Is it possible to have two loves, both equally cherished, without jealousy?
In our society, this is illegal. You can only have one (legal) love. But what about other pursuits, like our work? I think being professionally polygamous is often equally frowned upon. We’re supposed to have one specialty. One niche. And perhaps a micro-niche on top of that.
I think this type of narrowly defined niching leads to serious imbalance because in reality, all things are interconnected.
I’ve decided to be polygamous in my career, having commitments to multiple loves.
Professionally, I write about and create products related to self development (my first love). And now I’ve started to pursue writing about bodyweight exercise and am in the process of creating a product to help people become fit without going to the gym (my second love).
I love both of these paths equally. In fact, I don’t see them as necessarily separate and distinct. They are simply different expressions of my purpose.
Within my personal, non-business pursuits, I also have two marriages: one to music and the other to martial arts. So far, they’re both okay with that, and no jealous brawls have ensued.
A lot of people will tell you that that’s not okay. You have to be hyper-focused, they say. You have to make a choice. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. (To be honest, I’ve never understood this saying. What’s the point of having cake without eating it?)
I think that’s bullshit. You can find a way to integrate your various interests, without any one of them getting jealous. But it requires a serious paradigm-shift. One that moves from separation and exclusivity to integration and unity. It’s about finding the connections and similarities, not simply the differences and disparate qualities.
This is important if you want to learn the art of…
Living two lives in one
Unsuspecting journalist by day, dashing superhero by night. That would be cool, but not exactly what I’m talking about here.
If you want to master the art of living two lives in one, you must embrace the path of the polymath, the person that excels at many things. Not just a jack of all trades and master of none, but a master of many pursuits. Someone who seems to excel at so many things that it almost seems like she has superhuman powers.
I’ve been experimenting with a way to do this that anyone can learn from. It’s a habit called embedding.
This is a concept I learned from gymnastics strength training. It’s not uncommon for gymnasts to embed different types of training within one workout. A simple bodyweight movement on the rings could incorporate dynamic active flexibility, maximal strength training, skill development, balance, coordination, and mental (focus) training, all at the same time. It’s these types of movements that are incredibly powerful when it comes to their practice because they’re able to incorporate many different types of training at once. Since a gymnast needs to develop a large number of physical proficiencies, embedded training is highly optimal.
Borrowing from gymnastic training, I’ve started incorporating this approach in my personal fitness, but I’ve also found that it can be applied elsewhere.
One way I’ve done this is with hiking. If my wife and I go on a hike together that incorporates or embeds a lot of other things at the same time. We’re not just exercising together, we’re spending quality time together, and getting in touch with nature. Say we’re both interested in learning a new language; we could utilize that time to practice together, embedding yet another activity. If I’m hiking alone, I can embed walking meditation as well.
Another way to incorporate embedding is by using triggers. Every time I open up WordPress to start writing, I create a mental trigger to remind myself to be mindful while I write. After a few weeks of practicing this, it starts to become automatic. Now, I’ve just embedded mindfulness practice as a part of my writing.
These are just two opportunities for using action more meaningfully and being more effective. The more you explore this concept, the more you’ll find ways to make use of it.
If you look closely, you’ll find that one benefit of pursuing multiple interests is…
Often the greatest innovations come from the most unexpected intersections. The more you can find these uncommon connections within the various loves or arts you practice, the more you’ll find that doing one benefits the other.
For example, in martial arts I’ve learned that playing the drums has given me an advantage in knowing the importance of rhythm. Because I know the differences in timing, cadence, and broken rhythm, it’s been easier for me to incorporate this awareness when sparring. I’m able to incorporate this experience to make me a better martial artist. Practicing self-development has also made me a better martial artist, because I know the importance of going with myself and self-empowerment. Reversely, martial arts has improved my practice of self-development by giving me a physical, palpable measurement of how well I am staying present and conscious.
I could continue illustrating the different ways the paths I’ve chosen are interrelated. There are many obvious connections, but also a lot of uncommon connections and benefits that can be found when a closer look is taken.
What all of this comes to down to is…
The importance of integration
The polygamous (or polymath) life is about integration. Without it, rifts and divisions will poison the well. This whole idea ultimately leads to integration and breaking down the boundaries between the different activities in our lives. Sure, we could aim for balance between work and life, but I think it’s better to obliterate that distinction entirely. They should be one and the same.
Our lives aren’t meant to be compartmentalized, neatly divided portions of time allocated to specific isolated activities. Life isn’t meant to be lead in a linear way like that.
I think the more we can break down those boundaries, embed and integrate the various, & seemingly disparate aspects of our lives, the more we can find freedom.
Our work shouldn’t have to be distinct from our recreation. Our health shouldn’t be seen as separate from our relationships. Our passions shouldn’t be separate from our contribution.
Whenever we do one thing, we do many. The goal of life then is not to see how well you can partition, label and taxonomize. That leads to separation, disparity, disconnection and suffering.
The aim of the master of life is to galvanize, unify and integrate to the point where you can no longer tell the difference between one pursuit and the next.
photo courtesy of eqqman