Oh, Dear Ones. What a journey it is to find our purpose! Everywhere we look, some new self-help author or product is promising us help distilling what exactly our singular reason for being on this planet is. It’s a question that’s been top of mind for me from a very young age. I’ve always thrashed against the idea that I could only be one thing. Some of my earliest memories are of my sister getting mad at me because I was always changing the answer to the question, What do you want to be when you grow up? From a beekeper to a Christmas tree farmer, a figure skater, a broadway choreographer, an actress, a rockstar, an anthropologist, a writer, an artist, a defender of women’s rights, and everything in between, I wanted EVERYTHING for as long as I can remember. And hey, all those jobs still sound BALLER, and I kinda still want to be and do all of them. I’ve even been lucky enough to do some of them. While some of the time, my cornucopia of desired careers has evoked curiosity and skepticism from folks, most of the time people confide in me that they can totally relate.
My interests are so broad I freaking got a master’s degree in international affairs because I couldn’t narrow it down. And now, three years into working in the field I prepared for, I’ve moved across the country to pursue new and varied dreams of starting a brewery, becoming a life coach and a healer. Each day brings its different challenges and doubts, such as – Why the hell did I think blowing up my life in DC was a good idea? What if I fail? How will I explain to people my vision of a mindful brewery in a beautiful retreat space where we also hold meditation retreats and workshops? But I use the doubt to push me further. Maybe that last question is teaching me I should create a more concrete business plan, and get clear about the steps I need to take to achieve it!
I found a little trick for explaining this multiple purpose/career path thing to people. It is kind of like being a spiritual pluralist – that is, not limiting yourself to one belief about the Divine, but rather opening yourself to many possibilities. The great poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote (and Joanna Macy translated):
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
Oh, how I love this poem. The author doesn’t claim to know anything – not even who she is. And yet she flies around and around this concept of ancient Divinity, searching, exploring, learning, always questioning. And it isn’t a sad exploration – rather, she recognizes she may never complete the search, but she “gives herself to it anyway”. I would much prefer to live my life in widening circles that encompass the whole world, rather than stay in one place or to, God forbid, live life in an ever-narrowing circle! Eventually ending up with one rigid belief system or idea for how my life should be.
Marie Forleo – my personal business shero – coined the term for this pluralistic career paths “multi-passionate“. And hallelujah, does that EVER resonate with me! For those who don’t fit into the conventional career box, you can now give yourself permission to instead write-in multipassionate entrepreneur. Finally a phrase that celebrates, not stigmatizes, so many of our varied twisty and turny careers.
In this handy video, Marie talks about how to be multipassionate without looking flaky. She says, first, you gotta own and embrace it. Next, you have to know how to position it properly, and confidently sell your pluralist approach as a strength. When you aren’t yet ready to share a fragile, new idea with the world, play in private until it’s ready (if it ever really is). She recommends relishing in the obscurity of the early points in your career, and know that you will make mistakes. She cautions – don’t try to turn everything into a business, and, once you decide which passions you’re going to take lucrative, you can’t care what anyone thinks. You can, of course, take constructive advice if it serves you – this is where your intuition comes in handy! But you can’t make it as a multipassionate entrepreneur and continue to care that some people just won’t get it, some people will identify too strongly with their own fear to put their comfort level on the line to do what you are doing to authentically relate. And that’s okay.
The world will tell you to choose a niche or you’ll become a jack of all trades and master of none. So many people believe that they have to choose just one thing, to please their parents, climb the career ladder to the top, find job and financial security and generally win at life. Luckily this generation is slowly figuring out that you can diversify! The internet has forever changed the landscape of what is possible – making it an option to run a business from the beach in Costa Rica to the lagoons of Iceland. AT THE SAME TIME, you have to be focused, goal-oriented and clear on what you want! This is the beautiful tension – yes, you can be multipassionate and chase a plethora of dreams at the same time. But no, you can’t do it while being completely scatter-brained and lacking focused attention. The multipassionate path can come with a lot of self-consciousness, insecurity and doubt. It can be hard to determine if your passion projects should be financing your life, or kept sacred without the pressure of earning you a paycheck. But the beauty of living in the digital age is, we can take risks if we legitimately think we can succeed, and if we’re willing to work our buns off.
Look, I know it’s hard. Even yesterday, I was challenged to consider choosing between pursuing a life coaching certification and starting a brewery. But no, at this time, I will not choose (maybe some day, but not today). I will not sacrifice my beautiful dreams because they don’t fit the mold and possibly make others uncomfortable. If you don’t want to meditate or do yoga in a funky cool space that also serves artisan beer, then by all means, you are not my audience. And that is okay.
I’m just working on listening to that still small voice within that guides me on my path. If you get quiet enough to hear it, the whisper can be loud enough to drown out the noise of doubt. Remember, many times the haters are only hating because they are trying to protect you. Those parents you’re aiming to please probably really do want what is best for you. It’s the same with those nagging doubts you might feel from time to time. It is likely only your intuition trying to keep you safe – listen to it, befriend it, let it know what matters most to you. Ask yourself, What’s really going on here? Is this trying to teach me something, like that maybe I’m making a mistake? OR Is this just plain old egoic fear trying to steal my passionate thunder? Make it your priority day in and day out to replace that fear with the still, small voice that whispers to you your wildest dreams. And live your life in widening circles.
Until next time, be well & take gentle self care.