Still wondering about your life purpose, I bet you have been confronted to the question of your life purpose early in life. How many times have you been asked: “what do you want to be when you grow up”? And how old were you when you were first asked this question? Chances are you are […]
Still wondering about your life purpose, I bet you have been confronted to the question of your life purpose early in life. How many times have you been asked: “what do you want to be when you grow up”? And how old were you when you were first asked this question? Chances are you are also asking yourself the same question now that you are “settled” in life, probably not doing what you said you would do back then.
Well has this question “what do you want to do when you grow up”? ever caused you some anxiety – even some kind of pressure? …. A dreaded exercise for me. Basically, I wanted to spend my time with horses running after cows: my life purpose seemed to be a vanishing vocation and in France among all countries! Needless to say, I would pick up any kind of vocation to be able to answer the dreaded question and meet what I thought might be the expectation of the enquiring adult – the closest answer to my dream job being “I want to be a farmer”.
The truth is I could not picture myself doing one single thing all my life, I had many interests apart from horses, none of it seemed suitable to be a life purpose or even the foundation of a career. Most of all, I began to notice a pattern in myself. I would become interested or focused in an area, would dive in and become pretty good at it and then I would get to this point where I started to get bored. Usually, I would try to persist anyway because I had already devoted so much time, energy and sometimes money. Also, I would feel ashamed of giving up yet another life purpose. Eventually, the boredom would get to me too much and I would beat myself up for a while to get on because well I had heard everywhere you HAVE to be persistent to achieve success but then I would let go. Soon, I would replace it with something else, dive into it with enthusiasm and …. repeat the same pattern.
This pattern of “life purpose drop-out” caused me a lot of anxiety for two reasons:
At some point, especially when after high school you have to choose which university and which subject you are going to join, the cute little question became something that kept me awake at night.
If you can relate to my story, let me ask you a question, which took me some forty years to figure out: Where did you learn to consider wrong to doing many things? My guess is that you learnt it from your environment and the dominating culture.
Let’s put things into perspective: when you were first asked the question “what do you want to do when you grow old”? Nobody really cared. Adults are just expecting cute answers. And, if by any chance, you would have answered that you wanted to be a Doctor AND a Singer AND have 3 children, chances are you would have been discouraged right away “but honey this is not possible, you cannot do everything and you have to choose”. I also often heard that if I wanted to succeed I had to pick one subject and being the very best. No survival outside specialisation! This does not inspire kids to become all that they could be, in fact it just does this opposite.
Claude Poncelet is a Doctor in Physics, a Chaman, a Teacher in Shamanism and a Writer.
Kids if they do hear about such people are never really familiar with their many skills. The question in itself is limited to the “doing” instead of the “becoming”. Can the essence of a human being be limited to what he is doing?
Also, the notion of a vocation or mission is highly romanticised in our society: The destiny, the one true calling, the passion or the idea we have one great life purpose we were born to do and we are waiting to awaken to, whatever it is we need to do to contribute to the world. Also, we had better figure out what that is sooner rather than later and devote our energy to our “life purpose” to have a meaningful life.
What if you are not wired this way? what if you are curious and eager to learn different topics, enjoy a variety of experience in life? There is no room for you in the “focus and specialise” paradigm. You may feel inadequate, a failure without a life purpose and a focus. You may feel useless to your environement.
Well it took me years to figure out: There is absolutely nothing wrong with me and you. We are what was known as a “polymath” in the XVIIth century. Leonardo Da Vinci was an Artist, a Healer, a man of Science and probably the most famous polymaths that ever existed.
According to Wikipedia a polymath is someone “whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas”. The terms was first used during the renaissance to design a person who was well versed in many subjects and was seen back then as someone accomplished.
So rather than seeing your many interests and lack of focus as an affliction that will doom you for failure. There are some great benefits to being this way.
Polymaths go hard, they dive into it, they have no complex about being beginners and absorbing new learning and receive guidance no matter their age and situation in life. They step outside their comfort zone and they question everything they have, doing it all over again. Also, they build on their learning and bring their many acquired skills overtime to each new area. Therefore it is never a waste of time to get an interest in something you like even if you end up changing directions because each time you build on your capabilities and bring this knowledge to various different areas.
Combining two or more areas and specialities and creating something new at the intersection. This is where innovation and creation happen. When you scan many different subjects, you develop an ability to access more and more of these points of intersection.
Ex: Steve Job – to take him as an example – took a course and a keen interest in calligraphy that would greatly influenced the concept of the Mac later on.
Having being in so many situations, you are able to adapt to a new one and you see possibilities among challenges. Polymaths adapt to whatever they are facing to overcome the new challenge ahead. Adaptability is certainly one of the most required quality in an ever changing environment.
Our society has lots of vested interest to encourage polymaths as they may offer creative and out-of-the box thinking to tackle the many complexed situations we are facing nowadays. In fact one of the best teams are made of a specialist which will go into the nitty gritty of any given situation and a polymath that will bring his various ideas and a different vision on the project.
Embrace who you are whether you are a polymath or a specialist. The world needs both. Polymaths, follow your interests. Find the intersections between the many areas of interests. When you embrace what you truly are, you live authentically and that is a life purpose.
Aude is an ex corporate Lawyer with a passion for health, self development and independence which lead her to give up her former career to help others through health.
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