“Why am I Neglecting My Interests?”
Photo courtesy of Morgan.

“Why am I Neglecting My Interests?”

Written by Emilie

Topics: Productivity

This week, I’m sharing something from the mailbag:

Hi Emilie,

First of all I want to thank you for you work. You really opened a wide and beautiful world in front of me.

The thing that is worrying me is that I do want to do a looooot of different things, but it seems like I can’t. Not just because it’s hard to do everything at the same time, but because it’s like I’m avoiding them. I want to make beer, learn watercolour painting, go traveling, work on a farm, and do a lot of other amazing things. But I don’t do any of them. Instead, I spend my day doing everyday things such as cooking, playing sports, meeting up with friends, etc. And all of these other projects I’d like to pursue stay on a side, even though I’m not working right now and have plenty of time.

Is this a problem that other multipotentialites struggle with? Or is it just a personal not-able-to-take-action problem that I need to work on?

Cheers,
Julia

Hi Julia,

Yes, this is absolutely something other multipotentialites struggle with! Here are a few thoughts.

First, you wrote that “it’s hard to do everything at the same time,” and you’re right! Pursuing all of your passions at once is actually a perfect recipe for burnout (and for having zero fun). The goal isn’t to do everything at the same time, it’s to do a variety of things over the course of your life. So don’t worry if you aren’t doing 100 things right this very second. That doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad multipotentialite. Some of us even do one thing at a time.

You didn’t specifically mention this, but a lot of multipotentialites have trouble choosing something to pursue because they are afraid that it means giving up on all of their other dreams. The good news is that just isn’t the case. You can choose something and then choose another thing and then another. Our choices are rarely permanent or irreversible, and it’s very likely that you have plenty of time. (Also, not choosing is itself a choice–often one with more serious consequences.)

I think what you’re dealing with here is a bad case of Resistance. Resistance is that force inside of us that wants to keep us safe by fencing us inside our comfort zone. Its intentions are good (even evolutionarily useful), but it can hold us back from pursuing the projects that are most meaningful to us.

The best antidote to resistance is community. Do you have many people in your life who are pursuing big goals or personal projects? It’s really easy to go with the flow and stick to a comfortable routine when everyone around you is doing the same. And when it comes to getting yourself to take action, there’s really nothing as powerful as surrounding yourself with inspiring and supportive people. If possible, try to spend time around others who are doing interesting things and dreaming up their own paths.

Most of us don’t naturally have lives filled with people like this. If you don’t, you’re always welcome in the Puttytribe. I started the Tribe nearly five years ago because I saw a need for more mutual support and sharing within the multipotentialite community. Many of us don’t know any other multipods in “real life”, and we lack support or mentorship. The Puttytribe can really help with this.

I would also point out that cooking, playing sports, and meeting up with friends are all valuable activities. Granted, you obviously need to find a way to fit some of your bigger, scarier, out-of-your-comfort-zone interests into your life. But don’t discredit the “everyday things.” You didn’t mention your age, and I hope this doesn’t come off as condescending, but as I approach my mid-thirties, I’m realizing more and more how important things like fun, self-care, and relationships actually are.

Finally, I have a hunch that you’re getting close to taking action. It seems like your inaction is starting to get to you. Can you use that feeling of being irritated with yourself and turn it into action? :) (I’ve definitely done this before!) Maybe the itch you’re feeling is the first step to getting something going…?

But, let’s talk baby steps. Can you sign up for a watercolour or beer brewing class? Start small, connect with some supportive people, and taking action will only become easier.

Your pal and fellow multipotentialite,

Emilie

Your Turn

Have you ever felt like you were neglecting your interests? How did you handle it?

em_bioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites build lives and careers around ALL their interests. 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.

33 Comments

  1. Maryske says:

    You’re not alone, Julia. This sounds very familiar. I’ve been doing the exact same thing for years. “Being stuck in a rut”, I called it. As Emilie says, with the help of the Puttytribe last year, I was finally more seriously attempting to change the course, but in the end it was first and foremost my financial situation that threw me back into the old rut again (albeit a bit more fun section of it than the past few years).
    Halfway through my present contract, I’m getting more and more itchy again to get out of this workfield. But at least I’m doing something new and fun next to it this time: I’ve been learning (autodidact) to use a photo editing programme, and I’ve been doing video editing, and I’ve made (and am still making) some great projects in that. Most of the time I rush home after work so I can work with on my projects again. And believe me, that’s a major improvement from just coming home and sagging out on the couch in front of a dvd… At least it feels like I’m *learning* something. Something new. Something exciting. And something fun. And I do think that’s partly thanks to the Puttytribe. (Even though lately I’ve been too busy with my photo and video projects to be around the Puttytribe much… :-D)

    And thanks for the reminder, Emilie!

  2. As Maryske says, you are definitely not alone in this Julia. I have spent many years feeling like this. Also, I think it’s particularly easy for multipotentialites to feel this way because we often have so many different things we want to be working on. It always feels there’s something else we could/should/want to be doing.

    I think Emilie’s right in saying it can be harder to start on things that are slightly scary/take you out of your comfort zone. Especially by yourself. I think the idea of signing up to a class is a really good first step to take.

    I think the fact you wrote this message shows you’re ready to make changes and start unsticking yourself from some habits that are making you feel you aren’t moving forward.

    Good luck with it all, I hope it goes well for you. And, as Emilie says, remember you don’t need to do it all at once. Go easy on yourself!

    Ellen

  3. Jodie Utter says:

    Love the question and answer forum, Emilie! Love the baby steps advice too. Been hearing that a lot lately, the tiny steps towards big change concept, I think it’s definitely the way. Thanks so much for all your great work on behalf of all of us other multipotentialites.

  4. Laura says:

    I’ve been struggling with this too lately and it’s very helpful and relieving to see I’m not alone, yay! :D
    Taking baby steps it’s actually working. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing a big thing (fortunately, cause that could be overwhelming) but I feel good and motivated to take the next step… so, for me, this a good and not-that-difficult way to start unblocking yourself ;)

    Thanks for sharing, Emilie, and for all the good advices :)

  5. Cynthia says:

    I have recently found myself stuck in resistance and inaction, and for a LONG time. In fact, so long that I didn’t even realize how unproductive I had become. Inaction is a scary place to be sometimes, because it can lead to intense and constant thinking, which can breed more inaction, lethargy, dullness, etc. Here’s an exercise which really helped me get myself back on track with taking action in way that didn’t make me feel pressured:

    Write down three small you want to do for yourself every day but don’t. Could be anything. For example, I want drink lemon water first thing in the morning every day, I want to be in nature every day, I want to write for 10 minutes ever day, etc. Look in and find three things which you WANT to do everyday but DON’T do (because those things which you’re neglecting are causing blind spots in you). Now, starting doing those three small things every day for a minimum of 21 days.

    I did this exercise and I was shocked by how it gave me a shift in perspective about what I can do every day, how it helped me connect with myself, how it taught me the importance of self-care, and how it rebuilt my trust in myself. I think it’s a particularly good exercise for multi-potentials who tend to start and not finish projects (also something I can write about for days).

    Spiritual teacher Esther (Abraham) Hicks has said, “We can’t get it wrong because you never get it done.” Creativity is limitless. And once we realize that we are unlimited in what we can create, build, and produce (and unlimited in our resources) we free ourselves from the pressure of feeling like we have to get it all done.

  6. I just found this site, and boy, am I glad I did! I had no idea there was a community built around the idea of having multiple strong interests. I kinda thought I was the only one, as silly as that sounds.

    Regarding this particular post: Derek Sivers is one of my favorite writers, and he has a great article on this topic (with similar advice to Emilie’s): https://sivers.org/donkey. It supplements Emilie’s thoughts well.

  7. Craig says:

    Hi Julia,

    I hear what you’re saying and it resonates profoundly with me. I’ve been feeling like this since I quit a job due to Depression nearly 2 years ago. I felt immediately relieved after getting out of a job that was contributing so much to my state of being (in a negative manner). However now that I’ve done a lot of work recovering I still have this sense of not being able to do so many things I want to get done. My Photography is stalled, by writing is stalled and at least a dozen other major things I’d like to achieve. I feel very similar in that it’s like I’m sabotaging myself from starting.

    I recognise there’s fear playing a part and need to springboard into gear. But I also agree with Emilie’s comment about you’re near a point of action. I’ve seen this before in my life, and can recognise that there’s a cathartic moment coming.

    Hold on, I think you’re building up for a jump into new regions.

    Craig.

  8. Stacy says:

    Julia
    Totally get your question and thank you for asking it. It has been nagging at me too without having it completely articulated in my head to be able to understand my own frustration! I think particularly if you feel isolated in your social circle, in the eyes of your parents as someone who just doesn’t finish anything or get anything started, it can feel like the simpler and easier solution is to focus on the other, equally worthy, everyday pursuits. I know for me I think, well I am soon to have two (rather than one) beautiful children, a super understanding, hands on dad type of a husband, my family is healthy (ish) and unlike many, I have been able to move around in my life and am already on my way to purchasing my second family home with my husband as our family has expanded. Why would i want to torture myself with scary things which may fulfill me more?! I think the point is, as Emilie very articulately says, and i am learning, there is no wrong or right way to pursue all those interests…A few together, one at a time. I think for us multipods, it’s as much the journey and knowing it’s ok to do it whichever way so long as we keep staying true to ourselves and our vision for ourselves and our growth. I think my main mantra needs to be, write it down, write it down, write it down. I find journalling, to do listing, big sky ideas recording..Seem to be important for me. I don’t feel then like i have let one interest pass me by, by favouring another one..Especially if i have it written down somewhere to come back to when i am looking for new inspiration. My issue is motivation. It gets easy to stay in the easy, everyday funk and feel busy and purposeful even if there is this nagging inside you. Love the interests you have, good luck with them all!!

  9. Janet says:

    Emilie, excellent article. Thank you for putting it out there. I’ve been hanging onto projects and not doing them. One being I just don’t have the money to fund some of them, and two, which one do I start first. Been waiting for years to do a certain ceramic project and I’m dying to get into doing herbal products, mostly moisturizers and healing salves. Yet everything takes time and money. But just wanted to thank you for all the work you’ve done here. It is such a blessing to know that I am no longer a freak of nature and that everything that I feel and have been experiencing is not just imagined and is alive and well here on Puttylike. LOL

  10. I just wanted to say that I loved this post and that I can´t agree more with Emilie.

    Great advice!

    I am sending all of you big hugs from Uruguay!
    Eagerly waiting for the book to come!

    Guille.

  11. Anssi Turunen says:

    I too think this is a common problem. With kids and a lot of everyday stuff to do you sometimes feel overwhelmed when you actually DO have a couple of hours to spend just for you. When the world is full of interesting things (and it is so easy to stay in the research zone) it’s difficult to decide what exactly to pursue next.

  12. This happened to me for years, then last year I started a woodworking class and weekend sewing class while i worked full time, the following semester I took a social media class, advertising class, and sales class while working, and this year, after putting it off for forever, I’m taking a ceramics class, html class, and a textile design class. I’ve found that community college classes and online course (there are SOO many free and cheap ones!) has been essential in exploring all of my interests and has helped me balance my life more. For now, my job pays the bills, but I’m taking courses to not go crazy. You can totally do it too!!

  13. Jens Lund says:

    Your not alone at all. You are actually way longer than me. What if you lost track of what is your passion in the big game of corporate life and being a dad to a 2 year old? Sorry had to throw it in

    • Susan Forward says:

      Hi Jens,
      You’re being rather tough on yourself aren’t you? Doing a demanding job for money and an equally demanding one for love sounds like plenty big projects for now. Two years olds are all-consuming, but they don’t stay that way for too long, you’ll soon find she’s learning some independence and you’ll have more head space for other things.
      Just start small, and do tiny things that give you a sense of pleasure/achievement, with or without your daughter’s involvement, and soon you’ll be back on track with more ambitious stuff and bigger projects.
      Sometimes you have to accept that, for a while, your personal projects have to take a back seat for a bit, but it doesn’t mean you’mve lost them or left them behind forever. You’ll be VERY glad of your passions and interests as your daughter swims off on her own, as they all do! Hang in there, buddy. Nothing’s forever… except maybe death.

  14. Julianne says:

    I think having so many ideas makes it hard to focus and concentrate on one or just a few things at a time. I’ll like to share the ‘strategy’ that I am currently using. You have to realize that you aren’t going to be able to do all the things you ever wanted in the next month, next year or even next 5 years. You have to make a choice of just 3 – 5 main things that you want to work on for the next 3 months/ one year list them out and then each time you want to do something that’s not on the list resist the urge but write down all those other ideas on a future list. That way you will have just a few things to concentrate on for the time being. However it may not work the first time you try, but you have to keep trying.

    Good Luck

  15. Sam says:

    This sounds very familiar, and you are definitely not alone! I’ve had six months without work and now find myself where (whilst supported) it’s difficult to find work. This has given me the chance to explore the bigger options I want to do: write, craft, play the guitar, and yet I find myself ‘resistant’ to actually doing it. I think also resistance is similar to a fear of failure as well, thinking that actually, I might not be any good at any of those things. But I’m not going to find out until I do it. As Emilie said, baby steps!

    Good luck!

    • Ken says:

      Hello Sam,

      I just have to say that I feel exactly like this. As unemployed it does indeed feel harder to get started. At least for me. Despite having all the time in the world – except for all the time spent job hunting. Which in itself is a full-time job. This combined with financial stress, is a killer of joy and motivation.

      I am by nature very optimistic, but after having had unlimited time for the last six months with no financial benefits, I do feel a weight over me.

      You are all amazing! ??

  16. Ahmed Saif says:

    Julia, you are not alone.

    For the multiple ideas I dreamed, the projects I held and the risks I faced in my life, I realised that I have to talk with someone.

    I Googled “multiple career” then I discovered Emilie’s video.

    This video like a light behind the door.
    Thank you very much Emilie.

    I think brainstorming together will produce an amazing ideas and solutions.

  17. Solange says:

    Wow… I am so glad I read this. Resistance has been a huge part of my life, not only because of how badly I want many things (the more you want it the scarier it gets) but because I have tried many things in the past and though I’ve wonderfully succeeded at some, I also know very well what humiliating failure feels like. No one wants to go through that again… so we unconsciously stay “safe” to the point of serious frustration. Also yes… I’ve always feared going all in with one interest might mean abandoning the others. Being more tired of nothingness than you’re afraid to move forward makes the big difference. I was so tired one day I decided to work harder than ever! I’m so glad I found this community <3

  18. Cherry Anne Tomaro says:

    The same feeling I’m feeling right now. I am unemployed since I just graduated from college. I don’t feel like pursuing my degree and I have other things in mind. I’m a self-proclaimed artist and I do music and sports. But I feel like I’m not improving in any of these. It’s like I just wanna do something bigger but I’m afraid of exploring more because I know I will leave my comfort zone. Thanks to this and most especially to Emilie. ?

  19. Astrid Leong says:

    I’m so glad I found this. I’m going to be 38 this year and i feel like i’m not living my fullest. Early this year, that feeling of being stuck is so strong. I feel i have so much i have not achieved/done and age is catching up. I know I have to start doing something about it, but I get overwhelmed with all the ideas & interest that I have and do not know where to start. I’m afraid if I choose one, I’d miss out on the other things i want to do. And like what Emilie said, i became resistant and end up not doing anything. It doesn’t make it easier too as i don’t have a community of multipods where i live. But I’m glad there is an online community i can reach out to. And being able to acknowledge my personal issues makes me one baby step up towards a better life.

  20. Alex Gawler says:

    Wow, I feel like I I’ve reached an answer to a lifelong question here. I don’t have enough praise for the author or the rest of the community. Amazing!

  21. Veronika says:

    I am new here, and I have found this challenge as well, I also have experienced that I sometimes find it tricky to decide to go for professional training (especially if is pricey) because I fear that I might not be sticking with what it is intended for for a significant amount of time.

  22. Skippy says:

    I only discovered Emilie and Puttylike last night, and I can very much relate to this, I’ve been like this all my life! I can’t stop reading the blogs, it’s all such an eye opener. This discussion right here from Julia, I’m the same! I feel paralyzed if I even think about all the millions of things I want to do, learn, read, look into, explore, watch, et cetera. I just don’t know where to start, and that ends up in me doing nothing, simply because I can’t decide or can’t get an overview. On top of that, I am a terrible terrible workaholic, meaning that I spent really really really too much time on my (freelance) paid work (and I don’t even like it that much), and quite often working is just the easiest option: because it’s structured, it has a deadline and I know what to do, I don’t have to choose/decide. And also, and this is a bit personal now, one of my biggest fears in life is that I won’t have enough time in good health to do all the things I want to do (and I am now 45, it feels like I have wasted the best years of my life already!!). There are no guarantees about how long people live and how healthy you’ll be, so I constantly feel I should take EVERY opportunity and never ever ever EVER postpone anything – because you never know what disaster might be around the corner… To summarize… I feel trapped in a very anxious never ending vicious circle: spending too much time and energy on work, with potential health risks, plus at the same time an underlying fear of health issues, plus feeling I should grab every opportunity, but feeling too paralyzed and overwhelmed to do just that, and getting frustrated because I feel I’m wasting my time with being trapped in this circle… Goes on and on and on!! Argh… I hope to join the Puttylike community soon, to learn and explore how other multi peeps deal with this… :)
    PS It’s not all doom and gloom, I love being a multi-tool, and it’s even better now I have just learned that that is a GOOD thing!

  23. Karen L says:

    Better late than never, my Mum would always say! I’m a bit late for a reply here, but if I weren’t late, I wouldn’t know how to be. I’m stunned at how many people relate to the experience talked about here. I’m not around people much at all, let alone multipotentialites, so I’ve been at a loss as to why I’m this way and how to turn it around. After many years of struggle, I have achieved some important things over the last few years. Not the least of which is my greatly improved ability to chose to be happy, rather than wait for circumstances to make me happy.
    In addition, when I live as though I’m already “there,” things happen in a way that reinforces the notion. There’s more too, and yet, my life still doesn’t seem on track. Perhaps its about to and I’m just on the verge of finally having things snap into place. I don’t know.
    And then, a good friend of mine says I have ADHD. He makes a good argument for it too. I wonder if multipotentialites are often mistaking diagnosed as having ADHD. I must say, they do look a lot alike.
    So now, given that, I have even more confirmation that I need to join the puttytribe.

  24. Ember ReNeé says:

    YOU’RE DEFINITELY NOT ALONE!!!

    AND I HAVE SOME GREAT TIPS THAT HELP ME TO PROCESS THOSE EXACT THINGS!!!

    Firstly, i would say finding or beginning a meditation practice is almost an essential for me to be proactive and productive. I find that when I’m “in my groove”, I’m able to accomplish many great things as I feel inspired to do so! I also find that it relieves a lot of the pressures that build up from not being able to do all the things on my career bucket list. I seem to be able to relax into the day of options and choose whatever it is that truly moves me; really gets my juices flowing!! And I’ve also found that by being able to even give lets say photography for instance, a few minutes “air time” as inspired, i feel accomplished, satisfied and am able to just go with grain of life rather than against it! Really tuning into “self” and quieting the mind can help incredibly when feeling overwhelmed and torn between what feels best to you at any given moment :)

    I hope this helps! It has made such a difference in my life and dont know where I’d be if I hadn’t started my meditation practice! Its the best thing you can do for yourself and you can achieve optimal results in as little as 15 min per day!! Starting with 3 min then bumping it up to 5 then 7 then 10 to 15!! And before you know it your life will be forever changed!!

    Love and Light
    Your friend, Ember ReNeé

  25. Nicole says:

    Hey there!

    Thank you Emilie for this post, it is good to know that this is a common thing to deal with. I am new here, I saw your TED talk a few weeks ago and my reaction was like “Oh my gosh.. this is my life she is talking about!”. So thank you again, for the community you built up here!

    Since i finished school (almost 3 years ago, I am 21 now) I am struggling a lot. I didnt understand whats wrong with me.. everyone of my friends chose a job to do or a study to take and I just didn´t know what to do next.It felt like I didn´t know who I am or who I even want to be. There were so many things i could think of doing, but I knew none of that would be something I want to do for the rest of my life like it is usually done when you decide for a field to specialize in. Furthermore I had interests in subjects that are usually known as complex, hard and not the first thing to choose (For example I loved maths and was thinking about studying it) so I told myself I couldn´t do something like that, it is too abstract and hard and I would fail anyway, because who am I? Not an Einstein! “Just do normal stuff, like everybody does Nicole!”
    And so has it been with almost all of the things I wanted to do. In the end I decided (and still do) to do something which is none of my interest, because I wanted to force myself to “normal” stuff and a traditional life.
    I feel like I loose all of the other things I am actually interested in, because I don´t know where to start and it would be to good to be true to finally do what I want to do (one of the things).
    So Julia I know what it´s like to feel restricted and somehow not able to do what you actually want to do, even if you exactly know what it is! It is kind of knowing what would make you happy, but holding yourself back from getting it. But I also made the experience that small steps can be an amazing development and if you just start somewhere at some point other things will follow! So maybe just think about what of your interests fit in your current life situation the best (if you consider time and money) and then
    try to do it whenever you feel like. After or maybe while you are doing that you can see what you can or cannot do next. If possible, don´t overthink… That is my biggest problem and in the end I “think it to the death” and totally forget about doing it.

    Hope you can find your starting point!
    greetings Nicole

    • Steph says:

      Hey Nicole,

      As a recruiter, I see lots of resumes where people start on one path then pivot as their interests changed. I would do what you capable of today and start seeing what jobs interest you. Start asking people what they do and what the like and don’t like about their job. Gain knowledge and a network of people to help you find what you want to do longer term.
      But know you don’t have to pick something for ever and ever!

  26. Rocio says:

    Since I discovered Emilie speaking in ted everything for me has much more sense, and Julia’s question fits perfectly with what is happening to me now anxiety about the fear of launching myself into a project or why my partner does not finish understanding. so I’ve set goals but it causes me anxiety ? because some things are eternal. the economic issue is something that you think a lot if it deserves or not worth spending on a course when you have children.

  27. LeAnn says:

    This is me. I found a quote by Cerries Mooney that really helped: “Focus doesn’t mean sacrifice. It just means temporary self-restraint.”

    This helped me look at things a bit differently. Our passions don’t have to take up all our time, but if they do – it doesn’t mean the others are lost forever.

  28. Susan says:

    Wow. I feel so ‘normal’. I felt I resisted doing all the things I wanted to do because I was afraid of failure, so I decided I was better off avoiding trying any of them. Now in retirement, I find I am still too busy, but I have also figured out is it now or never. I am making time to do the things that will make me happy. I am teaching myself how to play guitar and piano (slowly), learning how to fly fish, hitting balls on the golf course practise fairway, playing darts and billiards and taking apart a very old family piano which I will eventually look at making into a workstation for my hubby to tie flies. Whew, it seems like a lot and there are other projects I hope to get around to. It was good timing to see Emilie and her Ted talk on Multipotentialites. I only wish I had seen her talk years ago. Breaking free to be who I really am is such a great feeling! I look forward to being apart of the blog she has hosted with other like-minded souls.

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