I am about halfway through Sir Ken Robinson‘s book, The Element, and I have been reflecting on finding my own Element.
Over the past year I have begun to feel that I am doing what I was meant to do. I am motivated by some unseen force to spend my days and nights living and breathing education and technology and expanding my relationships with other educators. I don’t always get paid for these hours of hard and rewarding work, and I don’t really mind.
Here are some quotes from Robinson’s book and my reflections on them that have made me realize that I have magically slipped into my Element.
The Element is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion.
I know that I’m smart (see my previous post about me and smart people here), and I know my strengths (writing, reading and visual art). However, I became aware this year of a strength I took for granted, mostly because it’s not a skill that can be tested. I have a natural aptitude for working with other people. I am passionate about solving problems and finding solutions, which are better accomplished in collaboration than alone. When I am working with others, I am in my Element.
When people are in their Element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose and well-being.
This quote describes the past year of my life to a ‘T.’ All of a sudden I feel a sense of identity and purpose. I have found people who are as passionate as I am, I have found a field of work that ignites a fire in me and makes every day an exciting day. Of course, with these feelings of purpose comes a sense of well-being.
All the same, it should be said that getting too deeply into your Element can cause a sense of ill-being as you can easily neglect your personal relationships as you follow your passions. (Read a great post on this subject by my friend Beth Still here and my own thoughts on the topic here.)
If you don’t embrace the fact that you think about the world in a wide variety of ways, you severely limit your chances of finding the person that you were meant to be.
As humans we are always seeking out the ‘meaning of life.’ “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” As Robinson states, we need to explore our world and our connections to the world to fully know who are and who we are meant to be.
Discovering the Element is all about allowing yourself access to all of the ways in which you experience the world, and discovering where your own true strengths lie. Just don’t take them for granted.
This quote rings true for me as I have had a wide variety of experiences in my 30 years and I have a wide variety of interests. I have driven cross-country, lived in Senegal, lived and taught on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico and spent my summers exploring the beaches of Nantucket as a child. I enjoy bluegrass, drum and bass, punk rock, hip hop, jazz, classical and metal music. I have tattoos and piercings, love hanging out at skate parks and enjoy a good pub. I also have a Master’s degree in Instructional Technology, love NPR, read fanatically everything from Roald Dahl to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. I love talking politics and policy and I have a soft spot for cats. In other words, I experience the world through many different filters, which is one of my strengths. These varied interests and experiences help me work well with others and allow me to see things from many different angles.
People who work creatively usually have something in common: they love the media they work with.
If children are media, this describes me perfectly. It also describes many of the passionate and innovative educators I have met over the past year. Our passion for children and education make us think creatively and take risks and rise to meet any challenge.
I feel blessed to have found well-being, identity and purpose in my life. I couldn’t have made it here without the help of others. I also feel blessed to have picked up Robinson’s book at such a poignant time in my life.
So I ask, what’s your Element?
photo courtesy of zenera on Flickr
Ryan J. Wassink