Managing Multiple Passions: Taking Charge of Your Life and Living at Choice

One of the hallmarks of creative success is having a positive can-do mindset and feeling great about the choices that you make because this makes you feel in charge of your life.  This can be quite a challenge for those with multiple passions. I recently explored the challenges of having multiple passions and how to push through the fears that often paralyze those who love a lot of different things and are afraid to make the “wrong” decision. 

There is another big challenge in managing multiple passions: deciding which one to focus on.  When you love a lot of different things, it is tempting to want to do everything.  However, that is simply not realistic. In my experience, people who do “everything” wind up defaulting on their commitments, jeopardizing their relationships, feeling overwhelmed and often harming their health.  And yet, if we love doing a lot of different things, we might land up feeling resentful if we have to put off doing something we love.

Managing multiple passions is a function of choosing the activities that advance your goals and make you feel great about your decisions.  So here are a few strategies that can help you to focus your efforts and manage those passions!

Suppose you are a musician who enjoys performing and also has a breakthrough creative idea. You are in the process of getting your doctorate and your thesis is an exposition of this creative idea.  You have created a series of workshops based on this new idea and have already presented a few of these workshops at the college level.  Your long-term goal is to teach at the university level and become an expert in this new creative field.  You are considering getting an education degree as well as the DMA.

You also love collaborating with other artists and have embarked on a multi-media project involving both musicians and video artists.   You have a part-time day job in order to pay your expenses.  You also want to have a family sometime in the next 5 years.

How do you decide which activities to focus on?

1.    Select Your Decision-Making Criteria

Start by asking yourself a series of questions about the various activities on your plate.

•    Which one is the easiest?
•    Which 0ne is the most exciting?
•    Which one would have the biggest positive impact on my life right now?
•    Which one would have the biggest impact on my future?
•    Which one feels right?
•    Which is the smartest decision?

When you answer these questions, you often will find out what really excites you and why.  It also helps to isolate any conflicts which you can then resolve in the next stage of the process.

In our musician’s example, here is how he might evaluate his options:
•    Which one is the easiest? 
Doing workshops because he already has created them.
•    Which 0ne is the most exciting?
Collaborations because he loves working with other people.
•    Which one would have the biggest positive impact on your life right now?
Finishing the doctorate because he needs it in order to get a university teaching job
•    Which one would have the biggest impact on your future?
Not sure!  His heart is in the collaborations and his head tells him that he needs that doctorate!
•    Which one feels right?
Tie between the collaborations and the workshops.
•    Which is the smartest decision?
Keep the day job and finish the doctorate.
So there is a conflict between the “smart” decision—keeping the day job and finishing the doctorate and the exciting, easy and fun projects—the collaborations and the workshops.

2.    Examine your choices in light of your long-term goals, values and strengths

To winnow down the choices, examine them in light of your long-term goals. If you have done a good job in setting inspirational goals, you will have taken into account your values and your strengths. 
Often, values and strengths can tell you a lot about what is most important to you.

In the case of our musician, his long-term goal is to teach and publish cutting-edge work, combined with interesting creative collaborations.  This goal reflects values around achievement, relationships and creativity. The strengths of this particular musician are leadership skills in making things happen, relationship building skills and enormous intellectual power and creativity.

He decides that the best way for him to achieve these goals is to finish the doctorate, which will put him in a better position to get a university teaching job. Moreover, the workshops relate to his thesis so they can provide more content for his research. 

That means that he will finish his thesis, do a few workshops and hold off on the collaborative projects.  He also needs to keep the day job.

3.    Use your intuition

I always advocate using the “gut” check when making decisions.  Our musician will need to feel good about his decision to put off working with his friends and collaborators on the performance project if he wants to feel that he living at choice.

By deciding to wait until after he finishes his doctorate before he commits to his collaboration, our musician may feel that he is missing the part of his that values building relationships and being a leader.  However, the workshops give him an opportunity to use his relationship strengths as well as feel like a leader.  By reminding himself of this, it can help to make the decision feel better.

And he feels okay about putting off having a family because he wants to establish himself first.

4.    Evaluate your choices

Once you decide to commit to a particular path, evaluate your choices.  One great way to do this is by journaling.  Good questions to ask are:
•    How do I feel doing a particular activity? 
•    What do I enjoy most about my work? 
•    What values am I honoring? 
•    What strengths am I using? 
•    What is missing?
•    When can I add them back in? 
•    What do I daydream about?

You can also keep a success journal to remind you of what works and why.  Then, when you feel stuck, you can consult your journal to remind you of what you are like at success.

Remember that when you have opted to prioritize one set of activities over another,  you have made a choice.  And that puts you in the driver’s seat because you are free to make new choices when the time is right.  By evaluating your choices, you will see what is working and what is missing.  And you will know when it is time to move on. 

By feeling that you have choices, you can feel in charge of your life.  And that is an essential element of being a successful creative person!