I have Creative A.D.D. I have so many interests, passions, and business ideas that I cannot just settle in with just one. I constantly have at least 10 different tabs open, will read half an article or podcast and then jump to the next one and the next one. I’ll start drafting a business plan and then decide I just need to map out my values and big picture goals before I can finish that, but then don’t come back to it. I realize a large part of this is probably due to that extra appendage my generation has grown: our phones, constantly glued to our palms, scrolling, consuming, scrolling, consuming, onto the next thing. If any of this sounds familiar to you and think you might have a case of Creative A.D.D. too, maybe you’ll agree with me that it’s more than just a Millennial thing.
For me, my Creative A.D.D. stems from 3 deeper issues: perfectionism, self-worth derived from work/achievement, and having several interests that don’t lend to a more conventional career path.
I used to think being a perfectionist was a good thing. Teacher’s pet, honor roll, well-liked – who wouldn’t want those labels? But perfectionism is exhausting and at its core is just another form of procrastination. Waiting for the perfect moment to start that project, your business, join a dance class – there will never be a perfect moment, waiting for perfection is you just getting in your own way. Where Creative A.D.D. comes in is rather than letting yourself go for it, letting it be messy or God forbid, failing, you jump from one idea to the next, planning, planning, planning the perfect idea, but then never taking the leap of faith you eventually need to do anything bold. Perfectionism has got to go in order for creativity to thrive.
This goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism, but since grade school, I’ve always derived my self-worth from work and achievement. It was hard to recognize this in school, since you are rewarded and recognized for your achievements, and so much of your identity (or at least mine) came from which AP classes you took and getting the lead in the school musical. For achievement-seekers, like me, the working world quickly gets frustrating and unfulfilling. We want the gold star, the A+ for all our hard work. Without the gold star, we (I) question our identity and what the point of everything is. We go looking for the next thing that will fulfill that sense of achievement and make us feel good about ourselves again, until it turns into a cycle of looking for the next best thing that we think will define us (that’s the Creative A.D.D. again).
For some of us, we aren’t meant to just do one thing. We have so many interests (food, weddings, working out, travel, entrepreneurship, personal development – mine for example) that we don’t know what to do with them. Because the conventional path is to go to school, pick a major, get a job in an industry that easily fits into a check-able box, we do the same, but never really feel like we find our niche. That’s because maybe there just isn’t one niche for us. We live for the thrill of learning, the curiosity of meeting new people and gaining new experiences – or that’s me at least. This is where the seemingly negative connotation of Creative A.D.D. can get turned on its head if you let it. How could having many different interests possibly be a bad thing? How could not fitting into a check-able box when it comes to your job be a negative? Right, it’s not, but because it’s not the norm, we let ourselves feel like everyone else has got it together but me.
Well I’m learning that most people don’t have it together. We’re all just figuring it out as we go. Faking it til we make it. So whether you’re a recovering perfectionist, achievement-seeker, or Renaissance woman of many talents & interests, I think the best thing we can do is to let it be. Sit in quiet (or a noisy coffee shop if that’s your jam) and stop thinking about. Stop searching for the perfect idea, the next gold star, the one true calling that you just can’t find. If given time and space, you’ll probably find that one true calling is actually a conglomeration of many things, and it may not be perfect on paper, but it will be yours, and when it is truly you and yours, those gold stars won’t matter so much anymore. Or least, that’s how I’m trying to look at it.
P.S. I highly recommend this TEDx talk by Emilie Wapnick on “why some of us don’t have one true calling” – she totally inspired my post today.