For many years, I can remember the occasional comments from friends along the lines of ‘how do you find the time to do all that?’ or ‘Are you trying to be superwoman or something’? I thought maybe there was something wrong with me, but then I convinced myself, it’s them that have a problem.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I discovered a more logical explanation to why I function differently. I heard Jeff Sandquist interview Emile Wapnick on the subject of multipotentialites. Something in that podcast resonated with me. And with further research I have determined I am somewhere on the spectrum of multipods. I had found my tribe.
So how does being a multipotentialite play out in my life and my work? Well it’s both exhausting and exhilarating.
Emile says a multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits. In no particular order, here is my list:
Gardening, permaculture, growing food, living off the land, caring for country, earth building, simple living, slow living, minimalism, mindfulness, meditation, spirituality, community building and connecting, volunteering, Indigenous affairs, First Nations peoples, refugees, other minority groups, the environment, climate change, sustainability, politics (out of necessity!), healing, alternative therapies, functional medicine, exercise, walking, cycling, body work and yoga (although I can’t physically do this any more), Playback Theatre, drumming, writing, blogging, podcasts, travel, healthy eating, cooking, bushwalking, being in nature, upcycling, recycling, doing up old furniture, art, craft, sewing, mosaics, painting, drawing, zentangle, collage, felting, knitting, journalling and reading on all of the above.
And the list keeps growing. That’s the whole point. Multipotentialites can’t just stop at one thing and become a specialist. Something else sparks our interest, we research, we get an idea, we pursue it passionately, at least until the next interest comes along. I usually have many different projects (and books) on the go.
For a multipotential social worker, life and work are not separate. They intersect and feed into each other, maxing out the possibilities for invention and creation of new and interesting realms. We look at the bigger picture for insight into actions and solutions, that are sometimes risky or outside of the box, rather than just settling for what’s expected of us.
I have to keep a leash on hand to tame all the new ideas that pop up into my runaway mind. Then I have to keep tabs of everything in a ‘Passion Planner’. (Yes, I even had to invest in a special diary to manage it all!) This probably sounds exhausting to specialists (and sometimes it is), but it’s what I have to do. Then I have to work very hard at switching my mind off for rest and relaxation (using skills of mindfulness and meditation of course!) Only sickness can ground me to a halt.
Multipotential social workers are also at risk of being criticised for ‘not sticking at one thing for very long’ because we easily lose interest. On the contrary, this should be embraced. It means that we are always refining, improving, developing, creating, evaluating, critiquing and not becoming stagnant or content to just do the same old thing that same old way.
Despite some downsides, being a mutlipotentialite has many advantages. Emilie says we have three superpowers.
- Idea synthesis, where two or more fields of interest intersect and create something new. This has me thinking about the ways I can combine my practice in trauma informed social work with so many of my other interests like mindfulness, drumming, art and being in nature. A few years ago, in my community where I socialise and volunteer, I created an opportunity to run a therapeutic group using my interests in cooking and gardening, at a time when I was unemployed. Recently, I’ve taken to connecting likeminded people through the initiation of SimpleRev Local Darwin – this represents the intersection of building community and simple living.
- Rapid learning, which involves not being afraid of trying new things and completely absorbing ourselves in new information. In recent years, I’ve become addicted to buying books on line. If a topic falls within my goal of living a more intentional, healthier, meaningful life and being able to bring healing to others so they can do this too, then I have to go after this knowledge. There is new research, information and resources coming out all the time.
- Adaptability or the ability to take on various roles. I think I’m one of the few social workers blessed with the autonomy of using all manner of micro and macro skills, and everything in between, in the one paid job. These are transferable skills that I’ve adapted to use in my local community and private life. Being exposed to a wide variety of learning opportunities gives me the confidence to know I can do it all, in any place, at any time.
Unfortunately, there are many voices that will tell you ‘You can’t do everything’. But I’m here (along with Emile) to tell you that, you can. In fact, multipotential social workers must do everything. It’s what we are wired to do. Even in Renaissance times, Leon Battista Alberti said that “a man can do all things if he will.” You will just have to live with the Superwoman/Superman label.
Does any of this resonate with you?
Might you be a multipotential social worker?
If so, I would love to hear your story about how this plays out in your life.
PuttyLike – the community for multipotentialites by Emile Wapnik
Intentionally Wandering – Podcast by Dr Jeff Sandquist
Passion Planner – the diary for multipods like me.