Today’s guest contributor is writer, coach, violinist, filmmaker, law school graduate, and web designer, Emilie Wapnick. Emilie works with multipotentialites to help them build lives and businesses around ALL of their interests and she’s the troublemaker behind Puttylike.com.
“I moved to Portland to find community, a home… To settle down,” I spoke softly.
She looked at me with big eyes.
“Now I have to choose between Portland, and the thing that Portland represented, which is what I actually wanted.”
Like many 20-somethings of my generation, I have consciously designed most facets of my life. I chose self-employment to provide me with freedom and a sense of contribution, I chose a broad theme for my business over a niche in order to express my multipotentiality, I gave real thought to the friends in my life, to how I wanted my day to look, to how I wanted to feel, and to where I wanted to live.
How lucky we are to live in a time and place where this is possible, and to be privileged enough to enjoy this freedom.
I’ve been very deliberate about designing my life ever since realizing that I could. But what happens when the universe that you trust, that has been so good to you, decides to impose some of its own conditions? Do you stick with your original plan or do you shift, maybe giving up some of that autonomy you hold so dear? (In this case, moving to a new city with the person you love.)
There is one thing that makes decisions like these easier; it’s knowing what it is that you are truly seeking, behind the specific city or the specific career or goal. What do these things that you are striving for represent?
Do you really want to be a film director, or is it that you love working with big teams and seeing a creative vision come to life? If so, you could probably get the same feelings from being the leader of a nonprofit organization or the conductor of an orchestra. I’m not saying that you should pursue these avenues instead, but it’s worth knowing.
Is programming really what you love to do? Or is it the problem solving, the attention to detail, the service, the feeling of solitary work, of a deep flow state that you get when you are coding? Maybe these feelings could also be achieved in other ways too.
I see it everywhere. We confuse the specific form that our goals take for the goals themselves. We become wrapped up in one medium, and think that because we use paint to express our ideas we are a painter or that because we use legal doctrines to help people navigate the system, we are a lawyer. We become tied to, and thus defined by one role. We don’t see that it is empowering others that we seek, or inspiring a particular feeling or connecting with another human being. We don’t see the Why behind what we do.
There is danger in becoming attached to the specific and not knowing what your goals represent or why you love what you love. The danger is that your industry might die or you might become bored with a particular medium/job, and then lose your whole sense of identity.
When you dream about the sort of life you want to create, do just that: dream about the SORT of life, and know that the specifics are just potential forms that this dream may take. For example, instead of saying “I want to spend my mornings writing,” say “I want to spend my mornings doing something creative that allows me to connect with my core,” (if that’s what writing does for you). This might mean writing, but it could also take the form of gardening or yoga or countless other activities. Defining things more broadly allows you to grow and stay open to new opportunities.
When you find yourself being drawn to a particular field or project, ask yourself why. What about this area is exciting to you? How is it like past endeavors you’ve been involved with? What sort of feelings and experiences do you get from engaging with it?
Understanding the currents that run through your passions is the secret to making the right decisions when life changes suddenly. If you know what you are looking for behind the specific medium or job or location, you’ll have a basis for assessing opportunities and knowing if they are right for you.
How has understanding what draws you to your interests helped you make better decisions?
Emilie Wapnick works with multipotentialites to help them build lives and businesses around ALL of their interests. She is the troublemaker behind Puttylike.com. Her work has been featured in The Financial Times and Lifehacker.
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