How Pain and Fatigue Can Impact Your Multipotentialite Projects
Photo courtesy of Ansel Edwards.

How Pain and Fatigue Can Impact Your Multipotentialite Projects

Written by Emilie

Topics: Health

I almost didn’t write this post.

I like to have some good tips and solutions before I put something out to the world, and the truth is that I don’t have those yet for this problem. At least not fully.

But then I saw someone in the Facebook group of the class I’m teaching ask about this very topic, and I felt like I had to share. Because maybe just sharing my experience would be of help to someone.

I don’t write much about health on the blog. It’s partially that I don’t feel comfortable going into detail about what I’ve been through, partially that I don’t think it’s very good for me to discuss health, as I can become obsessive about it and it can really crank up my anxiety, and partially that it feels unrelated to multipotentiality and to my mission at Puttylike.

But it is relevant. The way your body feels — how fatigued or sad or in pain you might be — has a massive impact on how much you can focus on your projects and passions. We so often forget that and beat ourselves up for being “unproductive” without recognizing the physiological component that may be underlying everything.

I’ve been doing this a lot lately, beating myself up for not working enough, and at the same time beating myself up for not taking enough time for myself. Getting it from both sides.

I’ve found that the best way to move past these thoughts is to first recognize them for what they are. To say, there I go beating myself up (but don’t beat yourself up beating yourself up), and Hey anxiety, what’s up?!

If there’s something physical going on, I’ll try to address it. This might be as simple as eating or taking a nap. It’s amazing how being hungry or tired can warp our perception of just about everything.

Finally, as frustrating as it is, I will lower my expectations. For instance, if I know that I have about 40 minutes before my focus wanes, I will spend that 40 minutes doing something important or creative (not checking Facebook). If I am absolutely exhausted in the afternoon, I will sometimes kill the afternoon by sleeping, and then do an extra hour of writing before bed. That’s what I’m doing right now by the way.

As you improve your overall health, try to work within your limits, be upfront with your team and colleagues, do your best, and don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do more. Just make what time you do have count. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a mere twenty minutes of flow.

Also, in case I’ve worried you in this post, don’t worry. I’m actually on my way toward being healthier than I have in years. It’s been a long journey, but I’m almost there.

Your Turn

Can you relate? Got any tips for pursuing your passions while you might not be feeling 100%? Share them in the comments below.

em_bioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist carpenter. Learn more about Emilie here.


  1. Karin says:

    Thanks for the pep talk. It gets so tedious sometimes, this life with health challenges. It is good to step back and take a deep breath, in order to gain some perspective. I get stuck in big picture thinking, which can be so overwhelming. You’re right that a little effort here and there can add up to significant progress. I often forget that.

  2. Dave says:

    Hi Emilie!

    This is a great post! I am a voice artist, and I often am tired in the AM from a lack of sleep due to my multipotentialite schedule. I often find sleeping in the afternoon leaves me better rested so I can be in good voice for my recordings, which I can then knock out in the evenings.

    My schedule doesn’t always allow this, but when it does, it’s a lifesaver.

    Thanks for creating and supporting this community!!


  3. Frasier says:

    When I stumbled upon your site recently, I wondered how I had never heard of “multipotentialite” or most of the other synonymous terms that apparently describe me so well. It may be because through and after quitting university (for engineering, which turned out to be too narrow a field to hold my interest), I was becoming chronically fatigued, and my once-raging multipotentiality was starting to seem more like zeropotentiality.

    That’s when I started learning about nutrition, took a deep dive into paleo, and then branched out to other aspects of environment and lifestyle until I had formed a comprehensive, holistic understanding of what it takes to be truly healthy and happy. As of recently, my energy and creativity are back in full swing, and I’m embracing life as a multipod while helping others improve their health, too. I love what you’re doing here—Thanks for contributing another piece to the puzzle!


  4. Steve says:

    Hi Emily;
    My magically magnifying mind loves to tell me that I have taken on a project that’s too large and that it’s really quite impossible for a person like me to finish it. This even though I’ve been successfully doing this work for decades. If I listen to MMM I get down. And when I’m down I thrash around, act out and eat bad food.
    One tool that helps is a punch list. Instead of looking at my project as an endless slog, I break it down into small manageable tasks. As I do them, I cross them off. There’s rarely a day when I can’t cross off something. Moving forward is the key

  5. Emily ,please take care of yourself.We need you ,and you are helpful when stronger….
    It is steep hike on our way to zestful and fulfilling life.Keep your path and see summit,it is waiting for you.All the best to you.I send you lots of warm hugs!monika

  6. Alison Whitman says:

    Illness took away my health, my job, my driving ability and my car from an accident, my brain, my attachment to this world and more. When my illness hit my brain I lost the ability to be creative, witty, and multitask. After 9 years I am finally seeing some improvement and am so excited to see my creativity coming back. As a multi-potentialite you can imagine how many things I am adding to my to-do list now that I CAN!

    In hopes that this might help someone else going through something like this I wanted to share what I learned.

    When we aren’t feeling 100%, we still compare ourselves to when we were 100%. This made my depression worse because I kept thinking things like (sometimes automatically without realizing) “I used to be able to do 10 things in a day and now I can sometimes only do one. I’m a failure. If i can’t do something I have no worth”. And then I came across the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. One of the agreements is to always do your best. When he talks more about this he explains that our “best” can change from day to day or year to year etc. If you are sick your best will be different than when you are healthy. And not to mention, everyone has value and worth even if all they CAN do today is breath. So I apologized to myself for giving myself such a hard time, and started focusing on being thankful for ANYTHING I was able to do that day. If all I could do was get out of bed to go to the bathroom and read one page of a book, I’d ask myself “did you do your best?” if yes, then it was good enough!

    Taking care of ourselves is so important and absolutely effects our output. If your work helps others in some way, by taking care of yourself you can take care of others even more! If you were taking care of yourself 1% and others 99%.. guess what happens when you take care of yourself 50%? You can take care of others 149% ;) It’s the same with any task. The more you take care of yourself, the more you can put into a task. And what if you don’t take care of yourself? then that 99% becomes 45% becomes 30%…becomes potentially losing your job.

    Which reminds me, something also important is being organized :D It’s important to take some time (an hour or a day) to just sit back (and not work on a project or job) and think about how you could organize things to help you work faster, and then organize it! I gave myself permission to do this one day and afterwards I couldn’t believe how much faster I worked. So now I try to be mindful of ways to make things better as I work. But that can be hard so I schedule time to focus on just that.

    I apologize for not exactly being on topic but I really do appreciate you sharing and thought maybe this could help :)

    Have a great rest of your day!

  7. Lynn says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve had a difficult time with health issues and multipotentiality, and just seeing all that you’ve been able to do while dealing with them too is so inspiring! I sometimes feel so frustrated and alone in this struggle. Somehow, seeing my own experiences echoed by someone else, someone who is living their life in a similar way to how I’d like to live mine, is very freeing. It’s like, ok, I have some problems, but others do too, and they can be managed.

    I just stopped feeling like I’m the only one in the world who has ever dealt with this, like no one would ever be able to understand or relate. It feels like maybe I don’t have to hide it or try to push past each limitation as if it weren’t there. It also feels like it’s a human problem now instead of something uniquely “wrong” with me. And that makes a tremendous difference. Thank you!

  8. Oh man, I recognize this all too well – I have a handful of chronic conditions that make things hard sometimes.

    I’ve tried to identify activities that I can do even when my health is giving me trouble. For example, I can fold paper for my bookbinding biz even when my tremor is bad or I’m super tired. I’m good at cleaning out my dayjob email even when I’m pretty fried. I do try to take time off when I need it, and take care of myself in general, but all the best intentions don’t make something guaranteed to happen.

  9. Lyn says:

    Here’s a tip that really works: go to bed earlier! Research shows that we usually wake up at the same time every day so if you work late and think it’s ok because you be able to “sleep in” the next day, you won’t be doing yourself any favors because you’ll most likely wake up early anyway. The trick is to go to bed earlier. That way, even if you wake up at your normal time, you will have gotten extra rest.

  10. Hayley says:

    Timeboxing and the Pomodoro technique, and sticking to it. So if I decide 25 minutes, stick to that 25 minutes. Because whilst I might feel like pushing through, it leads to pain and burnout. So I do my 25, I take my break, and then I see if I can handle another 25. And if I can’t, that’s OK. If I can, I do another 25, then take a break. And so on. Sometimes I have a longer break.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I definitely identify with this, as my fatigue and ADHD hold me back so much. Still learning to manage things.

  12. Wes Dunser says:

    Hi Emilie,

    Sometimes I find it hard to believe that my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are all connected and they are on my side! It’s often that I find myself being very hard and condescending toward myself. In all reality, our bodies know us better than we do. I recently read an article about how we are taught to reject our bodies – to treat them as something to be reviled, where in fact, they go above and beyond to ensure our health, safety, and quality of life – even when we treat them horribly. (

    I often struggle with the same mental fatigue that you describe. However, one area that I’m really focusing on changing is my attitude towards my body. It is easy to catch myself being down for not being in the physical condition that I am working towards being in.

    In the past, I would get mad and dwell on how upset I am with myself for not being in the physical condition I desire. I would get so frustrated, why can’t I just naturally have the metabolism and endurance like others? I would become upset and give myself ultimatums or set very unrealistic goals (spoiler: they don’t work).

    But the fact is, my body is different than everyone else’s. I want to and choose to eat right, exercise, and be healthy. I have accepted that my journey is not like others, and it probably will not come as easily for. But that’s okay, the important thing that I am persistent and I keep making the right choices more often than not.

    The same I think is true for our goals and ambitions. We have to remember that as multipotentialites, we are different from everyone – even our own kind.

    Now, when I catch myself starting to think negatively, I stop and I think about how I’m really grateful and thankful that my body has been able to keep up with some of the decisions I’ve made. I may not be to my goal yet, but I’m trying and I’m really giving it my best effort, and I’m not giving up. You have no idea how much better this feels vs beating myself up, it has a positive impact on everything.

    I find that I have to remember that all of my being – physical, emotional, psychological (mental), and spiritual are all interconnected. They’re all on the same team, and to scold the one is to scold them all. Our body knows how important our goals are to us, but it also knows best how to take care of us, and besides – if our own bodies don’t take care of us – who should we expect will?

  13. Gareth Field says:

    Heya, this is something I deal with a lot. The expectations thing really resonated with me. What I do in the morning is get up, put the kettle on, then do three simple exercises that take just a minute and a half all told, and I can start my one page morning journal entry with a small win. Name, date, time, and 24-30-50 (the repetitions). This topic was covered in Tim Ferriss’ blog that came out today, Ep. 63, and even the most financially successful people need to wrestle their bodies into shape. Tim had some simple and effective tips for that, which I’ll let anyone who wants to listen to him discover. Best wishes all! ~g

  14. David says:

    Someone asked the Dalai Lama what suprises him most. This was his response.

    “Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money, then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies, having never really lived.”

    I wish you all the best Emelie. You’ve really helped me out in a frustrating situation, but i guess i could never have gotten the help if you wouldn’t have helped yourself out in the first place. The oakseed grows from the inside and out and after that it has a positive impact on the world, right?

    • Debi says:

      I love this quote from the the Dalai Lama. It is so completely on target with much of the American lifestyle.

    • Debi says:

      I have fibromyalgia and have had to learn to live in moderation. When I overdue, it takes too long to recuperate and I end up losing time … and it certainly can’t be made up. I’m fortunate that I can set my own schedule … as my multiple interests currently have me working several gigs and it’s crucial that I be able to arrange my schedule around massage/reiki clients while I also enjoy machine embroidery, writing, website design and coordinate the marketing for several feed stores in my area. It sounds like a lot, but it really flows together quite nicely. Having control over my schedule is THE critical component to making all of this work.

  15. Milena says:

    I think we can all relate to this post. Self care is essential part of success of any kind because it keeps us sustainable in a long run. We cannot show up as our best selves (and for us that means our multipotential selves) if we are crank, tired and exhausted. Schedule the time to fill your tank. It might be the nap, bath, day off, coffee with friends, what not. Take care Emilie. I am sending tons of love and good vibes towards you. :)

  16. Hester says:

    And there I was, thinking it was just me suffering from this little problem… Especially the bit about beating yourself up when you haven’t done “enough” during a day (which is usually loads more than many of your friends did during the same period of time), hit home. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Sheryl says:

    Hi, Emilie, thank you for your post. In addition to being a multipotentialite, I also fit into a group called Highly Sensitive People ( It’s a physical trait shared by about 20% of the population, and it just means that I am more acutely aware of–or more sensitive to–the sights, sounds, smells, and even emotions around me.

    Health-wise, it means that I need more than the average amount of down time to recharge, and I can actually feel sick if I’m unable escape to a quiet environment every day.

    Since I joined Puttylike, I’ve wondered if there is a larger than average population of HSPs in the MP community.

    I hope this is helpful, and ask, if your best friend came to you with your question, what would you tell her? :-)

  18. suz says:

    Here’s another take on it all. Sometimes we just need a break. Sometimes we run in cycles. Sometimes we go for a while. Then stop. Then, when we’re ready, we go again. Whatever our pattern is, it’s okay. Beating ourselves up for not being 100% on all the time misses something hugely important. We are expending a tremendous amount of energy most of the time. It’s like we’re running 5 or 6 or 10 lives at the same time. Our 20% can be like anyone else’s 100%+. We certainly can’t compare ourselves to anyone else. Most people aren’t cranking thru a fraction of what we are during their lifetime. If we can just take it easy, listen to our own inner voices… rest, eat, exercise and socialize in balanced measures… the rest will work out fine. Enjoy your life as it is in this moment. It’s a gift.

  19. Tari says:

    When I don’t feel well i work from the bottom of my list to the top. That way I get to do the less significant and stress free work when i am down until i begin to feel better physically, then i get to the heavy stuff.

  20. Anneri says:

    Emotional pain and fatigue is also a problem for me, it really stands in my way of accomplishing anything in my life. I saw this video on TED the other day and it makes so much such that we don’t know how to take care of ourselves emotionally.

    How to practice emotional hygiene | Guy Winch | TEDxLinnaeusUniversity

    Good luck to us all and remember to be good to yourself!

  21. Ann-Sofi says:

    Dear Emelie, This is SO important! And for me, the hints you have been giving about your helth issues etc. have been very important. I’ve been down-prioritizing self-care for most of my life, with not-so-good effects on my energy levels, mood and creativity.

    Last year you wrote about the amazing book Why isn’t my brain working in a newsletter.

    Reading this book was a true eye opener for me, and it not only inspired me to change my lifestyle, but also to change the focus for my blog and to change how I work with my clients.

    My health and productivity have improved greatly since i got this piece of the puzzle right, and I also can help my clients better, so thankyou SO MUCH!

    And great to hear you are doing better, you’re such a good force in this world, so please take care of yourself:)

  22. Chris says:

    Energy work everyday, shielding the negative energy from media and other people.

    Being aware of my thoughts and not following them.

    Being aware of the pattern “only if I do this then am I good enough”.

    Sleeping enough, eating well, being kind to others.

    This is what helps me with having enough energy.

  23. Nicole says:

    Wow Emilie! Those couple of simple tips make so much sense. It reminds me that I need to forgive myself for being human (ie needing sleep and rest).
    The past year or so (since I’ve “come out” about being a multipod!!) when I talk to people about all the things I’m up to, some of the time I feel deep down I’m asking for help about how to manage it all. But people don’t get it. Reading this post right now is very helpful!

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