Far from a waste of time, dabbling opens up new possibilities

When your circumstances are constrained and dictate your ability to change and be spontaneous this can be a massive bummer. But it can afflict any of us who feel left behind by the big achievers, the happy hopefuls who seem to be winning at life. In our bleakest existential moments we feel stuck and the world just goes on and does its thing – without us.

While you’re happy they’re happy, it’s hard if somehow you’re not. But you could be. The mistake here is thinking that moving forwards is all or nothing. Your next move doesn’t have to change the world and thinking it does could be holding you back with the sheer terror of making a ‘wrong’ move. It doesn’t need to be huge. Those big achievers and happy hopefuls who’ve done something big and bold have probably dabbled in change, experimenting with other possible selves, for months if not years before making their move.

The mistake here is thinking that moving forwards is all or nothing.

An article in the Telegraph revealed the intriguing fact that dabbling isn’t time wasting – quite the opposite. In his book Range – How Generalists Triumph In a Specialised World, David Epstein studied the world’s most successful people; scientists, musicians, athletes. And he found that if we want to become accomplished in almost any field, spending years dabbling in other pursuits isn’t a waste of time, but crucial.

Our personalities and priorities aren’t static. Herminia Ibarra, a professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, says, “We learn who we are in practice, not in theory… We change more than we think we will”. Ibarra found most transitions are a cautious process where people might attend a class or two, do some networking and “realise ‘maybe this is more than a hobby for me.”

So ‘wasting time’ dabbling in a variety of pursuits, trying a few things out and adding to our skillset, is not a waste of time at all. It could ultimately lead to finding that new lease of life. And not feeling left behind.

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