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dabble_things

Hello everybody, welcome to episode 224 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is on whether or not you should dabble in different endeavors.

I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com

Listen to Greg narrate this post on whether to dabble in endeavors or focus on one thing on Episode 224 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.

I’m really thankful to all of you for being here today for what we came here to do – give some advice. We’ve got a question on the slab that I like as I find myself feeling sorta thoughtful today. Not thoughtful in the sense of doing thoughtful things for people, God no, but thoughtful in terms of questioning things deeply. And this question lends itself to it. Our asker if on unsure about whether it is good or bad to live a life full of dabbling versus a life full of focus. We’ve looked at this a bit before, but this one has a different twist. Let’s check it out…

QUESTION: “I’ve been saddling on the fence about my tendency to dabble in many endeavors and contemplating on whether it is indeed a good or bad thing. Should I be more concentrated and less saturated whilst spreading myself a bit too thin, so to speak? I want to do so much, and I like so much, but that's at the expense of vigilantly focusing and zooming in on one endeavor. What should I do?”

Achievement vs. Virtue

Nicely written. I hope poetry is one of those interests. Thanks for sending this one in, asker. Let’s see what we can do here.

It’s an interesting question to me because, on a philosophical level, I find it very hard to think of how it could be inherently wrong to have a lot of interests and dabble in a lot of different things. If anything, it runs the risk of being impractical, but that’s different from being wrong and I’ll speak more on that in a little bit.

But as far as I can see, for someone to disagree with that, they’d be well-conditioned to think that life isn’t worth living if you’re not busy mastering something. Thus, one’s worth would be level with their achievements and I hope most would agree that it’s very unhealthy to value achievement over character or virtue.

The Guilt with Not Being a High Achiever

I think a lot of people would agree with this when I say it, but have a hard time living it, and that’s really unfortunate. It seems to be getting more common for people, youngsters especially, to think less of themselves if they aren’t excellent at something or stand out in such a way that’s very visibly obvious to the masses.

I’m not sure the self-help industry is doing any favors in this regard, either. With all the emphasis these days on what steps you can take to become successful and what not, there’s bound to be an increased sense of guilt for not being a high achiever.

To me, I don’t see the logic in that. But what do you think? When you cut out all that commentary, who says life is only worth living if you master something?

That’s a question you’re going to have to answer for yourself if you want to get to the bottom of this predicament.

The Lifestyle You've Been Living

The funny thing is, though, that your question itself insists that you fall very naturally into the position of wanting to do all different kinds of things and have all different types of interests. The values that I’m asking you to reflect on are pretty clear to me already, so I find myself wondering why it is that now you’re all of a sudden second-guessing yourself.

Maybe it is the mounting societal pressure that I just referenced or maybe it’s something else. So I guess it’s worth it to ask yourself whether the lifestyle you’ve been living has led you astray in more ways that it’s yielded benefits. Definitely food for thought.

That all being said, while I don’t think there’s an innate problem with “dabbling in a lot of endeavors” as you put it, I do think there’s one scenario in which it’s worth it to at least put this into question (and, hey, maybe this is the point you’ve arrived at which is making you second-guess it).

I’m of course talking about what’s at risk depending on where these endeavors exist in your life. I do think it’s worth it to consider condensing your activities and your focus if your active participation in all of these things is interfering with other, important sources of meaning in your life.

The Sources of Meaning in Your Life

For example, are you booking so much of your time on these different interests of yours that it’s making you hard to spend time with your parents or significant other? Let alone your spouse or children?

That would be an issue, obviously, and would spiral into other questions about if you’re maybe using these activities to escape such things, or focusing too much on short term satisfaction and not making proper sacrifice, etc.

Another example would be if maybe all of these interests are topics that you’re studying in school or considering making careers out of. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this per say, but it’d only be worth it if you’re willing to take extra time to lock down on a major or don’t mind not having enough expertise in something that getting a job would be very difficult.

This type of scenario has actually been addressed a few times before on the show, most recently just a few weeks ago in episode 215. Definitely worth checking out for you.

The Lifestyle You've Been Living

So in summary, as you look deeper into this matter, I personally would not worry if you’re wondering whether or not it’s better to live a life in which you’ve mastered something. It doesn’t seem like you’ve lived that way so far and you’re not likely to change now barring a forced change which can come with rough terrain.

I have a hard time seeing the argument for why a life spent mastering something would somehow be intrinsically better than a life not having mastered something anyway. Mind you, I don’t think one is better than the other, but mastering something is only worth it if you have the passion driving you to do so anyway. And if you did, you wouldn’t be bothering with this question.

If, however, what’s really underneath this question is the fact that all of your activities are taking away from other sources of meaning in your life, that’s when it’d be worth your time to consider those losses now and what value they have long term. If it’s about picking a career path, you’ll probably wish some day that you just focused on one and made the rest into hobbies.

If it’s taking away from something important like family time, you ought to do some digging on what feelings you’re holding about your family that you may not have addressed.

These are just examples, of course, but the point is that you have to start measuring the true value of that which you’re missing out on, and whether or not it’s more important to you than the fun you’re having with all the time you’re spending on your interests.

Thanks again to the asker for sending this one in. I enjoyed this one, and hopefully it gave everyone a sense of direction when it comes to this type of stuff. Frankly, for someone who finds themselves in the latter situation of wanting to lessen their involvement in things for the sake of other meaningful parts of life, it would become a lot more long-winded and investigative of a journey. So if you, the asker, is feeling that way, or if any of you are feeling that way, you know where to find me. Shoot me an email with the specifics and we’ll see what we can do.

All done for now though, dear friends. Thanks a lot for being here with me today and each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s always a treat. I’ll catch you guys in the next one. See ya then.

Listen to Greg narrate this post on whether to dabble in endeavors or focus on one thing on Episode 224 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.

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Greg Audino

Greg Audino is a Rhode Island-born certified life coach, actor, and graduate of Goucher College. He is the host of the mental health podcast Optimal Living Advice and narrates dating, marriage, and parenting content over at Optimal Relationships Daily.
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