Giftedness, Multipotentiality, and Your Fear of Losing Interest (FOLI)

photo courtesy of Alfred Aloushy, Unsplash

You’ve heard of FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a thing.

Well, if you have multipotentiality. Which you know you do. You may suffer from FOLI. Fear Of Losing Interest.

What is FOLI?

First, you have to understand multipotentiality. Does this describe you?

You have soooo many interests. Since you were a little tyke, you’ve been a ravenous learner.  Reading voraciously. Researching endlessly. Starving for new ideas. Debating with anyone who was available. Captivated by complexity. Thrilled by the thesaurus. Curious about life, the universe, and everything.

You would dive into your latest passion. With your heart and soul. For weeks you would eat and breathe whatever it was. Dinosaurs. The solar system. Butterflies. Jane Austen. Elvis. Then, suddenly, one day it was over. You were satiated. Done. And the next interest would appear and you’d be off again. Until you were done. And onto the next.

Some of you would be into several things at once. You would be exploring complex guitar strumming patterns, studying Latin, designing your dream house, writing a novel, learning computer coding, knitting gifts for friends, watching neuroscience videos in your second language, and so on.

In either form, this is multipotentiality. Misunderstood by relatives, teachers, friends, and you. Especially when it means that you are in college for four extra years because you keep changing your major. Or when you change jobs every three years because you’re no longer interested once you master the skills required. Or when you think that you’re lazy because it looks like you can’t focus or that you never finish anything.

But if this is you, you’re not alone:

From a reader, who says she isn’t gifted: “I write, paint, model figures with clay, and draw. I’m currently teaching myself Chinese (because I’m obsessed with their history and literature). I taught myself English, French and Portuguese. Moreover, I learned the Greek, Russian and Katakana/Hiragana alphabets. And I’m currently learning how to play the Piano (I have composed some simple pieces in the two weeks that I’ve been learning…mathematics, economics…”

From another reader: “…music, drama, literature, art, math, sociology, neuropsychology, architecture, accoustics, geology, geography, history (but only the stories, not all the names and dates!), languages (oh, all the languages! But not the grammar, please, and not all that political stuff, just the languages in use), some psychology (if only to pick apart some really strange theories and practices, but there are some interesting bits, too) and… So many things to learn!”

How, then, does this relate to FOLI? Fear of Losing Interest?

Two possible scenarios: 1. You’re fascinated by so many things. But when you’ve learned all that you want on that topic, you lose interest. You move on. If you, then, interpret this to mean that you’re a lazy ne’er-do-well, it could create on-going anxiety, paralysis, and self-doubt. Why start something if you might abandon it in a year? Future employers might also be wary, when examining your multifaceted resume.

2. This might apply to partnerships. You may be reluctant to commit to an intimate relationship if you fear that there isn’t enough substance, intrigue, or complexity for long term fascination.

Disclaimer 1. If you’re losing motivation due to fears of failure (FOF)or success, (FOS), this is more likely perfectionism. Learn about unhealthy perfectionism. Or, you may not have learned how to struggle with a problem that you can’t solve easily, so you give up too quickly. These are important issues but they are not FOLI.

Disclaimer 2. If you’re avoiding relationships because of fears of intimacy, this is not FOLI. You might want to call your psychotherapist.

What can you do about FOLI?

  • Learn more about multipotentiality. Emilie Wapnick and Barbara Sher are good resources.
  • Some strategies: Understand that intellectual stimulation is like food/water to you. You also need variety and depth. Consider that you lose interest because you’ve learned what you wanted to learn. Now you want to learn something new. And that’s OK!  ~~ Take the time to evaluate the importance of sticking with something even if you’ve lost interest. There might be important longer term benefits or financial reasons.  ~~ Perhaps there are ways to add variety and depth.  ~~ It might be time to change jobs, careers, or majors.  ~~ See your multipotentiality as a strength.
  • Write about your FOLI in your journal. Have a dialogue with your Fear. Let it speak to you. What might be beneath the Fear? Is there something deeper going on? Were you bored in school so any loss of interest triggers memories of being trapped in a classroom? Were you told that you have to finish everything you start no matter what? Was your giftedness not recognized? Ask your Fear to help you. See if it has something to teach you. Ask it to step back so that you can make progress. What’s the worst that can happen if you do lose interest?

Your rainforest mind comes with fears. FOLI, FOF, and FOS. Maybe FOMO. Of course it does. You may feel pressure to always know all of the answers. To be fearless. After all, you’re so smart. But you and I both know that it can be pretty scary in that jungle of yours. So many choices. So many decisions. So much sensitivity. So much awareness. So much curiosity.

So much muchness. Multipotentiality. It’s a thing.


To my bloggEEs: Thank you to the clients and readers who inspired this post. Your comments continue to enrich my blog. Do you have FOLI? What’s it like for you? How do you deal with it? What other fears does your rainforest mind trigger? Thank you, as always, for being here. Much love to all of you.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

25 responses to “Giftedness, Multipotentiality, and Your Fear of Losing Interest (FOLI)”

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  1. Why Do We Need A Blog For Super Smart, Sensitive, Creative, and Empathetic (Gifted!) People? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] traveled many varied career paths, you have suspected you are mediocre at many things but expert at […]

  2. Louisse S Avatar
    Louisse S

    So i didnt know “multipotentialite” exists hahaha tbh i was searching if losing interest in doing what you once love is a sign of depression. Then i bumped to that word and funny how a side of me is opened. Knowing that this is normal. Reading the part “starting somethings and ended up not finishing it” is very me. I use to start things and feel so much about it but i never seem to finish these “projects” i love my profession as an Architect. But i also love other things. People around me, from family, relatives, friends, and officemates. They all tell me im so good about a lot of things. I can basically do things not related to my job description and apply it to my job. I love cooking, baking, writing, reading, drawing, painting. Watching a lot of documentaries and end up search for more about topics that intrigued me. Science especially biology fascinates me. Like a lot!! I feel relieved about this. I thought i was just being weird and inconsistent

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Glad you found us, Louisse S. Keep reading! There’s more…

  3. A Gifted Multipotentialite* in Chile | Your Rainforest Mind

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  4. Elaine Avatar

    I would be perfectly happy with switching from one topic to the next, wouldn’t it be the outside pressure, the way it is perceived by others and the money that it involves. I can’t stop taking new courses. I can’t help it. I can’t even count or remember how many I’ve taken already. I never regretted a single one of them, but I also didn’t turn any of them into something profitable, and I’ve come to realize that it scares my partner, who is always wondering what will be the “next thing”. So I’ve come to realize that I need to hold on to at least one permanent job so that I can pursue (and afford) all my other interests. But boy, I haven’t yet found one single job that I have liked. And I try hard to stick to them, but they all make me miserable.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      At least you know now, Elaine, that there isn’t anything wrong with you that you are a multipotentialite. But it can be helpful financially to keep one job while you engage in your many interests.

  5. xenmiller Avatar

    another most useful and most timely love letter, Paula. thank you! I’m 32 and the longest I’ve worked somewhere was 8 months – and that was part-time! I’ve also been fired 4 different times – including once for my sense of humour and once for lack of attention. these are the facts that sometimes keep me up ruminating in shame at night. but I’m starting to accept myself. I’m getting into filmmaking this year, starting way on the bottom as a volunteer production assistant and I love it. Learning everything I can and wearing all of the hats. as I like to say these days, it’s not so much attention deficit as it is passion abundance!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Passion abundance! Yes!! Thank you, xenmiller.

  6. Lianne Avatar

    Thank you for giving me a label for it Paula. Once I ran into a family friend who asked me, “So what are you doing NOW?” She who worked for the same employer from college to retirement LOL. Each of our paths would have driven the other crazy! I took Career Counseling in high school, and again in more depth in my early 20’s. The counselor hasd never seen such diversity in my test results! One of the potential careers I scored high in was education, and in all levels. He’d only ever seen 1 of the levels be stronger in interests and aptitude’s. I too have had to work through FOS & FOF, still a work in process.

  7. Billie Walden Avatar
    Billie Walden

    “Called” was chalked and autocorrect changed it.

  8. Billie Walden Avatar
    Billie Walden

    A very true description for me, except I will have to contemplate the designation of my feelings of inadequacy because I am “jack of all trades and master of none” as a fear. I’ve always just called it up as a shortcoming or being “genius smart” but without an area of savant-like focus. Do you ever hold webinars for HEPG adults to strengthen their balance of function in the world and expansion of mind?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’ve done some webinars in the past for Not on that topic, though. You could look at P. Susan Jackson’s work out of British Columbia or They run online classes and provide articles for HEPG adults. Thanks for being here, Billie.

  9. Stephanie Avatar

    I was just talking to friend about this! I changed careers a few years ago, and my new job has so many facets that I don’t feel like I’m missing out. However, I do wonder about the future. I’m not so much *afraid* of losing interest, I’m more resigned to the fact that it is a possibility, but I am afraid, or rather apprehensive, that I might not be living up to my full potential, or doing the best I can with this life and for this world. Currently, though, I don’t think there is another career as fulfilling for me as teaching. (Side note: I went to sign in to like and comment and google told me “also available in Russian,” in Russian. I taught myself the Russian alphabet a few years ago for fun, and it has actually come in handy!! 😀 )

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Living up to one’s potential is definitely an issue for many RFMs. Could be another blog post… Thanks Stephanie.

  10. bethplanetbethcom Avatar

    I have to say, in 2018 a huge lesson I learned was just because I’m talented in many areas, that doesn’t mean I won’t be quite frustrated with my ‘learning curves’!! Only as an adult, and especially these past two years, have I learned some hard lessons in tolerating frustration when I don’t achieve a certain level of competency or brilliance at whatever I’m focusing on. I’ve learned the importance of biting off only what I can chew!! I finally figured this out. We evolve in our self-understanding. I also think the Imposter Syndrome is another challenge we deal with. If something doesn’t come as easy to us as it seems to another, well, we’re not real. Like if I compare my drawing skills with a really good artist, I still have a tendency to judge myself harshly. You fall into a most unhelpful trap of comparing yourself to others. I’m learning that that’s futile. It’s a journey for all of us, you never arrive, but always grow as you put one foot in front of the other.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, yes, tolerating frustration. Impostor syndrome. Comparisions. Thanks for mentioning these. I’m sure many will relate, Beth.

  11. hksounds Avatar

    Hi Paula,

    I am having a terrible time logging in to comment to day. Happy New Year!

    I can relate to this post and wanted to thank you for posting it. I had a lot to say on this topic, but after writing something four times and not being able to log in, I think I’ll just see if this goes through.

    All the best and thanks.

  12.  Avatar

    Hi Paula and Happy New Year,

    This post really resonates with me. I have been that kind of person since I was the smallest child from spending six months reading the Daily Telegraph to watching, listening to and following all sports, pretend playing the stock market, to listening to specific styles of music exclusively for a year or two, to reading all the books by one author, all the films by one director, all the operas by one composer, every song by certain groups and singers, etc.

    I do move on but I still love them and am delighted when I revisit them. I have never understood how or why others seem to skim through their lives. It seems so superficial and not much fun.

    Thanks for your post,

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad it resonated, Joy. It looks like this one came through. Thanks for your examples.

  13. Kristen Shields Avatar
    Kristen Shields

    I’ve always rotated through hobbies, and I did figure out some time back that part of it was the “I learned what I needed to know” factor, which was a comfort. But the FOLI does have an impact when a hobby comes with a financial impact. I’ve taken up woodcarving in the last few years … and decent tools cost a bit of money. The workshops I took cost rather a lot of money. (Worth EVERY penny, though, because they were small group workshops and every other person at my table was also a multipotentialite … you can’t plan these things, and they’re worth their weight in gold when they happen!) I’m still a lousy carver, but I do love it, and I’ll keep at it because it still brings me joy. (This falls under the category of things we gifted folks learn but aren’t automatically good at … so it’s good for me.)

    One blessing for the multi-hobby lifestyle is finding a way to make it work for us … I’m a Scout leader, and I can justify most hobbies by saying, “But it’s for my kids! It’s for a badge! It’s for a district workshop!” LOL. My girls want to learn robotics? On it. My guys want to go geocaching? Already got that set up. Alas, I don’t get paid anything for this, not in money … but the smiles and the lightbulb moments make it worth it for me, and I get to help a lot of young multipotentialites on their way. (You can find them, if you look … and I do love encouraging them, letting them know they are not alone out there!)

    Thanks for this blog. It’s been a beacon of light for me this year, as I work through a lot of other issues in my life. Trying to sort out the ‘broken’ bits from the ‘just a bit different’ bits is a tricky thing, and this helps a lot.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      So, that’s a way to get around the financial aspect. Doing it for the kids! Ha! I’m glad that my blog is helping, Kristen. Thanks for your comments.

  14. Michelle Parent Avatar
    Michelle Parent

    I don’t think I have the fear of losing interest, but my significant other does! He spends money on things that interest me and gets upset when I move on and then I feel bad. The thing is, I can often rotate back to that interest too in the future. Take quilting. I was crazy about quilting all through high school, but then came college and art school and I went a different way. Now, over 30 years later, I am quilting again and now the camera is left behind with the watercolors and colored pencils. At the same time, my computer research interests are also ongoing and they change too. Dad wants me to go back and finish the Genealogy, but I am bored with it for now (ok, been bored with it for a few years). I am feeling a bit like the archeology bug is biting me again, but still doing nutrition stuff and enjoying that. At least there is no expense in the computer research stuff 🙂 The SO is still mad at me for not using the jewelry making tools he bought, but I know I will come back to that too. I just have to let the quilting run its course a while. I just fear I won’t have enough lifetime to keep trying on interests. At least I am never bored.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I do think that the financial piece is a factor in this, Michelle. I’ve heard that from others. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Eirin Mikalsen Orum Avatar
    Eirin Mikalsen Orum

    What a New Years’ Eve shock, to see my own words in a context like this! Thanks, I guess?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Eek. Eirin. I hope it was OK. I figured reposting a comment would be OK. If you aren’t comfortable, let me know and I’ll take it down. Sorry for the shock.