Margaret Lobenstine is the author of the Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One. She writes from experience; she has coached hundreds of clients who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives, their careers, or their education. For years, many people with varied interests have looked at their mindset as a drawback; they were told that they were scattered, shallow, or not serious. Some wondered if they had attention disorders.
Finally, Lobenstine found a way to make people feel good about their curiosity and varied interests. She developed the term Renaissance Soul, based on the concept of the Renaissance Man. In case that’s a new term for you, the definition of a Renaissance Man (or Woman) is a person who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences. Think Benjamin Franklin or Leonardo Da Vinci. Clients started responding warmly to the idea of being special (instead of unfocused), and Lobenstine developed coaching to help people build fulfilling lives based on many interests.
The most challenging part of having several interests (and assumedly, not being a genius in any one category) is finding a way to make a living following your passion – or passions. One of Lobenstine’s coaching principles is the idea that you don’t have to find a job that matches your passion – it’s okay to have a job that just pays the bills. I also use this when coaching jobseekers; I believe that you need some activities that earn a decent living, some activities that challenge your intellect, and some activities that feed your soul. They don’t all have to happen in the same space.
Lobenstine calls employment that pays the bills having a J-O-B. It’s important, she writes, to be able to pay the bills and have a stable and comfortable life. You can also have a job that gets you close to your passion at the same time. Let’s say you’re fascinated by the theater, but don’t have the right stuff to make your living as an actor. You have to have a job to support yourself, but you’re working on writing a play every evening after work. Lobenstine says you can look for a job that connects you to actors or performances. You could work for the local theater company (in marketing, accounting, or as an usher – whatever your day job skill set supports.) You could work for a talent agency or for a company that does lighting or sound. You could also volunteer on weekends or take a part time job at the theater. You get the point.
Do you have a passion for travel or sports? Working for an airline or at the stadium gets you discounted tickets. Are you a budding food writer? Restaurants and caterers are always hiring.
What doesn’t work is having a big, important day job that doesn’t feed your passion and requires a huge commitment of time and energy. You won’t have anything left over for your varied interests, and that can lead to burn out.
So this kind of change requires thoughtful planning. Some people choose to take on a comfortable but not challenging job and save their passion and intellectual firepower for their interests. Some people take on a couple of part time jobs that help them get closer to the things that interest them. And some simply choose career paths that take them where their heart leads; three years as a coach to inner city kids followed by five years working on an archeological dig in Asia.
The key to feeling satisfied with your J-O-B is in how you describe what you do. When someone asks, do you say, “I work at a boring office doing filing?” Or do you say, “I work in an office to pay the bills, but I’m working on my first screenplay every evening.” It took me years to describe myself as a writer, since that wasn’t what paid the bills. But my satisfaction and joy in life tripled when I started describing myself as a writer and blogger first, and a PR professional second.