When Was the Last Time You Let Yourself Do Whatever You Wanted to Do?
Photo courtesy of ADoseofShipBoy.

When Was the Last Time You Let Yourself Do Whatever You Wanted to Do?

Written by Joanna James-Lynn

Topics: Life

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

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! ;)

You Know You’re a Multipotentialite When… (Part 2)

The Cause

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.

The Solution

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 ;).

jo_authorbioJoanna 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.

32 Comments

  1. AnjiKin says:

    Fantastic post. I discovered this site recently and love following. It was as if this post was actually written about me personally. So great to know I’m not crazy, just living the multipotentialite dream. Thanks.

  2. Melleny says:

    Wow. Just wow. You’ve summed up exactly what I struggle with. The part about turning every fun thing into a million-dollar opportunity hits especially close to home.

    I’m still trying to get over the crushing realization that I won’t be an expert at every single thing I try (or, apparently, at any one of them), much as I want to. Perfectionism combined with a million interests and aspirations is a crazy-making combination.

    Thank you for this amazing post. I’ll be sharing it on my blog someday, assuming I can focus long enough to get it up and running. =)

  3. Catherine says:

    Every time I read a post here seems like someone is inside my mind!

    Honestly I struggle a lot with this, I have a full-time job but I’m always daydreaming personal projects. I have an idea start the research, exactly like you mentioned! I only breathe this for a week or two! My browser full of tabs to read, it’s so exciting when I’m at this stage! However I rarely finish my personal projects.
    I’m a specialist in my job, I guess, but it gives me enough variety (almost always) to keep me happy and why am I good at it? because I finish, because I have structure. With personal projects not so much…I’m jumping one thing to the next and always end up frustrated because as you, it’s hard to not turn your hobbies into something more. Honestly I haven’t mastered this yet…

    • I find that I work best with projects. So I know going in that something is temporary. And I give myself a deadline. And maybe find some accountability from somewhere. I guess it’s a case of figuring out what works for you?

  4. Florian says:

    Thank you! I’m definitely guilty of this and often feel depressed about it. I rarely do something for fun for more than a few hours. It’s a relief to know that some other people are there too.

  5. Sara E. says:

    YES! This really resonated with me… I live way too much in my brain and it sucks the joy right out of doing enjoyable things. :-)

  6. This is coming at the perfect time for me… just when I really need to read it. I invested tons of money and time into a podcast and now I’m moving onto a new podcast because an opportunity popped up. I’m super excited, but super guilty about pausing or possibly ending my 1st show.

    But we only have so many hours in a day and why waste those hours on something that doesn’t excite you anymore? I’ve been trying to justify myself to myself and anyone else who is nearby… not that they’re asking for any justification… it’s just this internal guilt that’s eating at me.

    Thanks so much for this… it really helps me to realize that there are others who go through this “fear of flakiness” like I do. It helps to know that it’s ok. <3

    • Ooh, I’m in a similar situation. I can’t decide whether to end my podcast or step it up to the next level and outsource some of the production. I just feel like there are lots of other things I’d rather be doing… but it’s also probably the most successful thing I’ve done so far and people seem to really like it!

  7. Paul Alderson says:

    I’m always starting new things, investing some time and usually a lot of money to start a new hobby. Anybody want to buy several hundred dollars worth of model railroading gear? This is where I suffer guilt trips, I spent the money now I should do something with it. But my heart has moved on to something else, how do I resolve this expensive conflict?

  8. Veronika says:

    I also believe that doing a thing and learning some skills, because that makes you happy, may prove beneficial in the future as it helps you develop and expand your knowledge.
    For instance, when I finished high school I had two free months ’till university, and I begun learning about building websites and made my first website! I was really enthusiastic about it and I thought it was going to be a great success. Eventually, I got bored! :P
    But I learned how to make websites and since then it’s a part of my income! :)

  9. Adi says:

    Thank you Joanna for your wise words.
    The most important advise, for me, is that we should do things because they are fun (or relaxing, or satisfying). Realizing not everything has to be tangible. We are so programmed to doing things that have a purpose or a goal, that we lost the real purpose – enjoying what we do!
    I am in the process of changing my point of view on this matter and am trying to teach myself that doing things for sheer joy is a goal in itself.
    Have a great day!

  10. Hanna says:

    Thank you!!!

  11. Amanda says:

    This is exactly how I’ve been feeling all my life. Thank you so much.

  12. Anna Weisend says:

    It took a long time for me not to feel guilty about reading fiction because it wasn’t productive. Once I reframed it as a stress reliever, the guilt went away. I had to give myself permission to not work.

  13. Opatola Ismail says:

    I always get things done exceptionally ) when I enjoy doing them.?

  14. Kate Maclean says:

    Absolutely awesome. I suddenly understand myself! And it’s all okay!

    “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.”

  15. Nisha says:

    I laughed so hard while reading this.. because this is me! Totally all the way! Oh the # of ideas turned into business’s all while in the shower! Only to get out get ready go to work and apply none of it! I really thought I was alone in my thinking. I feel broken most times and irritated I can’t stick to a single idea long enough to follow through. In presu of a different approach to making extra income I recently started a blog. After reaching out to other bloggers for support I was advised to visit this site and I’m so glad I did.

  16. Laura says:

    I have that same problem! Don’t you think, however, it could truly come from a little bit of hunger for fame? Ambition and dreams of making a name for yourself? I do realize I mostly do something because I like it, but I don’t think I am insensible to the thought of having some recognition from my peers. Wether this was wired in my brain through school and society in general, who knows… But I guess when you have a lot of talent it always feels like a waste to just keep it to yourself. As multipotentialites, we love human contact as well, and so I guess sharing what we create is really important for us too. It creates this additionnal drive of inspiring other people, changing the world, etc. And yes, I guess we wouldn’t hate being remembered for our contributions after we die… I know leaving my trace is kind of a big deal for me, which often leaves to anxiety and the dreadful question : Am I doing enough? Should I do more? Am I wasting my time?