This week I watched the DVD of the BBC One documentary The Young Ones. It follows an experiment in which six famous British seniors live in an environment which simulates 1975 to see whether re-living your youth can make you young again. The theory is  that being reminded of what they used to be like would increase their physical and mental well-being.

It was fascinating to watch the transformation of the participants, many of whom struggled with limited mobility and a reduced capacity to perform everyday tasks. In the beginning they had a lot of beliefs about what they couldn’t do because they were too old or frail. However as the week progressed each of them developed a renewed vitality and confidence.

Profession Ellen Langer who was the consultant for the study, which also she ran for the first time 30 years earlier, contends that the way that we age isn’t inevitable. It seems that we risk limiting our possibilities in later life by living up to social expectations of what ageing means. One area where this was evident was in rehabilitation from illness and injury. A number of the participants who’d had strokes or falls were tentative in walking and performing household tasks. However with encouragement, they were able to achieve a much better recovery and take on activities and hobbies they thought were behind them in a very short space of time.

Although living in a 70s house and wearing 70s clothes may have had an impact, it seemed like one of the biggest benefits of the study came from being in a stimulating environment. The participants had great fun joking with each other which lifted everyone’s spirits. They played a big part in the success of the experiment by encouraging one another to achieve their goals for the week. Many of them had been missing the stimulation of their working lives and it was clear that the free time and solitude we crave when we work full time can become a pitfall later in life if it translates to lack of purpose and isolation.

I am glad I saw this documentary in my early 50’s because it challenged me to rethink my attitude to what I am capable of. It made me aware that I need to get more serious about maintaining my fitness and flexibility while I am still able to do so, and nip the “I’m to old for that” talk in the bud. The participants in the study improved very quickly, which means that they were capable of more than they thought they were all along.

Putting what I have learned from this documentary into practice requires finding a balance so that I respect my genuine limitations, without holding myself back unnecessarily. This also applies in my dealings with others, particularly the seniors in my life. While its true that we may be more capable than we think we are, people who are not used to being challenged to extend themselves find it very confronting if they pushed to do things for themselves. They can feel that they are being bullied, disrepected, or abandoned which can be very discouraging. Hopefully I can fulfill the role of encourager and motivator, without turning into commando boot camp trainer.


I have decided its time to stretch myself. Not just in figuratively, in mind and spirit, which I have already been doing. I need to stretch my actual body which is feeling left behind.

The desire to do something physical flows from two observations. I am gaining weight, and feel as supple as a block of wood. My first thought was to fight against the increase in weight by going to a gym and banishing it with exercise, but something is holding me back. You see I am at a stage of life when women’s bodies change and a tendency to gain weight at the hips often results. Rather than declare war on weight, my aim is to embrace health and wellbeing and see where this change takes me.

My lack of balance and flexibility is a bigger concern. I want to protect myself from injury and feel at ease in my body. I needed a solution that was wholistic and respectful of my bodies changing needs. Rather than go to the gym at the end of my street, I am catching the train a few stations south to an Iyengar Yoga School.

I have done Iyengar Yoga before. It’s very precise in it’s instructions. It’s all about awareness. It uses the body as a vehicle to learn how to extend yourself, how to grow in skill and meet challenges. That’s the kind of approach that I need. I am moving away from the mainstream culture towards alternative ways of living and behaving. I am seeking out ways of doing things that foster balance and harmony.

After 10 days I am happy to report a noticeable change in my body. Thanks to yoga it now feels like a block of wood with wiggly toes. Hopefully the rest of my body will be similarly liberated in due course.

This morning I was in the shower, running the warm water over my hair in readiness to apply the shampoo when I remembered that I was going to clean the shower, not have a shower. I was going to have a shower after it was clean, but I guess I just felt like getting clean myself, and routine kicked in.

So I am in the shower thinking about all the blog posts I could write and discover that I am applying Conditioner to my hair, but I don’t remember using the Shampoo. Did I shampoo and forget, or just skip a step? Too late now. This happens now and then. My mind gets so full of what I am going to do next I can’t remember what I am doing now. I’m not crazy, I just have scanner overload.

The reason for this particular episode of overload is my plan to read the work of four authors on the topic managing multiple interests. Having taken a good look at the work of Emily Wapnick and Margaret Lobenstine I am now onto Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose: Use All of Your Interests, Passions and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams. I could only get this book in paperback so I have been watching the letterbox with anticipation, afraid that my excitement about studying scanners would disappear before the book arrived. (This kind of thing has happened before!)

Barbara Sher coined the term “Scanner” to refer to people who have “multi-talented brains”. She tells those of us who have this trait “your unique type of mind does not zero in on a single interest but scans the horizon, eager to explore everything you see.” The purpose of the book is to help scanners recognise the value of their way of operating, understand their scanning type, and offer strategies for designing a life that works with this multi-dimensional characteristic, rather than against it.

I am a cyclical scanner who likes to delve deeply into topics until I feel satisfied, then leave them for a while. Often I will return to a theme, or something adjacent to it, so that I do have a sense of knowledge building and deepening over time. Having chosen to learn about this phenomenon of scanning etc and make it one of my four Focal Points, I am now gobbling up as much as I can find on the subject.

This desire to gobble and rush is probably a sign of scanner over-stimulation, which can lead to scanner overload. Rather than enjoying my reading at a leisurely pace as usual, I want to strip the book of its contents as quickly as possible. If it was possible to read intravenously, I would. Its great to be excited about something, but at the same time, I know the warning signs that I am getting would up. Apart from forgetting what I am doing while I am doing it, I also have eye strain from too much reading, and a sore arm from typing too intensely. It feels like my body simply can’t keep pace with my mind, which is now in overdrive. These are tell tale signs that I need to take a breath and slow down.

I feel pleased that I have been able to find literature about my learning style which makes sense of a lot of the things that have puzzled me about myself. What is likely to happen is that I will read the work of these four authors, and talk a lot about them. Then I will stop, possibly suddenly, and integrate and make use of the most relevant aspects of what I have taken in.

In the meantime, I will be working out how to be over-excited, full of beans, jumping about and loving life without causing myself a scanner-style occupational injury.

Note to Self: Breathe; Stretch; Meditate; Rotate tasks; Take Frequent Breaks; Mix in Physical Activity.

I am enjoying reading The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Just Pick One by Margaret Lobenstine. The book is for people who have multiple interests and talents which they enjoy pursuing at the same time, or in succession, and feel constrained by the expectation that they will follow one long term life path. They may find it difficult to solve the question of how to maintain all their interests while earning a decent livelihood without “starting from scratch” with every change of direction.

I can definitely relate to the description of the personality traits of the Renaissance Soul. Having been a business process analyst working on a how to make use of a computer system for 8 years I craved a dramatic change, which led to me quitting my secure job last year. Having said that, there was a lot that I loved about that job. It was intellectually challenging and offered a fair degree of variety and autonomy. It gave my analytical mind a good workout but after 8  years I’d had enough. My analytical mind was over-stretched, while other aspects of my personality were being drowned out by all the logical left-brained complexity.

The other day when I was at a talk for professional organisers there was a demonstration of a customer relationship database. I must confess I felt deeply nostalgic for the student management database I used to work on. Seeing all those fields and tabs and thinking about all the data they could capture got me excited. At the same time I was thinking I must be nuts to be getting all fired up over a  relational database. Whats was that about?

Learning about Renaissance Souls (also known as Multi-potentialites or Scanners) has helped me to understand that I have the capacity to be very analytical, but also to be very creative and spiritual. One ability does not exclude the other, and I need to explore both. Having allowed myself to explore reading, writing, photography, and other interests for over a year I am now able to feel the excitement of working with a well designed database again.

In The Renaissance Soul Margaret Lobenstine suggests that Renaissance Souls can make a life of many choices more ordered and manageable by choosing four Focal Points to work with at any given time. This involves listing all the things that you are interested in and picking just four to be the focus of attention for the time being. How long any item remains on that list can vary, depending on how long it demands attention or sustains interest. This strategy allows progress on a few key areas without committing to them forever; and it acknowledges that other options which are on the back burner are not lost because can be prioritised at a later stage.

This method is similar to what I have been doing over the last year, although its more structured and conscious than my approach. I can see the benefit of working on something for a set period then swapping that out, and bringing something else in.  As a trial run I have identified four focus points for a two week period:

1. Working Towards the Federal Election

2. Preparing my Tax Return

3. Writing this Blog

4. Researching Renaissance Souls/Multi-Potentialites/Scanners.

I set an initial time frame of two weeks because of the date of the election. Action on that point is urgent, and it can be swapped out when the Election is over. Making it a Focus Point helps be involved now, when it counts, knowing that it is a time limited commitment. It has also allowed me to say no another potential volunteering activity which is on at the same time.

Doing my tax is also a short term project and when it is done, I might swap in a budget review project. This means I am working towards financial management projects over time without getting overwhelmed by all the things I should be doing.

I am enjoying writing the blog as it helps me to clarify my ideas and build confidence in communicating them. It caters to my creative and introspective side. When I was not blogging, I did a lot of private journaling, but I find it difficult to maintain both. I can see myself swapping between the two rather than trying to maintain maximum output in both modes of writing all the time.

Researching the concept of Renaissance Souls is a priority because I think it will help me structure my life in such a way that I can continue to pursue my own interests and also make a living without feeling like I am short-changing myself on either count. I have a few books I want to read, but when I have got a grip on the guts of the topic I will probably move on to a different learning goal.

I am starting to get a glimpse of a modular approach to time management where I can take on projects that meet different needs and use a variety of skills for blocks of time. Each module builds towards one of my goals or a future module. Although there isn’t a Focus Point called “Make Money” or “Find Work” doing my tax and learning about Renaissance Souls are both building blocks towards those longer term goals. Eventually I hope to be able to swap in some money activities that contribute to my personal interests or goals to one more of the Focus Points.

Here I am writing again after a six week break from blogging, and also from reading blogs. I took some time out to do some deeper reading, quiet reflection and to work through a few things that needed my full attention. Its been a rewarding experience, and I am sure some of that journey inwards will inform future posts.

In the past few days I have been catching up with a few of my favourite blogs and stumbled across a fascinating interview with Emilie Wapnick on Joel Zaslofsky’s Smart and Simple Matters program. This has prompted me to start blogging again, so that I can share it with you.

Emilie has coined the word “multipotentialite” to describe people who have many interests and creative pursuits in life, and don’t want to choose between them. They are people with a high level of aptitude in a range of spheres, but prefer to be generalists, and pursue a number of interests at the same time, or in succession, rather than specialise in just one area.

This isn’t a new idea, people like Leonardo Da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin are the ultimate examples of people who have excelled across a wide range of spheres, rather than sticking to just one thing. Emilie Wapnick is bringing recognition to this phenomenon into a contemporary context. She is  allowing ordinary people to identify their wide ranging interests and reluctance to settle on one thing as a positive quality rather than a failing.

I have taken a quick look at Emilie’s website at Puttylike and was blown away by a wealth of posts describing me and the kinds of challenges I have faced. I had this strong sense of recognition and identification which is obviously shared by other people who have this generalist trait. Although I have made quite a bit of progress in being able to recognise and untangle many of the issues raised on the website, it was a relief to find out that I am not alone. I am in my 50’s and it would have been a big help if I could have known these things 20 or 30 years ago. I think there is a lot of potential that remains unrealised because multipotentialites have been unable to harness their wide-ranging interests and make sense of their lack of specific direction.

I loved the post called The Biggest Lie You’ve Ever Been Told which refers to The Question which is “what am I going to be when I grow up”. This May and September blog is about me pursuing this question, and given my age, it seems a little late to still be asking it. But what I am coming to understand, and what Emilie Wapnick is also saying, is that for some of us, this is the wrong question.

My experience of the past year is classic multi-potentialite behavior. Having left a full-time job I travelled, then returned home and explored a number of options and interests simultaneously. At one point I was maintaing three blogs and starting two businesses at the same time. Then quite suddenly, many of these interests faded and I stopped. This is typical of multi-potentialites, we develop a deep fascination for a topic, and pursue it in depth for a period of time, then quite suddenly reach a point of saturation, and feel the need to let it go. If we don’t let go, we become bored and restless, because our attention has moved away and what was once a pleasure with its own momentum becomes a hard slog. Oftentimes these interests than we have apparently gone cold on will resurface in a new way at a later date, or become the launching pad for a new direction.

Even the need to take a break from blogging is probably and expression of this multipotentialite quality. Its quite difficult for me to indicate in advance what I am going to do in terms of the structure and frequency of posts, and every so often I am going to need to take a break from writing altogether. I could discipline myself to be more consistent, but for the time being my priority is to explore what happens when I work with my natural tendencies, rather than trying to reign them in. Hopefully that keeps the writing fresh and relevant, even if it is sporadic.

Whats great about this new take on generalists like me is that it redefines these qualities as a strength, rather than as a lack of direction or consistency. The ability to take on a lot of information on a chosen field, integrate it quickly, and build links to other fields is a useful quality. The key is to understand this skill set, and find a way to make a living that accommodates it. This might mean finding a job that allows sufficient flexibility to encompass a wide range of interests and to move between them in a natural way; taking a part-time job that pays the bills but leaves enough time and energy to pursue one’s own interests outside of the job; or changing jobs with sufficient frequency to avoid boredom and inertia from setting in.

I’d love to hear whether this concept resonates with you. Do you recognise it in yourself or in others around you?

Its a while since my last post because I have been enjoying being quiet. Its nearly a year since my final day as a full-time employee, and in that time I have explored a lot of interests and options, including writing this blog. Its been a fascinating time, and I have enjoyed the journey, welcoming each unexpected twist and turn.

The latest twist, which I didn’t see coming, is that I am beginning to think that I may have retired. I didn’t think I was retiring when I left my job, and I have been exploring different money making options. None have really come to fruition, but thats OK.  If I live very simply I have enough to tide me over until my superannuation is available.

Accompanying this desire to be retired is the desire to be quiet and refective. The urge to write and take photos has subsided, and my mind wants to be quiet and still. I have loved blogging, but it does occupy a lot of space in the mind, and its a very outward activity. For a while, I am going to be going inward, being quiet, reading, journaling, reflecting, meditating, and paying attention to the world around me.

I don’t know what is going to happen next, as that will come out of the stillness. For now I need to let go of distractions and listen to the small quiet voice. In the meantime I may not be posting as often because I feel inclined to keep my thoughts private for now. I will write something if I feel the urge to share it, but I won’t be following a regular schedule.

I just wanted to let friends and regular readers know that I am fine, and still pursuing my journey of self discovery, even though I am not saying much just now. I feel content with where I am and have appreciated you reading and following along with me.



This week I have been feeling the need to cut back on ‘Self Help’ and ‘How To’ style reading, whether books or blogs. I need to reduce the level of input and work with what I already have. I know what to do, I just need to keep on with doing it.  What I do like to read is the personal stories of other people who are  getting on with it too, and creating their own unique lifestyles.

One task that has been on the back burner until this week is the Happy Music Project. Last year it was suggested that I listen to more music that makes me happy. You would think that would be easy to do, but I found it difficult to get into. I tend to operate more in the sphere of words and images, and don’t listen to a lot of music. This week I have made a small start and have been on the lookout for music that makes me smile.

At the risk of being uncool, I recommend you get your hands on the Readers Digest Wonderful World of Music For Children and put on Record 2 Side 1. This features guaranteed happy makers such as Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat, A Bushel and a Peck, and the Surry with the Fringe on Top.  Fun songs beautifully sung by an adult male choir. Great while doing the ironing. On a more adult vein, there is the Tom Jones compliationUnforgetable featuring Love is in the Air and Letter to Lucile. Great vocals for cleaning the bathroom. I see now that I am definitely am uncool. But thats the thing about happy music. Its light and fun and silly and makes you smile.

Since getting an iPad and discovering the blogosphere I have switched most of my reading time over to blog reading. However I feel the need for reading matter that is more detailed and weighty.  So another fun thing I am doing is reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. I mentioned this as a joke in a comment, but I do actually have it on the shelf, and decided to make a start. Its such a difference reading an old style novel full of detailed description.

Melville has a cheeky sense of humour and inventive turn of phrase. I thought I would pass on his very useful advice that you should not heat your bedroom in winter so that you can get the maximum enjoyment from snuggling under the blanket.

…have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.

(Moby Dick Chapter 11)

The ship has not yet sailed in my reading of Moby DIck but I will let you know how we get on in with travels. I enjoyed this post from SMART Living 365 titled Love to Travel – Love to Come Home by Kathy Gottberg. She talks about creating the kind of life you enjoy so that coming home from holidays is not met with dread. Heres a quick snippet:

What it comes down to is that my holidays are no longer escapes to take me away from my life—instead they are just alternate journeys of discovery and adventure…. no matter where my home is, no matter what is going on there, whenever I return I feel welcome and glad to be home.

I went around the world last year, but since returning I don’t really have itchy feet, because I am happy at home. I will probably travel again, but its not a burning need.

On a similar theme Minimalist Joshua Fields Millburn talks about Subtractive Creation in a post called A Well Edited Life. He uses the analogy of a sculptor removing excess stone or clay to reveal an artwork to talk about building a more meaningful life by removing things that are superfluous.

I loved this line from a recent post by Courtney Carver from Be More With Less on the topic Simplify Your Life and Quiet Your Mind:

leaning on simplicity eases the stress of the more complicated things

I have been drawing inspiration from all these sources, particularly leaning on simplicity, as I try to get myself out of a somewhat disastrous internet advertising arrangement that I undertook six weeks ago. I am being presented as a cleaner rather than a professional organiser, and can’t seem to find anyone in the company interested enough to either fix the ad or take it down.

In hindsight I can see that going with a large company for my internet advertising was a mistake. Given the problems I have had so far with calls and emails being ignored, I have decided to push for cancellation, rather than fixing the problem.  Although this means I have to start from scratch with my internet advertising, I don’t want to continue a business relationship with a company that could let me down so badly, and then see no urgency to fix their mistakes.

Solving this internet advertising problem is testing my capacity to keep things in perspective. It drives me crazy that I get no response to my questions and complaints. Nevertheless, I am fighting back for happiness and simplicity making sure that I take time to think, write and blog on constructive topics that represent the direction I want to be heading in.