Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling

June 22, 2016 Katharina Lochner

True calling

There are Specialists and There are Multipotentialites

The other day a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she had just passed her final medical exam and therefore realised her lifelong dream of becoming a medical doctor. This reminded me of many people out there that I truly admire for pursuing a lifelong dream by following a certain career or hobby. I am not one of these people. At the age of five I would never have guessed that I would be an industrial organisational psychologist. I love my job, but it is nothing that I have been dreaming of for decades. Also when it comes to hobbies I tend to dive into something for a limited period of time and then to pursue something else. Therefore the TED Talk by Emilie Wapnick resonated with me – she tells exactly the same story.

She says there is nothing wrong with having many interests. However, we grow up differently, it is culture that shapes our idea of having to choose and to focus on one thing. She calls it the idea of destiny or of one true calling that we have on earth, which we have to find and devote our lives to. However, Ms Wapnick argues that it does not necessarily have to be like this. Rather, you can also be what she calls a ‘Multipotentialite’, someone who has many interests and creative pursuits.

She names three ‘Multipotentialite Super Powers’:

  • Idea synthesis: They have the ability to combine two or more fields and to create something new at the intersection. This is where innovation happens!
  • Rapid learning: When they become interested in something they work hard. They also have been new to so many things in the past that they are pretty quick at getting into them, also since many learned skills are transferrable across disciplines. Therefore they are also less scared of trying something new.
  • Adaptability: This is the ability to morph into everything you need to be in a certain given situation. This is one of the most important skills in the 21st century, where the world is changing so quickly.

She comes to the conclusion that both types, specialists and multipotentialites, should embrace who they are, and that collaboration between them can be extremely fruitful.

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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