Multipotentialism and A Deep Sigh of Relief

May 29, 2018


“I’ve never found my thing.  You know….the thing.”


“I feel like everyone else has a career and I’m still trying to figure it out.”


“I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”


“I don’t know what my passion is.  I have too many interests.”


I can’t tell you how many times women I have coached with or who have attended my retreats and workshops have woefully muttered some iteration of these sentences to me.

I used to feel the same way.  I remember, a few years ago, as I was trying to make sense of What I Wanted To Do When I Grew Up, I created a sort of mind map of all the things I loved to do.  I would stare at that piece of paper for hours on end, hoping that somehow all the incredibly disparate loves that I had (writing, adventuring, supporting women in birth, cooking, photography) would magically meld into a Real Career before my eyes, if only I considered it for long enough, and remained uncompromising in my efforts.

During my mind map days, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the work of a woman named Emilie Wapnick, and her community, Puttylike.  Emilie coined the term mulitpotentialite, referring to individuals who have multiple passions and interests.  She was, and still is, rocking the world of anyone who has ever felt like they were supposed to find one “Thing” and stick with it, but couldn’t.

Multipotentialites tend to follow one of two patterns.  Scanners thrive by becoming the jack of all trades and master of none.  They like to have a great number of different and diverse projects on the go at the same time.  Divers, on the other hand, like to dive deep into a particular hobby, field of interest, or passion for a few years, learn everything they can possibly learn about it, and then move on.

In a world that idolizes those with singular passions and still prefers that the answer to “what do you do” be something easy to conceptualize, multipotentialites often spend the majority of their lives feeling like there’s something wrong with them.  Their decisions to quit what they’ve been working on and move on are perceived as being flaky, irresponsible, or confusing.  It’s assumed that they’ve failed, in some way, rather than making a conscious decision to pivot.

Elizabeth Gilbert did a fantastic talk about the value of following curiosity rather than passion, and in doing so, she gave many of us scanners and divers a giant permission slip to follow what interests us, without the need to make meaning (or careers!) out of the things that pique our curiosity.

To me, this seems like a much gentler approach to living one’s life.  The pressure that we exert on ourselves and that is placed upon us by others to abide by societally-defined norms around our careers (and, well, everything) can be crushing.  I’ve coached with so many women who have spent a lot of time, energy, and frustration on what seems like a wild goose chase of trying to find meaningful work that also adheres to commonly-held notions of what a career should look like.

Generally, in my own life and in my coaching work,


I have come to be very skeptical of things that


a) seem like rules (especially somewhat nefarious arbitrary rules)




b) seem to cause suffering when we try to contort ourselves into the kind of people who can follow them.


Also, I’ve noticed that half (or more!) of the work of living our lives in a way that better reflects who we are and what we value is about self-acceptance rather than finding *new and improved* ways of becoming someone we’re not – someone we imagine ourselves being if only we weren’t so ___(fill in the blank with your own particular self-loathing)___.  Accepting your own multipotentialism is the first step toward learning how to work with it  – and have it work for you.


How about you?  Do you identify as a multipotentialite?  Did you breathe any deep sighs of relief after reading this?

(p.s.: You Are Ok.  You are always Ok.  It’s usually just the rest of the world that’s whack).


The Becoming Podcast has been on a short hiatus while I focus on writing my book, but oh what a comeback episode I have for you!

This month, I spoke to Toko-pa Turner, who many of you may know as the unofficial patron saint of many of my circles and gatherings because of the sheer number of times I’ve quoted from the wisdom of her book, Belonging.

Toko-pa is a Canadian author, teacher, and dreamworker. Blending the mystical teachings of Sufism in which she was raised with a Jungian approach to dreams, she founded The Dream School in 2001, from which thousands of students have graduated. She is the author of the award-winning book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, which explores the themes of exile and belonging through the lens of dreams, mythology, and nature. This book has resonated for readers worldwide, and has been translated into 10 different languages so far. Her work focuses on the relationship between psyche and nature, and how to follow our inner wisdom to meet with the social, psychological, and ecological challenges of our time.

Here’s some of what Toko-pa and I talk about in this episode:

> The dream that changed Toko-pa’s life, causing her to question her career and, ultimately, her identity

> How we can court our dreams to support us during times of radical transformation – and the reasons so many of us have a hard time remembering and working with what shows up in our dreamscape

> Toko-pa’s perspective on the message of Belonging after the divisiveness our society has experienced in the years since it was published

> What happened for both Toko-pa and I when we fell out of belonging from the ideologies of the “wellness world”

> How to build community when you’re under-resourced

> “The Big Lie” when it comes to belonging, and how we can reclaim a sense of belonging to the greater family of things, as Mary Oliver so famously wrote

Listen to the episode on iTunes


Show Notes

Toko-pa’s Website

Belonging:  Remembering Ourselves Home, Toko-pa’s book

The David Abram video about animism mentioned in the interview

Toko-pa’s self-guided program, Dream Drops

Companion, the program that accompanies Belonging


Also, while you’re at it, if you enjoy The Becoming Podcast, I would be so grateful if you would rate and review, and even subscribe to it on iTunes.  That goes a long way to helping more and more people find and benefit from hearing these interviews!  Thank you so much!