struggling with “fear of change” myself. I’m wanting to change the industry I work in to something more fulfilling. I’m capable of the things I’m *meant* to do, but find myself quitting them, or not being bothered much about them at all.

    I’m finding the value in things is actually a lot more pertinent than I once thought. I’m in marketing right now, and had several jobs (fired from all due to not caring), and though I become excited in entering a new role and company, about a month into it and I get bored, distant, and so on. Perhaps I will find better fulfillment in an industry that makes a difference, perhaps I won’t – it’s the won’t that scares me. The “what if” is awful, but knowing I might stay in a place I don’t like, for the rest of my life, is even worse!

    • Neil Hughes says:

      Hmm, sounds like a tough situation, Nikki. I think it can’t hurt to find work that is more fulfilling to you – and worrying about the “won’t” right now is borrowing trouble from the future unnecessarily. I’d try and stick to the problems of right now, and if you turn out to be bored later you can always change again. Change is your strength as a multipod!

    • David Aimi says:

      Hey Nikki,

      Let me tell you a story. For the greater part of my life I have been a UI / Design /Programmer etc. and I work in healthcare of all fields. Staring at computer screens for 50+ hours per week creating computational scenarios around people’s healthcare is perhaps THE most passion-void scenario you can describe. There was one summer I had such rigorous deadlines I didn’t even really see sunslight for almost a month. That being said, I can pass some wisdom to you that has helped me.

      STOP associating things you are passionate about with things you want to do for work. Stop it right now!

      The reason I lose interest and find others lose interest is because you equate doing something you are passionate about vs doing something for your career(s). This is a toxic way to look at things as you are negatively associating interests and forcing passions into -chores-. This is why things often have a negative association.

      Let’s say you love to go out and go to bars. Most of us do, right? Does that mean you should go work at a bar because you love them so much? Hell no. Because that would mean you have to clean up after people, wait on them, run the restaurant, etc. If you ENJOY those careers or want to own a restaurant, then by all means that is different. But just because you do something that makes you happy does NOT mean it necessarily needs to be brought into a career context.

      I think as a whole we need to revisit what a career actually is vs what a passion actually is. These two things don’t always need to be intertwined.

      • Terri says:

        Well said. I feel like I “should” be working at my many passions. Instead I am working in data analysis. It satisfies my critical thinking and problem-solving needs, but it easily becomes boring if it’s the same problem day after day. That’s when I begin feeling like I “should” be always energized. Which means I “should” never be bored. I am regularly. But this website helps me accept that discontent within and lowers my anxiety and blood pressure. So now I don’t fret about working at my many passions. I’ve lowered the expectation on my myself. By the way, I love talking to strangers but I don’t want to make a job of it. People can bore me and I’m sure I do them as well.

  4. This is so “dead on” that I almost can’t make a single comment.

    I really related to the thought that committing to an event/activity or project makes me often say “that’s another day wasted.” I never think I have enough time to think,create or dream. (I know that’s true because I wrote a poem about it when I was still in high school, and I’m 61!)

    Now I have to rethink what I’ve been thinking about; I’ve been thinking about laziness, procrastination, lack of focus, lack of follow-through, and generally criticizing myself for my lack of “success.”

    Thanks for providing a new way of looking at fear and anxiety, and just being me (Multipod).

    • Neil Hughes says:

      So glad it resonated. And I’m SO glad I’m not alone in that thought of wasting time just by committing to anything at all!

      Sounds like you’ve (like me) been very negative to yourself about how you spend your time. I bet that you’ve got a lot of positive uses of time you could instead focus on.

      Hope it brings you a peaceful way of relating to time – and to get more done in the process!

    • Stacey says:

      Omg yesss! “I never think I have enough time to think,create or dream” and Now I have to rethink what I’ve been thinking about; I’ve been thinking about laziness, procrastination, lack of focus, lack of follow-through, and generally criticizing myself for my lack of “success.” ..This is it for me in a nutshell! Where has this site been all my Life?!

  5. Fleur Fallon says:

    Perhaps we want our cakes and custard all at the same time?

    Have you ever analysed your 3-5 most non-negotiable values? If freedom and autonomy are named, then you will freeze if you are offered a top paying role that has a tight framework of regulations and compliance. You probably can do that role, but it would be like being ordered into a dark windowless prison with golden handcuffs. The more you submit to that temptation, the more difficult it is to leave. Your deeper soul needs go unmet.

    Do you work best when there are competitions and tight deadlines? At least occasionally? If these are situations when you thrive, then create your own competition and deadline to support your need to focus on single projects at appropriate times. Get a pet passion project done in the time frame agreed with yourself, followed by a reward of, say, going to the movies, reading the latest novel (or writing one), taking time out midweek to go to the mountains / beach. See Ricardo Semler, Semco, Brazil and his books:Maverick and The Seven-day Weekend..

    I have accepted that I am project-oriented. By definition a project has a definite beginning and an end, so while others may rage at the increasing casualization of academics, I see it as a chance to be selective about what I can, and will do, and short-term to three year contracts meet that personal need. Now I am enjoying some downtime to figure out the next project commitment, and that is the challenge…where, when and how…while I still have savings!
    I am seeking cake and plenty of creamy custard, please.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      This is a very wise comment, Fleur, and you’re absolutely right about all of it. It’s about finding what works for us, and breaking down that inner resistance which manifests in different ways for all of us.

      Hope you find that cake and custard… and that we get to share it when you do :p

    • Rebecca says:

      Thank you, Fleur. Your comment, taken hand-in-hand with this post, gave me the tools I needed to be able to figure out why I was so hesitant to apply for what *should* be my dream job. While much of it has to do with the fear of being caged, I realized that in this case I was dealing with a conflict between my core values and requirements of the job itself.

  6. Catherine Chisnall says:

    Yes, I often get paralysed by thinking ‘if I do X, I can’t do Y or Z’. Its frustrating. Maybe I can try planning doing something for a week or a month, that wouldn’t be too scary.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      It’s a tough one because sometimes it’s true – all our choices exclude the other options, by definition… that’s what makes it a choice!

      But I’ve come to see it as pointless worrying about it. If X seems like the best option at the time, I should just do it and not worry about Y or Z. It’s impossible to know how Y or Z would have turned out, so we have to just get on with whatever seems best to us in any given moment.

      I agree that planning things for temporary periods is helpful: I like to have an experimentation mindset. Try it for a bit and see if it sticks, and hold lightly to any given option!

      Thanks for sharing, it’s good to know I’m not alone :)

      • Gustavo says:

        Neil,

        “(…) all our choices exclude the other options, by definition… that’s what makes it a choice!”.

        I think it’s not always true – sometimes we can choose X and Y, depending on what exactly they are. One can think that being, say, a writer (X), excludes the role as, for instance, a manager in a accountability company (Y). It’s not always true – five days per week as manager still leaves two days every week to be filled with anything we want, including writing. So, in this case, X and Y can be performed AT THE SAME TIME if our “standard” time-frame is the week, not the day.

        Some people may argue that breaking activities in this way reduce performance (“I must dive deep to write[manage] well/better/the best I can”). But actually I believe that being a multipot the opposite is the truth: splitting EVERY TASK into small chunks that can be processed/accomplished/finished in short times, so we never get bored, is the best strategy in most cases.

        Fleur said above about being project-oriented; in my vision, it’s the disciplined (sometimes even bureaucratic) way of splitting a large task into small ones so the whole can be accomplished in a better more effective manner.

        Using the example given above, the weekend writer can think about their activity as a project-based one by defining the scope of the project being managed (a book) and defining milestones to be reached (a chapter) WITH OR WITHOUT a engraved-on-the-stone schedule. Just having “a mission to accomplish” (the finished chapter) may be enough for most multipots. What matter for us is having a clear end, the certainty that the tunnel has an end and the light will shine very soon. Multipots don’t like to walk on dark, long tunnels!

        Thinking in this way, we can do X, Y, Z and W, of course, if all of them summed can be fit in the 24 hours each day have!

        Just the humble view of a multipot that manages the everyday issues this way.

      • Catherine Chisnall says:

        Ah yes. Pointless worrying. Now that is something I need to stop doing in every aspect of life.

        But I lie my idea of planning to do things for a week or so. I hadn’t thought of that before :)

  7. Kristen Santos says:

    I completely identify with experiencing the fear of being caged into a ‘structure’ that doesn’t allow me to cram in everything that’s caught my attention. And, I’m noticing that re-sizing the cage (expectations/demands), allows me to keep a healthy level of diversity in my life and have the courage to stick with something long enough to come through on the other side of novice to expert.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      Great way of looking at it Kristen – changing our expectations is key to a healthy attitude to how we spend our time. Having a diverse suite of things going on and progressing towards expertise in them all sounds like a recipe for multipotentialite happiness :)

  8. Ness says:

    Thank you Neil. You are so right. I have to laugh about the contracts.
    I absolutely hate them but I never knew why. Now I know, it is the fear of loosing my freedom by signing a contract. I am looking forward for the next one to sign….

    • Neil Hughes says:

      These comments are making me feel such relief that I’m not alone! So many times I’ve signed something, and even though every single thing in the contract feels fine, the fact I’m signing at all feels irrationally frightening.

      Hope you can smile when you sign your next one! ;)

  9. Great article Neil!

    I discovered a German word for this many years ago: Torschlusspanik or “panic that the doors are closing”. Good, eh? But we have to say “no” to some things to be able to say “yes” to others and, as you say, we can never know how different choices would have panned out…

    • Neil Hughes says:

      That’s an awesome word, Anna. Making a note for future reference!

      And you’re exactly right: we can never take all possible options, and we can never know how the other options might have gone. There’s no point fighting this, we might as well fight the entire universe and concept of time itself!

  10. Joan Ayers says:

    Thank you Neil!! Your words came at just the right moment for me. I have been struggling with just that fear ever since joining Puttytribe last week. I absolutely want to be here but now I have to PERFORM SOMETHING EXCEPTIONAL! I am now surrounded by a community of like-minded folks and I can feel my self-doubts creeping in. I imagined that joining this community would give me immunity from feeling caged. And now I feel silly for those thoughts…thank you for your words of wisdom…they really make sense to me. It is very powerful to be a part of this accepting community…and equally scary to commit.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      Aw, I’m glad to hear I can help you feel more accepted. I totally get the fear – the puttytribe is full of impressive people and it can feel like there’s a pressure there.

      But there’s no pressure at all – everyone’s pulling for you to succeed in your own way, whether that’s some huge thing, or whether it’s picking up a new hobby!

      And there’s no point fearing all the alternatives you have before you. Just pick the one you like the look of best and try it – that’s what being a multipod is all about.

      You’re very welcome here Joan, and we look forward to seeing what you get up to :)

  11. I can totally relate to this!

    Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by the idea that I won’t be doing a, b, and c that I can’t manage to do d, even if I planned on doing it. Especially if I planned on doing it lol. I just can’t decide what I want to do and so I do nothing and then I get depressed that I’ve done nothing.

    I often find myself planning work two weeks in advance, sometimes even a month, and you’re absolutely right, even though it’s something I want to do I feel anxiety about the time I’ll be losing for other things, and then by the time the day comes to actually do it, I’ve resolved myself to it, but I’m definitely perturbed that it’s interrupting whatever I’m in the middle of and actually excited about.

    Well, I guess I’m just saying it’s good to know that I’m not alone in having these conflicting feelings about commitment! Thanks for sharing!

  12. B Mello says:

    Woah

    I understand the fear you talk about in this article, and I am impressed by the way you put it into words. I had just recently come to the realization of this fear myself, but had yet to figure out how to work through it. Those various suggestions on how to overcome the fear of choosing are going to come in handy.

    Thank you for your wonderful article!

  13. Gabi says:

    Wow, I really love this group. Your post really hits home. I’m getting ready to apply for a job I might really love, but the loss of freedom is holding me back(even though the job I’m in is a bit tedious, though not too painful). All the questions you wrote about I have thought in the past few weeks. And yet the past two evenings I have worked on my resume. I got past it by telling myself over and over, it might be good, it’s not the end of the world, if you hate it you can quit, you might love it, it will be ok. Because if I don’t apply then what if I miss out on the opportunity of my life!!! My husband said, well do you want to be in the job your in for the next twenty years? No, but not sure that I would ever want to do any particular job for twenty years. UGH. Great post.

    • Jessica says:

      Hey Gabi, I’m going through very similar job-search nervousness this week too! I’ve been tweaking my resume for the past couple of days, for this job that might turn out to be really awesome, but I keep procrastinating the part where I should actually just send it in. I’m so nervous for the part where I might be faced with a choice (to accept an offer or turn it down, or even having to start the job search over again).

      But it’s good to know I’m not alone. How about if I promise to send in my application this week, you should too! ;)

  14. T Michael Salter says:

    Thanks, Neil, for this timely examination of breaking through the barriers. I am currently working through establishing some new habits (“reframing the situation”) so that I can continue moving forward positively. My current issues are procrastination and what I can only call a fear of success. It is easy (and safe) to stay in the bad habits I have created and somewhat daunting to establish new methods. But I have to maintain my commitment to my own future growth.

  15. Gers32 says:

    Hi, I maximize the chance that I’ll stay committed to a task until the end by caging myself purposefully. Two examples: I learn via MOOCs because I know there are weekly deadlines; if I miss them I won’t get the points… Also, I take bass lessons with a real live teacher, which I don’t want to disappoint.

  16. Ben Pan says:

    I love the cage metaphor and I think that as multipotentialites we have the ability to fly from cage to cage bringing our Wisdom from all the cages we’ve visited. Although society has programmed into our minds a negative connotation for the word “cage.” Maybe some people are happy they found the right cage for them. I think it is our duty as multipotentialites to fly.

    Bonus Viral Video (warning headphone users!! LOUD!!!) ;)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXsQAXx_ao0&ab_channel=MotivaShian

  17. Jessica says:

    All of Neil’s posts that I’ve read have really hit home, but this one especially so — it’s exactly what I’m dealing with right now! Everything from “should I start this blog idea I have? But what about doing yoga and swimming?” to “should I leave my mind-numbing sales job to be a reporter at a local newspaper? But what if that’s also boring, or not the right way to kick off my dream career?” and even, “I want to get a cat, but that’ll mean I can’t do graduate studies abroad!!”

    It’s so tough feeling like everything is going to box me in, when really they’re opportunities to pursue the things I’m most interested in. Right now I also haven’t committed to anything, which feels so not me. But my husband suggested making an organized evening routine, so I’m able to fit lots of little things in throughout the week.

    Has anybody else tried this, and does it help even with the long-term goals?

  18. Marc Tower says:

    Exactly! recently I’ve caught myself preparing for three different paths over the next few years because a) I want to hedge my bets if one doesn’t workout, b) I want all three c) I don’t want to get stuck in any of the 3 or c) Why can’t I do them all? I mean, apart from the need for sleep and limited number of hours in the day.

  19. Dasha says:

    Oh my gosh. Thank you for writing this. It REALLY struck a cord with me a few important and frustrating ways.Its really tough. Along with a few read comments. Like really REALLY tough to keep up consistency. Someone mentioned “the follow through”. Ah, i beat myself up over that too much.

    Its a strange phenomenon. That despite wanting to go the thing, being eager to go the thing, KNOWING what it takes to do it and being interested im the ride itself, avoidance prevails. A big hidden silently lirking fear is holding a tight grip. Stirring away enough to make up think we don’t care, to create a dirty dirty habit of procrastination that steals away the life you want to live. It’s painful and frustrating. Especially being a multipotentialite. I’ve never heard it spoken to direct to my situation before. And it’s really.. comforting, to know that others know this experience. That the specific words procrastination, trapped, follow-through, excitement, and others were used. Because these words ring true to the language I’ve been using to fuss with this happening.

    I’m not 100% certain if this IS the fear that’s holding me back, but it cuts pretty near to the feeling– this article is something that made emotion welled up softly. So perhaps it offers me a ponderable truth.

    I do have a fear of letting go of my freedom. A desperate need to be free, uncaged, yet I KNOW and have been consistently reinforced about how commitment, and consistency are key to creation and achievement.

    I’m pretty exellent (well, ah gosh how can I say that less arrogantly;; in my humble opinion..) at doing/creating things spontaneously. Spontaneity flows so sweetly through my life. But once I strict myself to something, my writing mostly, I clench. Despite that being my most cherish (child) skill. I absolutely love writing, yet I haven’t done it how I wanted to in about a year.

    It’s scary this idleness, makes me feel urgent. I even theorize that this procrastination, self-doubt, increased a few tears ago and thus are the perpetrators for my depression to rise. 3 years ago, before I was diagnosed with depression, I fought with the procrastination and self-doubt, exteremly. I reached constantly for ways to ‘fix me’ my academics flaked. I couldnt keep myself consistent. My depression is slightly better managed now. But the procrastination and doubt that comes with it are STILL very hefty triggers for an episode. And that’s what makes me so urgent, and fearful.

    Like another said in her comment, I KNOW I am capable. I believe in my abilities and know my weaknesses, but know that there are so many possibilities and the ability to strengthen anything weak. The analysis paralysis/in decision in choosing a path that you Neil, and even Silvia Day Plath described in her poem about (plum trees?) Really hit me. I self-overwhelm, i self-pressure. Maybe my issues a bit more complex due to my mental health, anxiety etc.

    However- I’ve come to learn how perfect this predicament of having infinite amount of options is. It gives us the FREEDOM to choose. Having the choice, having the possibility at all is blessing enough. Don’t you all think? (If you’ve been read this, goodness I’m sorry for rambling and thank you!) We can exercise our free will and do, the things that resonate most a whatever time they do. And not when they dont. And that’s the message I love most in all of this.

    It’s just about figuring out the way we are and accepting the way we are and navigating in our unique way through it. I hope I find my solace along on this journey. I Am glad to know I’m not alone. I’m gonna end this kinda abruptly. Forgive me! Good luck all! Good luck me!

    Let’s treat ourselves well. “Figuring it all out can be the best part. Don’t quit your daydream, don’t forget to breath. Who you want to be is only up to you…..keep both feet on the ground while you’re living in the clouds”
    –Song by Tori Kelly “DayDream” give it a listen perhaps its great.

  20. Thanks for sharing, Neil!
    I am also familiar with the term Torschlusspanik.
    My constant worry is that by doing what I am doing now, what am I missing out on? My wife and I have adopted a great saying that helps me stop jumping from one wonderful opportunity to another: “Just because it’s a good idea…” and we leave the response out in the ether (it could be “doesn’t mean you should do it.”).
    Is it weird that I hate labels (my mantra for several years was “Don’t be fooled: there is no box [to think outside of]”) but I also love routines. Don’t quell my freedom, but let me do things the same way every time and keep everything in its same place! What is THAT?

    • Gustavo says:

      Stephen,

      Routine is the safe harbour to where we navigate when we are not fighting giant squids, sinking on frightful thunderstorms, wrestling with pirates or looking for hidden treasures. Because we, multipots, do it every time, many times, and love it. But it tires. Sometimes we NEED to spend time in calm waters to recover the stamina that drives us forward.

      This is what routine means for us. For some it may be the cage we live in day-after-day, but many times WE DO HAVE a choice, we do have the option to make our routine more like a cage, or more like a safe harbor. I appreciate having a routine that allows me going crazy from time to time and make weird things, start a new solo project, go to a place I never visited in the middle of a working day or just stay daydreaming or reading the Wikipedia about whatever stuff that comes to my mind.

      Today I have a routine that I like, but it comes to a price, literally: I have a part time remote job that pays me reasonably less than I could make in a “regular” job (I’m PhD in Materials Engineering), so the MATERIAL cost for me and for my family is substantial. But I have their support because in a way or another they know that I NEED such “escape” from time to time to not become PERMANENTLY crazy. And I love them anyway, but much more specially because I recognize that they accept the material loss in exchange of a higher EMOTIONAL reward.

      Go forward and do whatever makes you happy. Just be sure to not sink completely, to not be eaten by the giant squid nor to lose the wrestle to the pirate.

  21. karen says:

    I make to-do lists of everything I want to accomplish in a day, a week, or a month. But my biggest problem is prioritizing them. I’ll tell myself that I need to finish this before starting that and then procrastination sets in and I get nothing accomplished!

    • Gustavo says:

      Karen,

      My personal experience (including as a manager of a chemical factory) is that TO-DO lists are *almost* useless for multipots like us. They are useful and I use them BUT just to remember that some things must be made SOMEDAY, not in a particular day or order. The big problem is not setting up the list or remembering the due, the problem is prioritizing the tasks. We ALWAYS change the ranking of priorities in short time. Many times, and again and again.

      Instead, try to organize your duties as “missions” that should be accomplished in short, medium and long terms. Thinking as a mission instead of a bunch of tasks allows more focus over the WHAT we’ll do instead of HOW we’ll do. What makes us sick is the excessive planning usually required (os simply imposed) on HOW to do something. When we have a mission, no matter how, we must DO IT until the end. With a bunch of tasks, the trend is (in our melodramatic and gaudy mind) that our role is to bureaucratically accumulate ticks in a sheet, no matter the reason.

      Neither of these extreme behaviors is the true one we experiment in our everyday life, but if you have to choose, what one will fit better to you?

      Just an opinion.

  22. Victoria Williams says:

    Thank you Neil. This is so true of me, and so timely as I consider a change in jobs, which includes how to define myself and talk about a myriad of skills in a focused way (especially when I don’t like talking about myself, but want people to know all of the awesome things I can do!). You have given me something to think about and potentially a way to reframe that “caged” feeling, which brings so many doubts that sometimes overwhelm me.

    I sadly missed getting in the puttytribe this month, but will attempt it again in December. Sounds like a wonderful community. :)

  23. Damien Denis says:

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts, this is indeed one of my biggest fears, if not the biggest.
    At the moment I am attempting to escape one cage, a physics PhD, only to enter another cage, game design. And I’m absolutely terrified.
    After my general masters courses, physics is becoming too specialized for me; not to mention I’ve always felt out of place in academics. I chose game design because it’s a broad subject that includes many of my interests, including physics and problem solving; but there are so many more. And what if I don’t get to them fast enough with game design? What if it’s not what I thought it would be? Etc, etc..
    I guess my solution is to try to get the most out of game design, in as many different subjects as I can, focusing on skills and knowledge that I can broadly apply to other potential interests down the line. That way, if game design doesn’t work out for me, the way physics didn’t, at least I will have gotten a lot of useful experiences out of it for my next journey.

  24. Emilie says:

    Thanks for a great post. This is something I’ve suffered with for years and to compound the fear, I often don’t finish things which makes me think “What’s the point of starting something new then?”. I liked your suggestions for ways to overcome it but I think it really helps just to realise that this is something that happens to you.

  25. Michelle says:

    “Even though this sounds like a classic case of commitment phobia, I think that, if anything, the problem is the opposite: multipotentialites like commitment so much they want to be able to commit to OTHER things too.”

    Yes. YES YES YES. I adore this approach. I’m going to use it in other areas of my life as well. It does a swift job of doing away with what I would call shame…for a time, at least. Thanks, Neil. <3

  26. Jeff Glowa says:

    To me, it feels like I have perpetual buyer’s remorse and that should have picked my other choice. As for feeling caged in, I believe that is just part of the overall human condition, since our physical being and such limits our ability to fully allow our inner child to flow and realize its unlimited and creative potential.

  27. angie says:

    Thank you! I’ve always thought it was just me. No one close to me has this desire to do and be a 1000 things (and often all at once). I happily embrace change and love a challenge – just don’t make me feel like I “have to” do something or be somewhere. Add to that an aversion to 9-to-5 and what I consider a healthy disdain of schedules, plans, budgets – anything that ties down my ability to create and do. I deal with all these things that make me feel claustrophobic – like a good adult – and I am pretty good at what I do. But I often feel like I am silently screaming for my freedom but don’t quite know where to look for it! The Lottery maybe? ; )

    • Alison says:

      Yes, it’s that “have to” block for me too, even when I really want to do something. There’s something about the non-negotiable that makes even wonderful tasks unenjoyable.

  28. delphine says:

    I used to make sure I don’t work long hours so I can pursue another endeavor at night.
    Usually whatever I would do in my leisure time would become my next job.
    I studied efficiency to be better at work, and work faster, so I’m never late on my deadlines.

    I have a child now. I worked part time for a while, 4 days a week, with daycare at my day job so I could see my baby when I wanted. Then I managed to create a job I can do from home and that needs me to learn several careers. I create books from A to Z, art direction, origami, paper toys, illustration , writing, you name it I do it. I’m much more confortable like this, and I feel so lucky I can do it.

    Looking back I would do like this:
    -learn efficiency
    -don’t do long hours and learn new things at night
    -get a part time job if you can
    -and learn even more things

    I am tired but happy ;)

  29. Keith says:

    Sometimes it is just simple as re-framing your fear and putting in a different bounce, if that makes any sense.

    Keith

  30. Dwight Hurych says:

    1. Multi: as in many.
    2. Potential: probability of future success.
    3. Suffix -ite: said of rocks and minerals, as in ‘of the nature of’.

    As a multipotentialite, I recognize that I have many probable ways of getting stuck between a rock and a hard place. I just hope I don’t get hit with a rock in a hard place, like my skull.

    I may not always end up in the place I chose while striving toward a potential opportunity or venture. But, I always have the option to choose the place I ended up in. The key to successful therapy is to embrace the inner-child, when every ounce of us wants to run away from the pain within. The key to finding success in a place we didn’t expect is to embrace the lesson, when every ounce of us wants to get unstuck and start over.

    It’s mostly my resistance to the place I end up that makes it rock-hard. If I learn to embrace it, perhaps I can mold it and shape it in a delightful way I didn’t anticipate. Perhaps, I can make it putty-like in my hands, and end up smiling a bit at the realization that my circumstances are at the mercy of my creative perspectives. It might look like a rock to you, but…!

    It used to take more courage for me to change than it does now. That’s because changing got fun. I learned that by embracing my circumstances, I’m really embracing myself in them. The result is more than happiness; it’s contentment, and contentment sticks with me like a very close friend.

  31. anna says:

    I’ve only recently found this website and it’s like finally coming home! This article really described exactly how i feel every time i commit to things and see all those other possibilities slipping away – so limiting like gilded cages – and it helps me understand what was going on. Thanks so much :)

  32. Claudia says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience Neil!

    I have recently found that it was easier to start, launch and finish projects when part of a company. I am busy as an entrepreneur currently and find it so hard to launch what I have started. However after the first comment I’m ok.
    The change my mind thing drives so many nuts and they look down at me for it, however I celebrate this privilege – it IS about freedom. Have learned to replace “I am doing this” with “I am exploring this” that way I receive encouragement instead of judgment.

    We are so darn complex, I love the freedom to explore, discover, find what works – essentially, I find Multipotentialites maybe need every activity to be meaningful? This applies to me, hence procrastination – with practise though, even procrastination is a support tool to Go For It or Just Do It.

    Keep well

  33. Maryske says:

    Those four typical times when you often have that fear… BOY, does that sound familiar!!
    Most recently with my present job. I got the job offer mere *days* after discovering about multipotentialism. Glad at first for the salvation of going broke (again…), within days the whole job made me feel terribly trapped. Just when I had discovered that being all over the place with far too many interests was something to nourish instead of to fight, making me even more eager to switch careers as I’ve wanted to do for years. And then I once again get stuck in the old career path… Can’t wait till it’s July and I can get out again, hopefully trying something *really* new :-)

  34. Jenn says:

    So me! This is scary.
    It’s frustrating when I work towards something for so long and I get it….but once I get it, I don’t even like it. One of the hard parts of being a multipotientialite.
    It gets my parents a little upset.
    I had such a hard time at university that I ended up dropping it because I was overwhelmed with everything I could do.

    The struggles :(

  35. Neil Hughes says:

    Overwhelmed by the responses here – looks like this is a real issue for many of us!

    Lots of wisdom in the comments too. Thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts and techniques for dealing with it.

    Let’s keep supporting each other in finding ways to get past this fear and enjoy our many interests and ALSO our freedom :)

  36. Diana says:

    Great articles and comments! I too cherish my intellectual freedom almost more than anything else. It’s good to be reminded that others experience this too.

  37. Máire says:

    Neil, thanks so much for putting these ideas out there and challenging the status quo of classic denouncement of these tendencies as some kind of psychological problem that needs to be fixed. I’ve been grinning from ear to ear since reading your post because it felt like someone turned the sun on after years of sitting in the dark. Thanks to everyone too for sharing their personal take on things and building the picture of what it is to be a multipotentialite.
    I’ve felt more and more afraid of doing something new because I thought it was a failure on my side that I did not stick with it. There is so much talk of finding your calling, passion, thing that you are meant to do with your life that it feels suffocating and scary. I kept wondering ‘what’s wrong with me?’ and then rebelling, saying what a load of hogwash.
    Ahh…to be free to follow all those lovely sparkly things down that untrodden road and not feel it has to mean something. Sometimes the fear is that I need to make this more than what it is. I need to make it my job or calling or next business idea or or or. So perhaps for me it is to take the focus of meaning ie. this has to mean something, to see the bigger picture of meaning. How I approach my life, make choices, be present to each moment whether I’m creating, doing, procrastinating, sharing, breathing. The question for me is: ‘Did I live well?’ not ‘Did I do that well?’
    I’m so glad I’ve discovered this group. Or perhaps it discovered me. :-)

    • Gustavo says:

      “(…) classic denouncement of these tendencies as some kind of psychological problem that needs to be fixed.”

      I see every personal trait (even extreme ones as schizophrenia) as a point in an spectrum. Multipots are those who are in a range of the spectrum as much as those who are mostly focused in one-stuff-at-time, only-one-interest-forever, and other typical personal traits that make us “strangers” in a world (society) that celebrates too much a particular range of this spectrum, the range which is most times associated with the psychopathic behavior.

      I’m not saying that those who are not multipots are psychopaths. Just that most personal traits that are common to psychopaths (many times even the extreme violence) are celebrated as “virtues” – in the particular case of extreme violence, just type “action movie” in any search engine to understand the case.

      We, multipots, have a different set of personal traits. We are not normal, nor abnormal. We’re just in a range of the spectrum that is not the same as the range many people are. There’s no “normal” or “abnormal” in this case; at best, there’s a range were more people can be found. This vision matches well the fundamental meaning of “normal” in statistics, but it’s very, very far from the usual meaning people have for normal as opposite to “aberrant”. Even psychopaths or schizophrenics or autistic or bipolar or whatever, they are not “abnormals”. They just are sitting in a particular range of a spectrum, one among many spectra that builds our complex personality.

      Just embrace your very particular set of points in each spectrum that makes you who you are. But, if your desire is to change who you are, make a favor for you and adjust one knob at a time, then spend some time meeting your new self, before the next jump.

  38. Jan says:

    Wow! This hit me like a 2×4! Thank you for sharing your brilliance!!

  39. Michael says:

    Cool article. I find I have previously feared committing to a definition of myself – such as my occupation. Like if I get business cards printed, if I tell people what I do. I’ve finally settled on a self-definition which I’m happy with, which is flexible enough to cover all of what I want to do with my life and which won’t change. Or it won’t change unless I make a major redirection with the course of my life. I’m not afraid to commit to this. I am afraid to do some of the things that are steps toward being a professional in some of the areas covered by my occupation – specifically doing work experience at the local stage theatre in the art department to develop my skills for the ‘art director’ part of my occupation. Mainly because of my social phobia. I’m not afraid to commit to learning python to help with my Designer (games, etc.) part of my occupation. And I’m not afraid to continue with my writing projects (writer part of the occupation) – however I am afraid of getting published – fear of success. The occupation I’ve settled on is writer, designer, art director.

  40. Helen says:

    Thanks Neil! (Although I agree with the conclusion, it’s spiders.)
    One of the most meaningful blog entries I can recall ever reading.

    Yes, such a paradox of not letting us change while this is exactly what we are _supposed_ to be doing all the time. If the problematic aspect can be resolved and the nice ones kept by reasoning then all is fine (as you so artfully help with). If not, there is always a chance that the deeeep issue has to be found (as you also fearlessly point out). Like when cognitive behavioral methods work everything’s great but sometimes only analysis will do it, right?

    Btw Pace Smith -whom I also learned through this blog here- has something about this: http://pacesmith.com/wcme-016/
    As she says, you might be a multipotentialite without being a “type 7”, but if you are then you might have to think a bit about it. I also distinctly remember some book associating this trait to body-type analysis, although I’ll have to find out the title.

    Yes, I think I’d like to understand this trait, remove all the wrong reasons underlying it and then just keep it ^^

  41. LCFaulkner says:

    I am so glad o came across your talk on TED talks. Your talk hit how I feel right on the head. i have so many passions and ideas, but didn’t know where to start with them all. You have truly inspired me. Thank you

  42. Charlotte says:

    This post really resonated with me. I’ve been struggling with this recently in terms of making a plan for my future. I’m finally in a position in my life where I can start putting aside considerable savings. This gives me ‘options’. I’ve realized this idea of ‘options’ is totally key in life, like figuratively speaking, options are the keys that open doors for you. They are a wonderful thing! You can consider yourself fortunate to be in a position to have them.

    However, choosing is definitely a challenge! Because a choice of one eliminates the others, and we don’t usually have a chance to do everything, at least not all at once. Do I invest in further education? Property? Starting my own business? Travel?

    Each option has its pros and cons. I have to trust that as I continue on my journey the best possible choice, which falls in line with my values, will reveal itself to me at the right time. Though this is difficult, as I like to plan ahead, to see my future laid out before me leading to the ultimate way of life. So far the decisions I’ve made have led me to where I am today, which is pretty sweet. Trust the process. Baby steps.

  43. Dawn says:

    Yep, you got it!
    I was recently having money troubles and was lucky enough to be contacted by a great company with nice people and a good boss. I know I wouldn’t find anywhere better. But the hours….
    I spent some time negotiating over pay, and they raised their already generous offer to what I’d asked for. That’s when I realised that it wasn’t about the money. I love being freelance so much, I just can’t put a price on it. The idea of a 9-5 fills me with dread.
    It was tough to say no to such lovely people, but in this case taking the job for a short time would not have been the right thing to do. There would have been a lot of time invested in training me and for me to then say goodbye after 6 months wouldn’t have been right.

  44. Pisey says:

    Recently, i was thinking of applying to a boarding school to follow a high school education. My parents got the idea and thought it was alright. But this kind of “fear” are looming around.
    Everyday, these pop up:
    “What if i get homesick and couldn’t handle it?” “what if i don’t get accepted after going to great length like before?” “what if i can’t do it well?” “what if i hate the school like how i hate mine now?” “what if this and that….”

    I don’t know if i should decide to go or not. It confused me most of the time. But if i don’t decide to go, i might regret it ten years from now. If possible, i would love to hear some advice or opinion on this.

    • fleur says:

      Hi Pisey,
      Draw up two columns on a page.
      1st column- brainstorm all the pluses (advantages)
      2nd column – brainstorm all the negatives (disadvantages, including financial cost).
      Which column is stronger?

      The ‘what if….’ scenarios are also useful for decision-making.
      What if… I hate it….then what could you do?
      What is the worst possible thing that could happen? Is that so bad?
      What if I love it…..
      Try to imagine at least 3 scenarios – – neutral +
      writing it down stops your head spinning in circles… When you see your thoughts on these questions written down, it is much easier to make a decision…
      Good luck!

  45. Tracy says:

    I crave new challenges. I hyper-focus on them, researching the “who, what, when and where” of them. I get excited about them, hardly talk about anything else, get friends and family onboard — and then something else comes along to beguile me. I end up disappointing everybody, (but not myself, because I’m into this new and exciting thing), and the crazy cycle starts all over again.

    I have a good job. I don’t have a fear of “cages.” What I do fear is wasting the little time I have left on going crazy about something that I’ll never end up doing — wasting my energy on something I KNOW will only entice me for a couple of weeks before something else comes along to seduce me.

    And as I get older, these cycles are repeating at a much faster rate.

    It’s driving me nuts. And I’m not sure there is a simple solution.

  46. Stacey says:

    Thank you for publishing this. It totally resonates with me. Every single project or work commitment that I’ve ever been faced with has gone through the ringer because of my insatiable desire for freedom. I do want to commit, but not just to one pursuit. Thank you for making it OK to be this type of person. I do need to add, though, that in every thing that I do end up committing to, I go above and beyond in performance. It’s just in me to give it my all and to utilize my every ounce of energy and creativity to achieve. Problem is, because I do this, I tend to get drained from giving my all to other pursuits. I find I need to make good choices and to take into account the amount of energy that I’m actually able to give. Thanks!

  47. Niki says:

    Great post!! I can totally relate to this. Once, I was interviewed and hired for a job I was dying to get, because it felt like the best and right decision. Yet, the next morning I woke up terrified and thought “What have I done?!”

  48. Kate says:

    The timing of this article is so perfect. I started a part time job recently and even though the hours are not very demanding and it’s something I enjoy, I start having these fears that this will lead to something more permanent and then I’ll be “trapped”… but at the same I’m also more motivated than ever to try and build a renaissance business for myself.

    I’m also in the process of writing a paper for a class I’m taking. As usual, even though I really like my paper topic and want to write about it, almost EVERYTHING besides writing this paper suddenly becomes super interesting just because it’s an alternative.

  49. Mara says:

    This article is exactly what I needed to answer my today’s questions!! Awesome! Thank you.

  50. Roberta says:

    Wow! I feel so lucky I have landed on this blog! Each of your posts resonated with me! When I first bumped into the word “Multipotentialite”, I had to smile..I’ve always defined myself as a “multitasking” woman. Not only as far as my natural inclination and “urge” of doing numerous activities at the same time, but also in terms of jobs, interests and passions. I’m from Switzerland, I speak 4 languages, hold a degree in Translation and had numerous language studies experiences abroad, including USA, Germany and UK. After graduation I wasn’t really sure about working as a translator sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day..So, I told myself: get a bit of experience first, no matter the job, and meanwhile you could think about what it is you like to do.I ended up on an junior executive position in the marketing&PR dept of a private bank..I resisted 1 year. I quit and embarked on a similar job for a big multinational in Zurich where I would take a flight every other week to meet fellow coworkers in other countries in hour long meetings: top salaries, top benefits BUT it wasn’t me! When I realized I was satisfying other people’s wishes and not mines, I quit the nth job and moved to Rome to get started with a completely new life: acting. During the last 13 years in the movie business, I have played in quite many movies. However, I always felt the urge of doing extra jobs, such as giving language private lessons, translating, voice overs, hosting events, etc. because of this multitude of passions I needed to cultivate and release. Today, though, all this has turned again into a routine.As time goes by, I catch myself wondering: what if my real self needs something completely different to feel “at home”..be it a new career change, further education or possibly a relocation to a new city. I might have wandered a bit from the subject here. Anybody “suffering” from fulminans boredom, too?

  51. Debi says:

    WOW !!!!!! I swear you are inside my head. Perfect timing … I’m interviewing for a GREAT job on Friday but the thought of giving up my current job was weighing pretty heavy (I work from home but HATE the job … for lots of reasons … and I know it’s time to move on). This constitutes a huge change in my level of freedom … right now, I have lots of it and create my own schedule. The new job will mean going in to an office again every day … it’s been a couple of years since I had to do that. Tons of other irons in the fire with reading, writing, school, family, etc … so many interesting things pulling me in different directions. Thanks … I really needed this post.

  52. Chloe says:

    This article MAJORLY resonated with me (actually cried on the phone with my mom about this exact issue earlier today).

    I totally relate to not wanting to commit to something for fear I am missing out on working on something else. I feel this ALL. THE. TIME. Not wanting to be trapped in a cage is constantly on my mind. I also am afraid that I will make a “mistake” by choosing to pursue one thing and then later realizing I wasn’t actually that good at it and it doesn’t make me very happy. But sadly there is no way to know what is going to “make me happy.”

    As a woman in her mid-twenties, I’ve already reached the point where the career I was first excited by (photography) has started to bore me and leave me uninspired. I’m afraid that the lifespan of my interests will only last a few years, and how can I sustain that for the rest of my life while supporting myself financially?

    The other things I’m currently interested in are: filmmaking, acting, stand-up comedy, writing and illustrating a children’s book, selling my visual art, starting a podcast.

    How do I choose?? And how do I do them all? Can I?

    Help please.

    • Gustavo de Paula says:

      Chloe,

      Looking from outside – I’m an engineer, pretty much outside your “world” if your interests are used to build border for a “world” where you want to be. Film-making, acting, stand-up comedy, writing and illustrating a children’s book, selling my visual art, starting a podcast – all are artistic expressions that are not very far one from each other, at least, if we measure the “distance” against other activities like climbing a mountain, rescuing whales, learning ancient Greek or mastering nuclear physics.

      In my opinion, you can do most of them, if not all, some at the same time, some later on your life (but not much later). The trick is to find ONE project that will allow you to do most of these AT THE SAME TIME.

      What about a self-produced movie where you perform a theatrical stand-up-like comedy for children, which after proper editing becomes a video-book that is permeated with animated illustrations and poetry? Sounds a bit complex at first but surely can be made with a low budget and will allow you to hit most of your (current) desired activities.

      Think on that.

      Hugs from Brazil!

  53. Keith says:

    I have not weighed in on this or at least not for a while. Not having enough time is my biggest fear. I have never been afraid of what people think and I embraced my inner weirdo a long time ago. I am 58 and have so much I want to do, so I worry about wasting time working a job I hate and catering to my wife’s apposing view of what our life should be like. I am the sole support of the household so just quitting is not an option. We were supposed to get a settlement by now and that has ground to halt. The promise was that I could quit and go back to school and pursue my music (and other things) full time. So lack of time and pissing off my wife are my two biggest fears

    Keith

    • Fleur says:

      Never too late Keith. Have you considered doing a MOOC or other on-line learning…so many options these days…edge into your desired changes rather than total change overnight…which requires a bigger adjustment time.
      In the meantime, stay fit and healthy! Negotiate options with your wife, and appreciate her emotional support…
      Good luck with your actions to make your dreams come true!

      • Keith says:

        Thanks Fleur,
        Actually I have and will be doing that as soon as our budget settles down.My wife has out of work on medical for the last three years so I have been sole support. We have a large settle coming sometime but another small on will be coming first part of the year which will allow her to go to school and create a new career based on her old one as a nurse which medically she can’t do any more. So I will be started school once her income becomes viable. We are also looking for a new apartment and moving in the new year which complicates things, but we are working through everything slowly but surely.

        Keith

  54. Veronica says:

    My question is, how do you know how long you should stay committed to each interest? Do you stick it out for 6 months, or 2 years, or 5 years, or an entire decade?

    If we have so many interests and only so many years, how do we know how long we need to stay within each interest in order to be able to do everything we want to do?

    My biggest fear is not being able to accomplish everything I want to do. Especially when I’m already not accomplishing everything I want to do on a day to day basis because I am trying to do so many things at one time, for the purpose of trying to accomplish everything I want to.

    • Fleur says:

      If we try to accomplish everything we want to do, we will succumb to burn-out.
      However, if we accept it is okay to have multiple careers, look at each career interest as a project. You determine how long it is. And before you commit to anything…think about it for about a week, playing with the idea…give yourself a personal cooling-off period.
      Australia’s newest PM Malcolm Turnbull has been a journalist, lawyer, a banker before entering politics…that’s encouraging for us all! He has a had a long-held ambition to be PM!

      Write down your dream wish-list and start to map out a workable plan to see how those interests overlap with each other.
      On a daily basis, commit to at least starting- finishing one key action on your ‘to-do’ list.

      Reduce your multi-tasking as it is like juggling too many balls in the air at once. Take some quiet time alone to really reflect on your quintessential values- what’s really important for you to thrive. Keep your written list close by to remind you, and to keep you from straying too far. However, life isn’t a straight line…
      Slow down, enjoy precious moments, and the people around you.
      Best wishes

    • Gustavo de Paula says:

      Veronica,

      I on Fleur’s comment, with special emphasis on the burnout. So I have one advice that *may* help (I found it somewhere but now don’t remember where):

      Try think/organize your life in weeks, not years. Counting the time of life in years is an habit we have that may be good to remember great moments of the past, but it’s not a good one for planning the future. A year is just a too long time-spam for most of our activities. If we convert one year to weeks, we count 52 – a lot of time, do you agree? Yet, it’s exactly the same as one year.

      So, if you want to have one activity that last two years, think on that as being more than 100 weeks long. It’s not a short time at all for many activities. Can you make a plan that delivers a measurable result for each of these 100 weeks? At first seems unreasonable, but actually most of us can if we slowly fragment the one year we have in semesters, quarters, months, and finally weeks. For some, fragmenting in days may help.

      Allocating several tasks at once may not be the best way to work on multiple projects. Try to plan your projects alternating work in one at one week, then jump to other in the next week, and so on. But don’t do too much things at the same time because the chance to leaving a project in the roadside after many weeks is high for “electric” people like us!

      Hugs from Brazil.

  55. Keith says:

    I tend to organize by days mostly. A week is generally too long though I do have monthly and weekly goals, but my brain can only process hours and days with any success.

    Keith

  56. Kelsey says:

    This is just what I needed to read.
    I am a college student about to declare a major, and even though I’ve put so much into making this decision, it feels like I am choosing out of desperation. I’m still regretting the decision I made to come to this school. It feels like the next time I can try something new is after graduation when I know that in this moment I have huge amounts of freedom and opportunity. It’s easy to criticize and say I’m just scared of hard work.

    I signed a lease for an apartment for next year and immediately started dreading the thought of another year of what I am doing now. The same day I reopened the file I have on gap year ideas.

    Multipotentialites are good at acting on their feelings, so where is the balance between logic and gut feeling in decision making? Or better yet, is gut feeling just fear?

    Any advice you would give to 20 year old you?

    • Neil Hughes says:

      Hi Kelsey!

      Interesting. For some perspective, I went to university in the UK, and was incredibly jealous of the American system where you choose a major but also study other things.

      In the UK you typically study nothing but your own subject, so I did FOUR YEARS of nothing but physics! How’s that for freedom? ;p Perhaps that may make your major choice feel a little less constricting.

      Balance between logic and gut is an interesting topic, I might try and write a proper blog post on that soon.

      Before I’ve properly thought about it, I would say that your gut needs to inform your rational choices. I started a masters a few years ago but it immediately felt wrong. It wasn’t until I sat down and wrote out my fears that I realised what my gut was telling me, and then my rational mind was able to come into line with the idea that I did want to do this course, but this wasn’t the right time/place.

      Of course, I may have explored my fears and realised that it was the right time/place and my gut may have gradually settled to peace. I think the main thing is to listen to your instincts and to work through them rationally, and then see where the net balance takes you.

      Everything has tradeoffs, and you’re choosing to invest some time to get the outcome of this course. Whatever else you’d be doing, you’d invest the time somewhere: check out the song Time Trades by Jeffrey Lewis which really sums this up. (With hindsight I should totally have mentioned this song in the main post!)

      Advice for 20 year old me would be to relax. No decision I made was as critical or irreversible as I thought it was.

      Hope this helps a little, and that you remember you can make time to do all the things you’re interested in even while you’re committed to a course focussing on one thing in particular. Good luck!

  57. Laura says:

    Hello Neil,

    Thank you for this very thoughtful and personal article. I will echo the sentiment that your article addressing the fear of losing our freedom is very well timed. I have only recently put the multipotentialite title to my very curved-path life. I have recently stopped my latest five year professional endeavor with the intention to begin my own business which will hopefully tap into my multiple skills and interests.

    My dilemma is that I was approached by a contact from my previous profession for a position I am qualified for. In our several conversations and meetings I was clear that I was only available a few days a week. However, now that the work is slated to begin in two or three weeks, I find that I am feeling uncomfortable, irritated, and a bit panicky. I know on a cognitive level that I will need some income while I build my business. My fear is that this outside job will overreach. My fear is that my commitment to the job, even if only a few days a week will throw the lovely equilibrium I have found in this unemployed patch. My fear is that I have to garner so much of myself personally to dig in and perform this job that there will not be enough left to pursue and build my business. I have no idea how I will work at something that is not my passion while trying to build my business which will take so much creative and conceptual as well as very pointed entrepreneurial thinking. Now that the start of this job is imminent, my gut is telling me to say no so that I can retain more control over my time and my energy.

    I would welcome your feedback, and thank you again for such a well-timed article,

    Laura

    • Keith says:

      That is my world Laura. My day job has been web developer to help support my musical career for the last 10 years. I am working on making a permanent jump to music. I have jumped back and forth for such a long time. I am 58 and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life spending most of my time doing something I only marginally like. My plan is for my current web dev job to be my last one.

      Of course I get contacted by 20+ recruiters a day even though I have removed myself from as many lists and sites as I can. They are relentless and my resume is ridiculous. So, I say no and ignore them. I need to create the same demand for all my musical skills for sure and I am working on it. My bulk of my calls and email needs to be from film producers. music supervisors etc…

      My IMDB credits are pretty good. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1830558/

      Stick to your guns Laura. Persistance is your friend.

      Keith

      • Laura says:

        Hi Keith,

        Thanks for your response. I very much like how you said that you are working on creating the same kind of demand for your musical skills. That’s a great way to look at the transition. Just because I am receiving interest from my previous profession doesn’t mean I have to act on said interest. This may keep happening and it allows me to practice saying no so that I can invest in my fresh start.

        Thanks, also for the reminder to be persistent.

        Laura

        • Keith says:

          I have been trying to wad through this stuff for years, but I need to create full time. It is not a hobby dammit!! and I am good enough dammit!. You don’t accomplish the things I have accomplished in my musical life if you are not good enough. I will always be a moderately good programmer,but I would rather be a world class musician, producer, performer. There. I said it. The line is drawn in the sand.

          Go for it Laura and say no to stuff that is not it.

          Keith

    • Neil Hughes says:

      I want to echo what Keith said. It sounds like you have a solid plan, and your brain is bringing up worries: what-if this, and what-if that.

      Maybe the job WILL overreach and you will struggle to have time for your other interests. If this actually happens, then it’s fine: you just need to take some corrective action to free the time up again. You can always change what you’re doing.

      But in the meantime, there’s no point worrying about it. Perhaps the job will take exactly the right amount of time, and the extra income will help you to build up your other activities. It’s just as rational to be excited about that possibility as it is to worry about the negative possibility.

      Meantime, stick in the present moment, and react to reality. I hope your time is free enough to build your business, and if not remember you can always make changes until it is :)

      Good luck!

      • Keith says:

        Yup. sometimes our brains are our worst enemies. What does Julia Cameron say about giving in to God of the universe? Anyway, Meditate or pray for guidance and follow the answers given. There are no mistakes, just not doing anything.

        Something like that. ;)

        Keith

      • Laura says:

        Hello Neil,

        Thanks for your response. I appreciate the reminder to react to reality instead of the negative what-ifs which do have had a hold of me. It’s also great for me to remember that if one option doesn’t work I am fully capable of making a change. I am beginning to fully recognize the impact of living a Renaissance life. There will be many both/and scenarios in place of the conventional either/or. I also appreciate your reminder to stay in the present moment. There are so many wonderful pieces of the puzzle to juggle and I’m glad there are folks out there who understand the struggle. Thank you,

        Laura

  58. Janet says:

    I’m not even sure how I just found this website and this article but it’s really comforting to hear other people feel this way. Thank you for the helpful, gentle, funny and kind encouragement in this article and in the many great comments. Wanting to commit to everything certainly explains a lot if my seemingly inability to commit.

  59. Nina says:

    I love this site! It feeds my soul to know that there are other people like me (most people I know are very ‘get a job,’ ‘choose something,’ etc). I particularly love how you’ve described the idea of needing freedom- I can plan out a great project and balk at it anyway because I’ll have to stick with it and because it’s my brainchild, my ego doesn’t want it to ever fail, so I keep it safe and tucked away in the ‘not started’ basket. I’m thinking that writing probably has the freedom I need. Are there any other writers out there? What do you write about? Do you have a book or a blog?
    Thank you so much for creating this site and this community. I really needed this right now :) :)

  60. Misty says:

    I always joke with my husband that I’m afraid of commitment. We’ve been together 20 years, and I never once doubted that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. But this article makes perfect sense as to what I mean! Especially the part of thinking, oh there goes my entire day! Right now I’m in a contracted employment position. I have 5 months left and it’s eternal. I love this job but my biggest reason for leaving in 5 months, is that with working 55 hours a week, I don’t have time to do anything else that I love. Anything else that makes me ME! We laugh that I want to quit my job so that I can go to the gym and clean my house and in a way, that’s true. I know that I won’t NOT do anything, in fact, I’ll probably work more than 55 hours a week on MANY things. And I can’t wait!!

  61. MIsty says:

    Wow, I’ve always said I am afraid of commitment but that’s not really true. My husband and I have been together for 20 years and I love him and am more committed to him than I have ever been. But I am in a contracted job. The night before my first day of work, I posted this status update on Facebook, “Cleaning my house the day before my first day of a full time job feels like my last meal before an execution.” I lost everything when I committed to this job. My freedom, my time, my other interests. I am contracted for another 48 days and then I’m going back to running my own multipotentialite friendly business. Part time, so that I can fill my time pursuing other interests and/or businesses. I can’t commit to any type of volunteer work if it has a set schedule. I”m oftentimes seen as a flake. But I’m not really. I am just not sure if something more interesting might come up.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      You far from alone, Misty, many of us are in the same boat :) thank you for sharing!

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