Multipotentiality: People skilled in Several Competences

Multipotentiality characterizes those people who, like Leonardo da Vinci, are skilled in several disciplines.


Multipotentiality is present in those skilled (and interested) people in many disciplines. Now, something that at first could define highly virtuous profiles, actually gives shape to situations of high stress. The reason for this is that one is unable to focus on one thing, hence they are always changing jobs, studies, hobbies…

It will not surprise anyone if we advance, in addition, that this type of trait is present especially in men and women with high intellectual quotient. Also, they tend to show some hyperactivity and high sensitivity.

Understanding and deepening in this dimension could allow us different things. The first is to offer better support and resources to these people -especially young people- who have so many interests and competences that they are unable to direct their lives towards a specific area. The second, to understand that this profile can give us great social contributions.

Now, what is more common, however, is to see a sadly everyday reality. Often, we have truly frustrated employees or great professionals. They reach a point in their careers where they feel they have reached the ceiling. They experience that they could give more of themselves in other areas, and also that they need to extend their limits.

However, they feel undecided in turn to give the change in case they ever experience the same situation again: the desire to jump to another area, to another sector. On the other hand, there is fear of projecting a sense of instability.

The psychological term “multipotentiality” defines those individuals with intellectual talent who have interests in numerous domains. They are also able to achieve success in many professions, however, they are almost always obliged to make unique decisions and something like that limits and frustrates them completely.

How are people endowed by multipotentiality?

Living, moving forward, growing means making decisions. However, society often forces us to opt for a single option at any given time. From the field of vocational psychology, for example, we try to provide the best strategies so that people, at that moment, know how to guide their studies and work objectives towards specific objectives.

However, how do we do it if we have a person with a clear multipotentiality in front of us? Studies, such as those carried out by psychologists John A. Achter and David Lubinski (University of Iowa), focus attention on this point. On the importance of giving adequate psychological support to people with high IQ so that they can reorient their vocations in an appropriate way.

However, how to do it if what we have before us is a person with multipotentiality? Moreover, how to recognize them? Achter, J.A., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C.P. (1996) give us some clues.

Hyperactive or people with multipotentiality?

One problem that people with multipotentiality encounter is that they are often labeled as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is usual because in the classroom tend to be very nervous, inquisitive, curious, tireless students … They are those little ones who always interrupt and who want to move quickly to other activities.

Therefore, it is true that they are hyperactive. And they are because they need constant stimulation. However, they do not present attention deficits. They concentrate on the task and tend to be persistent in the objectives (if they are interesting)

More sensitive, more receptive

People with multipotentiality are authentic sponges. The whole world is in their eyes a fascinating scenario to learn from, in which to interact. Everything they want to know, everything they want to touch and also understand. This need to experiment and learn is often mediated by its high sensitivity.

Emotions are that channel from which to establish a more intense connection with their environment. Sometimes, yes, it is hard for them to regulate their behavior because it is not easy to control feelings or impulses when curiosity is motivated by a great urgency.

It is enough that a new stimulus arises or that something attracts their interest, to wish to understand it. Hence, they acquire new skills and competences quickly, being these often very different. That is, we can have children and teenagers interested in scientific, astronomical, artistic, chemical, musical …


The big problem with multipotentiality is that it is associated with a tendency to boredom. As soon as he masters or understands something, he turns the page and craves new scenarios, knowledge and stimuli. If you can not find something stimulating, frustration, stress and even anguish appear.

Multipotentiality was the ideal in the Renaissance times

Multipotentiality was an ideal in the Renaissance. Figures, like Leonardo Da Vinci, perfectly symbolized that profile of people cultivated and skilled in multiple artistic and scientific fields. Moreover, said Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) famous humanist, treatise, mathematician and Italian poet of the fifteenth century, that “people can do and devote to all things at once, if they wish.”

It was a time when it was understood that human beings had unlimited capacities for their development. In this way, it was common for the Renaissance citizen to want to develop skills in all areas of knowledge, from physical development to social, natural or artistic.

“Currently, this goal is a utopia. The amount of knowledge that exists in each of the areas is immense.”

Something that education leads us to is specialization in a specific area. And if one is good in several areas, he must share his work with the hobbies in order to satisfy, at least, some of his aspirations and passions. And this is not always easy or satisfying.

Although difficult does not mean impossible. It would only be a matter of finding a place. To be persistent, as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, Hildegard of Bingen, Hypatia or Maria Gaetana Agnesi once were…