I have a bad habit. Actually I have many, but there’s one in particular that I expect many multipotentialites also have.
When I have an idea or come across something new, I get really, really excited about it. I daydream about it, listen to podcasts on the subject, and occasionally (when I’m not procrastinating too much!) also do that thing.
This happened last year when I was planning my wedding and started wondering how other same-sex couples handled wedding traditions that assume there’s a bride and a groom.
It happens every few months when I rediscover contemporary young adult fiction and disappear with my Kindle.
It happened when I first started reading blogs and, not long after, began blogging myself.
The problem turns up when I’m not long into my new project or interest: I have a “brainwave” about it.
I should write a book about same-sex couples’ weddings and self-publish it by May! I should read one hundred young adult books and analyze them all on a blog! I should turn my blog into a business and make blogging my job!
Before I know it, I’ve turned something fun into work. I’ve taken something I was excited about and given it a goal or purpose and probably a deadline too.
Inevitably, working towards my new goal becomes boring, trying to meet my self-imposed deadline gets stressful, and I become miserable.
I can’t help but try to turn hobbies into something more. I suck at doing things just because I want to do them, just because they make me happy. It’s like I think everything I do needs to have a concrete purpose.
I don’t think I’m the only multipotentialite with this tendency:
You know you’re a multipotentialite when… You come up with another idea for a new business, design the product, brand it, market it, put it out into the world, hire some friends to work with you, get a nice office in a loft space overlooking a new city, redesign the website, release an app, eventually sell a few shares in your wildly successful company to some big-shot VCs (without selling out), so you can buy a nice house to move into with your significant other and get a dog… all while keeping the company running… and continuing to go to work every day with a big smile on your face… …all while having a shower! ;)
At school, we learn so that we can pass tests. We take tests so that we can go to college or get a good job. We do extra-curricular activities so that our resumes look good and land us even better jobs. It’s rare that we’re encouraged to do something just because it’s fun.
On top of that, our society celebrates specialism. If we show an interest in a topic at school or in a hobby, we’re generally encouraged to stick with it. Our teachers and parents wonder if it might become our “thing.”
Because of this, many multipotentialites feel guilty about dropping interests and quitting activities. We feel like we’re supposed to get something tangible out of everything we do – a job, a career, money, or perhaps even fame. We can forget that doing something simply because you enjoy doing it is a good enough reason to do it.
Not everything we do needs to have an end goal. It’s OK to do things just because you like doing them.
It’s OK that I spent a week making newspaper blackout poems only to throw them all in the recycling. The time I spent making them wasn’t a waste because they didn’t make me an Instagram-famous newspaper blackout poet. That time was well spent because it made me happy.
It’s OK to be obsessed with origami one month and baking the next, if doing those activities is fun for you.
When you lose interest in something, that’s just your brain telling you you’ve got what you came for. And what you came for isn’t an award or a job or an identity; it’s fun, learning, immersion, curiosity, satisfaction, challenge, or something else intangible.
So make a conscious effort to let yourself do things because they’re fun. Or challenging. Or relaxing. Remind yourself that “because I want to” is a good enough reason.
And if you must work towards an end goal, let it be a feeling like pride or excitement rather than something external like a job or a qualification.
(Of course, I’m referring to the activities you do in your free time here. We all have to make a living and do certain chores, so we can’t do away with goals and outcomes altogether, but we can be careful about what we apply them to.)
In your free time, let yourself do what you feel like doing and don’t feel guilty for doing that. You’ll be much happier for it.
Want an excuse to spend some time focusing on the passions and projects you’ve been itching to work on?
On the weekend of October 8, we’re holding our next Puttython in the Puttytribe. For 24 hours, we’re giving ourselves permission to do whatever we want to do. Whether that’s finally finishing that piece of knitting, sitting down and outlining a novel, or practicing an instrument.
If you’d like to join us, sign up here to be notified when the Puttytribe doors next open (hint: it’s tomorrow ;).
Joanna James-Lynn is a virtual assistant, podcaster, blogger, and writer. She’s fascinated by personality, identity, and self-awareness – themes she explores in her podcast, Introspectology, and on her blog. Find out more about her projects at JoannaJamesLynn.com or follow her on Twitter @joannajameslynn.