I talk to a lot of people who struggle to decide what to do next in their careers because they think they have too many interests.

It’s fine, they say, if you’re passionate about one thing; that makes the decision easier. But what if you’re fascinated by a lot of different fields? What if you feel equally pulled by politics and interior design?  Entrepreneurship and music?  Photography and nursing?

I’ve had clients that faced these exact conundrums. I’ve also faced similar ones myself.

In school, I loved the richness of reading and writing. I also took pleasure in the predictability of math. Later on, as I learned about the world around me, I developed an equally stirring passion for animal rights, social justice, and environmental restoration. At work, I enjoyed working in operations, management, customer service, community development, marketing, and sales.

Why, I asked myself when looking for a new job, couldn’t I have the clarity or depth of expertise that comes from being interested in one thing only: say 13th Century French literature? Or CSS frameworks? Or the plight of the delta green ground beetle?

The Most Frequent Misconception About Finding Your Calling

I think this is, in part, why the idea of finding your calling can get such a bad rap.

People assume that this implies that there’s one thing (and one thing only) that you’re “supposed” to be doing.

So let me go on record here and say that I disagree. Completely. I don’t believe that there’s one thing out there that you’re predestined to do. There’s no star out there that has written on it “Meredith Walters = Career Coach.”

Your calling, rather, is a living, breathing thing. It’s a part of who you are and what you have to offer the world.  It’s your unique answer to what the world is asking for in this moment, and it can be expressed in lots of different ways.

Finding your calling isn’t about choosing one thing; it’s about listening to what you feel called to be and create in the world, no matter what that is. It could be one thing, or it could be 200. It may be big or it may be small. And you can bet that if you’re paying attention, it won’t be the same forever.

Ways to Work With Too Many Interests

Here are some ways you can follow a multifaceted calling:

  1. You can combine your interests into one outlet. Often this commingling will give birth to new, innovative forms. Like Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness, for example, who combined his interests in video games and healthy living into a business that helps nerds “level up their lives”  with better exercise and diet. In my case, starting my own business has allowed me to support others in ways that I love, write, and do all the parts of business-building that I liked from previous jobs.
  2. You can focus on one and then another. As Emilie Wapnick discusses in her TEDx Talk, what you learn in one field often transfers and helps you bring unique skills and perspectives to another. In other words, nothing you learn is wasted. I discovered this for myself when I transitioned into coaching, believing that my days of using my MBA were behind me. Turns out that what I learned in my MBA has come in incredibly handy as I run my own business.
  3. You can lead a rich life with many hobbies and contributions. I had a client once with strong interests in running, photography, writing comedy, helping disempowered people, and putting his expertise in IT to good use. He found a job that allowed him to do the last two while giving him time and money to pursue the former. In this way he’s enjoyed lots of activities and made meaningful contributions in multiple areas to his daughters, friends, clients, and colleagues.

A Hidden Gift

In some ways, having lots of interests can make your decision-making clearer, because you can begin to look for work that combines your interests rather than jobs that force you to choose between them.

And no matter what you decide on, you’ll bring unique perspectives and ideas to whatever you do if you can embrace your role as a bridge between lonely and distant shores.

Find Work That’s Right for You

Sometimes an outside perspective is key in helping us see clearly what the world is calling for from us. If you’d like to know how coaching can help you find work that’s an expression of your unique calling, then click here to apply for a free, no obligation Clarity Call.

Photo Credit: Ben Mortimer // CC