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

13 Comments

  1. Reply

    Great post MB! I too over the last year have seemed to have really discovered my niche'. I'm still working on balancing out everything as at times I, like Beth, forget to give proper time to the things that matter most. I think I'm getting better at it though. It always reminds me of the saying, "No one ever says on their deathbed, 'I wish I would have worked more.' "

    It's a great feeling though to know when you're truly in your "element" isn't it? I have met some amazing people and had some amazing experiences. I'm so excited for that to amplify this time next week in Denver.

  2. mrshoneysett

    Reply

    Mary Beth…

    Great post! I love how you've woven quotes from Robinson's book throughout the post. I agree wholeheartedly with his concept of "exploring your world and connections to find the person you are meant to be." Wading more deeply into Twitter the past month or so has given me a greater confidence in pursuing a path in my education career that requires greater risk and courage on my part. I am certainly in my "Element" when connecting with like-minded educators who feel as passionately about engaging and empowering children in a changing learning landscape.

  3. monika hardy

    Reply

    i love this:

    People who work creatively usually have something in common: they love the media they work with.
    If children are media, this describes me perfectly.

    grazie.

  4. Linda Pitt

    Reply

    I have been lucky to work closely with Mary Beth . Her passion is electric!!!!! . She is so full of energy and loves what she does. She is interested in so many facets of Tech , and education She is an inspiration….. always learning , expanding self reflecting.

    I will miss our day to day interactions but look forward reading your blogs and hope to see you as we both pursue new endeavors. Your colleague and friend, Linda Pitt

  5. Matt Arguello

    Reply

    Great post. I feel motivated to pick up Robinson's book. As a fairly new teacher, I feel that I'm still finding my element although I know I'm close. It's inspiring to read of someone else finding theirs. Thanks again for sharing your unique insight.

  6. Reply

    I agree that Denver will be almost like a culmination of all of the experiences I have had this year.

    I wish I could say I was getting better at giving proper time to things that matter most, but I'm not sure 🙂

  7. Reply

    Thanks Linda!

    It's been a joy working with you this past year, and working with you has helped me find my Element and your energy and passion has inspired me. I will miss you greatly at my new school, but I know that we will stay connected.

  8. Dan Fink

    Reply

    Robinson takes his cues from his Sixties counterculture past. The first baby boomers were similarly self-absorbed with "finding themselves" without ever realizing that such a pursuit was a silly waste of time. Now, he's trying to get another generation of kids to be the same way. Note to Sir Ken Robinson: the hippie generation failed, so stop trying to rehash its outlook on "being."

  9. Reply

    I would recommend it as a great summer read. It's not too heavy, but it makes you think. As for finding your Element, it feels like mine found me 🙂

  10. Reply

    Every post that I read of yours (which has been every one of them) has inspired me to jot down some notes and start writing a post myself. I have dozens (seriously not exaggerating) of half-written blog posts that I just need to sit down and finish. Maybe I'll do it today. 🙂

    This was my favorite post of them all. I struggle with finding myself. I think I know where I want to be, but I haven't made the right choices yet to get there. It's like a treasure map that I'm making… every day I draw my route… and if I ever I find the treasure I'll put an X on the spot.

    I love the fact that you discovered that you're a "people person". I am too. I enjoy the "behind the scenes" sort of work – configuring servers, running cables, toning ports, installing wire molding, etc – but I couldn't do that all day every day. I need adult interaction, and the more the merrier. I don't believe that I belong in a classroom as a teacher… but trying to move up has been a slow, painful process. I guess I've found myself- I'm just a bit misplaced.

  11. Reply

    Ryan,

    I would love to read any post you write! I think that the feeling of coming into yourself will find you. It is a slow process, and I still have a lot to learn about myself.

    We are all here to support you in your path to personal growth.

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