Some have asked me what my blog's tagline Renaissance Soul Ablaze means. Here's a review I did of the book that inspired me several years ago.
“Renaissance Souls love nothing better than to take on a new problem or situation and then dig into…until we master the challenge we’ve set for ourselves. And then, with fresh enthusiasm, we move on to another passion. We are lucky people who, if left to our own devices, are never bored for long.” – Margaret Lobenstine in The Renaissance Soul
Do you resist confining yourself to just one hobby or career? Are book outlets and libraries candy stores to you? Do friends suggest that you become a contestant on game shows because you know “something about everything”? Are you capable of becoming passionately excited about a wide variety of subjects? Do you find yourself interrupting yourself, dropping one task to pick up another before it’s done?
If any of these descriptions sound like you, then you’re probably a Renaissance Soul. Unlike the Mozarts of the world who always knew what they wanted to do in life or enjoyed sticking to one discipline, Renaissance Souls are the Ben Franklins of the world. That is, we have many concurrent interests and the idea of settling on “just one” (or even two) makes us nervous and nauseous.
Most of the world operates on the idea that “settling on a career” or “getting focused” by steadily climbing the corporate ladder over decades is the “right”—and secure—way to live. However, for a Renaissance Soul to attempt to squeeze in such a confining mindset is almost like a living death.
Despite a long, proud history of inventiveness and cultural influence among the ranks of Renaissance Souls, parents, teachers, and the social climate at large insist that we are somehow defective. This often leaves us feeling discouraged, frustrated, and confused. Why are we like this? Why can’t we be “normal”, and limit our passions, hobbies, and career endeavors to “just one”?
Fortunately for us, author and life-coach Margaret Lobenstine has written a book especially for Renaissance Souls, offering encouragement, validation, and practical tools for living a fulfilling, joyful life. The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One is an incredible resource that explains the difference between choice and focus, shows how to thrive on many interests without feeling scattered, and equips individuals with powerful life-design strategies.
Lobenstine also illustrates how Renaissance Souls can transform a day job so that it carries dreams forward, learn a new field without going back to school, and get paid for your passions. However, even if money isn’t your goal and you just want to be able to explore, engage, and enjoy your multitude of interests, the author provides wonderful exercises for getting the most out of your pursuits.
The section called The Ice-Cream Sampler alone is worth the price of the book! Lobenstine—also a Renaissance Soul—can sympathize with the dilemma that “choosing has often meant losing”. However, she helps her fellow Renaissance Souls learn an invaluable tool called Focal Point Strategy. By using the analogy of sampling dozens of ice cream flavors “four flavors at a time”, the author demonstrates the mechanics and benefits of focusing your interests. Focusing, she asserts, brings more, not less, to a world of possibilities—offering variety with clarity and concentration. She writes:
“I can’t emphasize enough what a powerful difference it makes in a Renaissance Soul’s life to feel free to focus on three or four or five things for now, and let others wait until later. We simply can’t juggle dozens of interests at once. And yet, there is a kind of abundance that flows from establishing a tighter focus.”
As one who has had many interests throughout life—some of which I’ve explored in depth for years—I’m all too familiar with having so many interests, that paralysis sets in when trying to decide what to do next. I’ve been a minister, a teacher, a counselor, an editor, an interior decorator, a credit solicitor, a webmaster, and free-lance writer. I’m an author, reviewer, social media maven, home schooling Mom, and a professional Tarot reader and teacher. I was surprised and comforted to learn that there are many people out there like me and we have a name: Renaissance Souls.
Another invaluable tool from the book is the “Five from Fifty” exercise where you decide your five main values right now. According to Lobenstine:
“People who aren’t fully committed to the values that their activities represent sputter through life, pulled in one direction by their commitments and in another by their spirits.”
Not only does she show Renaissance Souls how to choose their five most important values, but she also demonstrates how to run activities through the filter of “Whose values are these? Mine or someone else’s?”
One of my personal study projects, lasting years, has been personality systems. One of these systems—the Enneagram—demonizes Type 7’s for not focusing, claiming that we have a multitude of interests because we’re trying to run from or hide extreme emotional pain. Hogwash! I bought that silly lie for several years and finally realized it just isn’t true. A Type 7’s salvation isn’t being like a Type 5, hunkering down and choosing “just one” focus to exhaust ad infinitum until we transform ourselves into a boring, single-minded geek.
I came across The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One quite by accident while in large chain bookstore. In fact, I was on my way out of the bathroom—heading towards the coffee counter before leaving—when I saw this book on a display. After I read the dust jacket, I knew this was a book written for people just like me…and bought it immediately.
While the entire book is a gold mine for Renaissance Souls, the Focal Point Strategy has been invaluable for me. I now realize that I can pursue all my interests—just not all at once. This strategy has freed up amazing amounts of time and energy, helping me to get the most out of what I’ve chosen to do and curing me of “analysis paralysis”. If you’re a Renaissance Soul or a Type 7 in the Enneagram, this book is an incredible resource for staying on track, sucking the marrow out of life (and your interests), using your unique personality to your advantage, and celebrating the spirit of the Renaissance Soul.
-- Janet Boyer