Are you so excited by life and all it has to offer, that the idea of having to give up any of your interests would feel like you’d just been handed a prison sentence?
Do you mourn the parts of you that have been squelched, oppressed, and pushed aside because your inner film critic told you that you couldn’t possibly pursue so many things and still be successful?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, your concerns can stop right here, right now, because I’m about to hand you your get-out-of-jail-free card.
Not only is there nothing wrong with you, but you may just be one of the extremely fortunate, multi-talented, modern-day renaissance women who’s simply been sold a bill of goods by a society that’s lost sight of some pretty amazing qualities that have been shared by some pretty amazing people. And directed in the right way, your renaissance personality could completely liberate you from a life you feel stuck in to live a life that you star in.
As children we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up. As adults, we’re asked what we do for a living. We’re often seen as one-dimensional beings, put on this earth to do one thing. We’re living in a time that values the specialist, and it’s believed that in order to be that specialist, we have to focus on one subject, otherwise we’re dabblers, dilettantes, jacks-of-all trades and master’s of none. These labels leave us feeling ashamed of ourselves for being… well… ourselves— our authentic, multi-demensional selves.
Suppressing this natural way of being causes a lot of suffering, squashes creativity, and can even prevent us from becoming an expert at anything.
My Renaissance Personality
I am a writer, yoga instructor, career and life story coach, speaker, and consultant. Do I “dabble” in any of these things? No. In fact I’ve done them all well enough to even pick up a few awards along the way. And there’s no greater reward than the one you get from helping someone find inner peace. I don’t just do these things for a living. I do them for a life—a life that I love.
But I wasn’t always comfortable having such an array of professions. I often felt like there must be something wrong with me, because I didn’t know what my thing was—you know, that thing you tell people at cocktail parties when they ask you what you do. I envied those who knew (or at least seemed to). My inner film critic would tell me I wasn’t a “real” yoga instructor, a “real” trainer, a “real” coach, or a “real” writer, even though I was doing all of these things and doing them well. That’s when one of my own coaches pointed out that I wasn’t a jack-of-all trades, master of none (an expression I’ve come to dislike immensely), but rather, I was eclectic—a renaissance woman. I’ve come to accept and appreciate that I’ve always been a seeker. Seeking is my thing, and it’s served me quite well. Over the years, whenever I focused on things outside of my primary job, I landed several promotions. In fact, having interests outside of work is one of eight ways to advance in your career.
One of my favorite Steve Jobs’ quotes is this: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
I believe there is a reason why we are drawn to certain things. If you are a seeker—seek. It’s in the search for your one thing that you will discover your purpose and craft a life that you love.
Learning from History
We all know the shape our country and our planet is in, and it didn’t get here by accident. We are living in the land of should, where subtle and not-so-subtle messages tell us what we should be doing, how we should behave, and what we should believe. We need to get back to living in the space of possibility and invention. It’s time for modern-day renaissance men and women to honor their passions and thirst for knowledge, because in doing so, we can transform our world.
Think of some of the people who contributed great things to humanity back when people were admired for their multi-faceted personalities. Ben Franklin was a politician, writer, musician, scientist and inventor. Leonardo DaVinci was an inventor, painter, philosopher, poet, architect, engineer, physician, writer, stage designer, theologist, astronomer, actor, singer, court jester and more. These men were known for being a masters of all the fields they were part of.
By honoring their thirst for knowledge and passion for life, they were able to see things from different, more holistic perspectives. By doing everything that interested them, they were able to do all of them well. They were renaissance men, or Polymaths.
Some famous modern-day renaissance men and women include:
• Oprah Winfrey—Producer, Talk Show Host, Entrepreneur, Actor
• Jane Fonda –actress, fitness instructor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist
• Angelina Jolie – actress, director, Goodwill Ambassador, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mother
• Robin Williams—comedian, actor, philanthropist
• Ben Stein—author of several books on life and finance, quiz-show host, White House speechwriter, columnist, trial lawyer, law school professor, scriptwriter, and novelist
• Ted Turner– environmentalist, entrepreneur, philanthropist, media mogul (received Renaissance Man of the Year award from the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and its U.S. chapter)
Does being a modern-day renaissance woman mean you have multiple professions and jobs? Not necessarily. The point is, you love variety and thrive on the freedom and diversity of your work. As a renaissance woman, you love learning. You’re flexible and tend to adapt to change more easily than others. Barbara Sher called us scanners. Scanners may be teachers, freelance writers, news reporters, talk-show hosts, librarians, filmmakers, salespeople, and managers. All of these roles have something in common: they are influential. You may be able to channel all your loves into meaningful work that can be defined in one title, or maybe not. But by indulging your natural urge to seek, learn, explore, scan, and honor your zest for life, a common theme may emerge.
How about you? Do you think you may be a modern-day renaissance woman? You don’t have to earn a living at all of your interests to qualify. And they don’t have to be glamorous. It’s whatever makes your heart sing that matters. If you suspect you are a modern-day renaissance woman, you may be wondering how to squeeze it all in. Afterall, we only have 24 hours in a day, just like everybody else. Check out Five P’s to Crafting an Eclectic Career for some ideas.
Some people grow up knowing exactly what they want to do. They pursue it with a passion and their lives follow nicely along that path (with a few detours along the way). Many of us are seekers. It’s through our continual exploration and willingness to walk down different roads that we find ourselves. Embracing our renaissance personalities can make us incredibly happy, and joy has a tendency to overshadow any notion that we should care what other people think about our eclectic approach to work, so embrace this incredibly powerful and creative part of yourself. The world needs you!
7 Signs You May be a Modern-Day Renaissance Woman
1. You still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up—not because nothing interests you, but because so many things interest you.
2. You can think of at least three ways to earn a living, and the idea of having to choose one feels suffocating to you. You love the idea of having multiple streams of income.
3. You’ve worried you may be a Jack-of-all-Trades, even though you’ve developed a level of mastery in many or even all of your areas of interest. You sometimes feel like a fraud.
4. You’ve felt ashamed about your inability to choose one thing, lest you’d appear scattered or unfocused.
5. You’re a natural multi-tasker. You’d think nothing of doing one thing from nine to noon, another from one to three, and a third from four to six. You love variety in your work.
6. You want more freedom. You gave up something you enjoyed because your full-time job and personal responsibilities left no room in your life to pursue it. Yet, it’s always on your mind—a subtle, but ever-present reminder that makes you think it’s not meant to be forgotten.
7. You’ve often wondered if have ADD. In fact you’d almost welcome the diagnosis because it would explain why you can’t pick something. The trouble is, you really don’t have a problem with focus. You generally finish what you set out to do.