Everything is in the mind. Knowing what you want is the first step towards getting it- Mae West
They say ‘a jack of many trades but a master of none’. Do you have too many interests and you can’t choose what to focus on? You are not alone. Many of us when through this period.
At some point, I thought I could do all the things I had in mind. There is nothing wrong with having such a mindset, but we only have this life and only 24 hours in each day.
To master a skill, and to succeed in that area, sometimes we have to narrow down and choose one or a few things to create mastery in.
Too many passions
Follow your passion is something we hear way too often. The challenge about this is that sometimes we don’t know what our passion is, and other times we have too many passions.
Sometimes we can’t seem to choose and decide which one to go with. Following your passions has its benefits. Imagine living a life where you wake up and do what you love every day! That would be great, wouldn’t it?
On the other hand, sometimes following our passions can’t be sustaining. We can have a passion that cannot translate into a lucrative project and while we are following our passions, we are not living a fulfilling life.
I have written before on how we shouldn’t always feel the pressure to find and follow our passions. This may work for some, but not for everyone.
I have too many interests
You can have too many interests such that you can’t figure out which one to pursue. For example, you love cooking, working out, reading and writing, one sport, coding, playing videogames.
In this era where you can make a career out of anything, you can find yourself stuck on which of your interests to pursue.
For example, if you like the above-mentioned interests, and you need to launch a Youtube channel for it, which interest should you choose?
Do you launch a cooking channel, a working out channel, write and recommend books, code software or a videogame channel?
Sometimes choosing an interest out of the many you have can be quite challenging, which is why we will address a step to step guide to help you choose among your many interests.
Do you have too many goals?
Are you pursuing a lot of interests? Do you have too many goals? You could be working on many projects at the same time and can’t seem to spread yourself evenly enough.
This means that while you are doing so much, you may not be giving all your projects the attention they deserve.
Why you need to pick an interest to focus on
Discovering what you really want saves you endless confusion and wasted energy- Stuart Wilde
You must be asking, why can’t I just work on all my interests and passions? Do I have to choose? What if I am multi-talented?Being interested and talented in so many areas is great. It is a blessing. However, picking on one interest (or two) and focusing on it has its benefits.
You can’t apply persistence over many interests
In her book, Grit: Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success, Angela Duckworth shows that we need resilience and persistence over a long time to become good at something.
She says that by picking on an interest, then persisting on it for a long time, is how we achieve success. There is no way we can achieve success by fleeting over many interests and giving them halfhearted attention.
Instead, when you pick one thing, and focus on it over a long time, through deliberate practice, you can achieve success in your area.
You can’t apply persistence on something you don’t love
If you are going to wake up every day and persist on one thing for a long time, you must at least love it or have some interest in it. Duckworth interviews artists, sportspersons and other stars in their area and finds out one thing, they all love what they do.
The practice and the dedication may not be fun, but they love what they do and because of this, they are happy to bear through the tough times. It means that Serena Williams will not wake up tomorrow and decide she doesn’t like tennis anymore.
Even when she won’t be competing professionally, she will still love tennis. She is interested in the game. She loves the game.
You have limited time, choose wisely
The same argument is supported by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers and Anders Eriksson in Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things where they say, it takes deliberate practice and long hours, approximately 10,000 hours to gain mastery in an area.
Assuming you take a few hours in a day to work on your interest or passion, it will take some years before you hit your 10,000 hours. This shows that you cannot afford to be fully dedicated to many interests if you want to be a master in it.
How to choose one thing to focus on
In order to choose one thing to focus on; lets first consider some things; time and resources
You need to conduct a good analysis of what you need to do and what your goals are.
1. Create a philosophy
Creating a philosophy doesn’t have to be well, so philosophical. A philosophy is a major goal of the direction you need to take. It is the bigger goal that guides your small goals. It is what you want out of life.
A clearly outlined philosophy provides a guideline and boundaries to keep you on track.
For example, for the longest time, I knew that my independence and freedom largely matters to me, especially due to my ISTP personality. I always, therefore, pursued career options that allowed me to be independent and free.
This means when I got the opportunity to be a freelancer, while I was employed, I was happy to take up the opportunity because it showed promise for the freedom I craved.
I was also employed in a work environment that allowed me a good amount of freedom, and in it, I was doing other things I love such as teaching and training.
Creating a philosophy helps you have a guideline. But sometimes, it takes us a long time to know what we want which takes me to my next step
2. Engage in many activities and experiment
Clarity comes from engagement, not thought- Marie Forleo
Engage your interests and experiment. If you are interested in many things, and age is on your side such as when you are in your twenties, take this time to experiment.
Take a job in your area of interest, offer freelance services in another interest. It may take a long time to figure out what you want, but don’t waste this time. B
y the time I graduated with my first degree, I didn’t know much of what I wanted. I had been working in management so my degree was in management. I later learned of a job opportunity in internet marketing which was new to me around them.
I hopped on and learned on the job which is one of the greatest decisions ever because that’s how I learned about blogging. I later got a job in teaching in a college which I was happy to take.
There, I realized that I love educating others and helping others improve themselves. While at that job, I got an opportunity to be a freelance writer in business and leadership which was right after I graduated with my masters in that area.
All this sounds like a loop of confusion. I was in my twenties, single, with minimal responsibilities and I was happy to learn. I took up as many learning experiences as they opened up to me and now I am glad I did.
Everything I learned during this time helped me narrow my interests such that I can focus and put all my energy on one thing now.
3. Pick your interest and run with it
After all the experimentation, you learn a lot about your interests and about yourself as well. You learn what you like and what you don’t like.
You learn what gives you more satisfaction. From all this, you learn what you wouldn’t mind spending the rest of your life doing.
So here is the step to step guide to picking an interest
- First, (for most people) childhood is too early to have picked an interest, and teenagers can be early as well. So, reduce the pressure to have found your interest and take some time.
- Secondly, interests are not discovered by thinking hard and picking one from the lot. They are discovered through interaction with them.
- You need to experiment as I have explained above and figure out which interests will stick and which ones won’t. Some may appear intriguing until you engage in them.
- A long time ago I decided to create a cooking blog because I love cooking. I realized the pressure of presentation killed the fun and the joy I found in cooking and chose not to pursue this.
- When you find yourself gravitating towards a certain interest, expose yourself more to it, discarding others that you’re not so interested in. Frequent exposure triggers deeper interest and lets you know where you lie on this specific interest. You find out if you would like to know more and work in this area or you should continue looking
- Get support. When you engage in something and find positive feedback, you are more encouraged to go on with it. The positive feedback brings joy, competence, and satisfaction. Sometimes you may not even know you are good at something until someone else tells you so.
4. Define your goals
You need to define your goals once you pick an interest. Sometimes we think we have many goals, and if you take a better look, you may realize that they are smaller goals all aimed at achieving one major goal.
If you have goals such as; start a blog, write a personal development book, make videos teaching people on self-awareness, and take a psychology course. All these may seem like different goals, but they all seem to be geared about one thing; personal development, for you and for others.
How to define your goals
I read in Grit that Warren Buffet gave this advice about defining goals to his pilot:
- List down 25 career goals
- Soul search and select 5 goals
- Take a good look at the 20 goals you didn’t pick.
- Avoid the 20 goals at all costs
- Put your focus on the 5 goals you chose
If you didn’t pick a goal, avoid it at all costs as it is going to take all the energy and effort that you need to focus on your most important goals.
Why you need to define your goals
I realized that no matter how good your work ethic is, and no matter how motivated you are and how much effort you put in, all your hard work is useless without defined goals.
If you are working hard, what exactly are you working towards? You need to have a specific goal you are working towards. When you wake up early in the morning, what’s the purpose of your early rise?
Do you just wake up to scroll social media or to exercise or simply go to work because you are required to? Defining your goal gives you focus, then discipline. You can’t be disciplined if you don’t have a clear picture of what you are working towards.
What if you pick the wrong one?
If you experimented quite widely, it is rare that you pick the wrong interest to pursue, unless you picked it for the wrong reasons. If you find that you picked the wrong interest, you can always change and pursue something you are more interested in.
A good number of people will tell you that their current was probably not their initial choice. They were led there by different forces. As advised by Carl Rogers, to be a fully functional person, we have to open ourselves to new experiences.
This is also how we make ourselves adaptable and resilient enough to accommodate change.