“A what?!” I hear you ask already. As we begin a whole New Year (and a very happy one to you, while we’re on the subject), I have been pondering this question at length.
Firstly though, you might be in the majority of people who will want to know what one is!
Multipotentialites are individuals who have a diverse range of interests, and can be successful across different professions. Famous multipotentialites include Michelangelo, Galileo, Gloria Steinem, Sir Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Noam Chomsky, Jane Asher and Oprah Winfrey.
It’s easy in a world that rewards specialists and experts to think of multipotentialites as “jacks of several trades”, however they are seen to be “intellectually gifted”, able to learn a wide range of subject areas rapidly, and are hugely adaptable. However there is one aspect of multipotentialism that makes coaching a multipotentialite – or polymath – particularly interesting.
Multipotentialites are true innovators. They can, as Emilie Wapnick so brilliantly describes in her TEDx Talk on this, “combine two or more fields and create something new at the point at which they intersect.”
Because multipotentialites thrive on working on several diverse projects, and goals, simultaneously, some of which will come together, choosing just one can feel really hard to do.
How do I know this?
Because I am one.
For me it looks like this. I am mainly a psychologist, an accredited executive coach and a trainer, but I am also a cake baker who makes delicious cakes that are organic and free from cane sugar, wheat and dairy – and I use my speaking and training strengths to talk about business and economics. I am an ex-Pharmacy student in love with natural medicine, and have even written a theorem about side effects when using pharmaceuticals or natural medicine – drawing on my fascination with geometry. Not to mention my work as a writer, healer, and teacher of intuitive disciplines.
When people ask me what I do, I usually answer with one or two of the 6 roles I currently have, depending on who I am talking to. That’s just the ones I can name. You can imagine what fun some coaches have had with me in the past. “If you were to focus on just ONE goal/area/interest, which ONE would it be?” has been the general gist.
The thing is, it just doesn’t work like that with a multipotentialite. And it isn’t always easy being one.
- Other people often think that we can’t make our mind up about the career we want to go into and are unfocused – rather than the reality that we are fascinated by all of them and have the energy and drive and motivation to put into each. Simultaneously.
- We switch attention (become bored) easily once we have learned what we need to – this can make us look like we jump around, and this can make completing things a challenge at times.
- It can be frustrating not always being able to explore all interests, because our working lives may require us to focus just on one area. This can leads to anxiety, low-self-esteem and disengagement.
- It can be hard to identify a clear life purpose. We can feel like failures because we haven’t worked out what we are going to do when we grow up. Yet. As Emilie so beautifully describes.
A much more helpful approach I find when coaching multipotentialites is to firstly enable them to recognise that they are in fact one – that there isn’t something wrong with them, or that they are “unfocused” or “scattered”.
Secondly, I create the space for them to explore each of their interests, and to consider how they come together, rather than trying to separate them out. “How do these seemingly different fields come together for you, I wonder?” is a question I love to explore.
Thirdly, I explore what is driving their current focus, and whether this is comfortable and aligned with their direction, or whether they are at risk of doing what they feel they have to do – which can lead to disengagement. The client can then use this awareness to determine whether a re-focus is required to bring more balance to The Force*.
(*I also have an almost academic love of Star Wars. Did I not mention that?!).
We are only at the beginnings of exploring what multipotentialism means for business – and to learn about how to best harness the innovative, creative thinking that multipotentialites bring. I look forward to seeing what we will all discover – business leaders, psychologists, coaches, specialists and multipotentialites alike.
Join me for Elevate – a 6 month Mastermind (or Genius!) Program for Women Leaders choosing to take their heart’s work to the next level. Starting in Spring 2016.