Ever since I was a child, I’ve believed that inspiration is everywhere. When a new thought comes into view — if it makes you think differently about the world, or about yourself — it is magical and spiritual, regardless of what awoke it.
In this blog series, it’s my pleasure to share with you moments of inspiration from all sorts of origins: books, music, film, art… anywhere! I’ve recently begun a Masters degree at the University of East Anglia and can’t wait to familiarise myself with our giant, 24 hour library — as someone who did her BA at art college, I’ve never had such a resource!
The first book I borrowed, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson, was a great reminder of why I’ve chosen to go back to education, and I hope it has some affirming messages for you too…
If you’re unfamiliar with Ken Robinson’s work, I really suggest you watch his TED talks, especially if you’re passionate about education – I’ve stopped myself from saying “…especially if you’re a teacher”. And for good reason, as you’ll soon see.
Robinson has some pretty radical views on the education system, creativity and intelligence. In this book, he’s exploring the idea of “The Element” — which, to him, is the place where the things you love and the things you’re good at come together. It’s similar to Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of Flow, in this sense. Robinson argues that it’s essential we all tap into our Element at some time, in some way, to lead our happiest, healthiest lives.
Epiphany: Finding your Element doesn’t have to mean radical change
Speaking as someone who dramatically quit her well-paid job and went volunteering around the world for a year “looking for purpose”, I always get my back up a bit when I read that you don’t need to make massive changes to move closer to your passions. But, he’s right; what you love and are good at doesn’t need to be the thing you get paid to do, or spend the majority of your time doing. Its very presence in your life will create positive impact on your happiness. Indeed: “Why does a pay check validate my talent?”.
You’ve probably noticed how we all tend to define ourselves by our jobs: “I’m an engineer”; “I’m a doctor”; “I teach”. Yet, we are often so much more than our 9 to 5 asks of us. We shouldn’t limit our identity to the thing that pays us; The Element is about “finding a balance between making a living and making a life.” Your true calling — your Element — can be something you tap into in your spare time.
True also, that it often isn’t practical to drop everything in search of your greatest passion; I was lucky to have no house, no kids, no relationship to commit to.
Your Element can be found wherever and however regularly you feel you want it. The important thing is you do find it.
Epiphany: There’s no due date or deadline
Robinson shares a wealth of stories within his book to illustrate the point that The Element can become part of your life at whatever stage and whatever age; in fact, he refers to the “premature resignation” of 40 year olds to a life without their Element.
We don’t need to wait for a quarter-life or mid-life crisis. We are free to make steps towards identifying our passions and introducing them into our lives whenever we feel ready. Robinson describes human life as “organic and cyclical” — rather than linear — meaning “we get multiple opportunities for new growth and development”.
One way the book suggests to explore your Element is to “find your tribe”. It may be that you’re in love with the world of gymnastics, but you’ve never had much natural flexibility; you may be perfectly suited to help manage a team of young gymnasts or offer your skills in some other support role.
Personally, I think my tribe is designers. I’m not confident in design, but I love being in conversation with them and lapping up their energy. So, I look to hang out with them as much as I can and I help with their written comms work in return (at the moment I’m hanging with Print To The People – look them up, they’re cool!).
Epiphany: There is such a thing as luck, but you make it yourself
I know it’s tempting to reject this whole argument in the belief that it’s only ‘the lucky ones’ who get to wake up every day and go to a job, or be involved in an activity, that truly lights them up. But it is possible to become ‘a lucky one’ simply by shifting your mindset, to adopt the four key characteristics of lucky people (taken from The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman).
Lucky people tend to maximise chance opportunities (they notice and act upon them)
They tend to be very effective at listening to their intuition
They go into the world anticipating a positive outcome (creating a self-fulfilling prophecy)
Lucky people have an attitude that allows them to turn back luck to good — ill fortune doesn’t overwhelm them.
Where you can, look for the opportunities in ill-fortune; can a broken leg afford you to the time to reconnect with your love for painting, for example?
When we are in our Element, we feel better about ourselves; we feel smarter, more creative, more capable. We also generate a positive energy that’s inspiring to be around.
“We are all born with extraordinary powers of imagination, intelligence, feeling, intuition, spirituality and of physical and sensory awareness. For the most part, we use only a fraction of these powers, and some not at all. Many people have not found their Element because they don’t understand their own powers.”
After reading this book, I’m feeling pretty bloody powerful. I hope these few insights have stirred something inside you too.
Having travelled to fifty countries across the world, Lauren is hooked on culture, environmentalism and the power of people working together. In her spare time she loves reading, cooking and crafting; she’s hoping to launch a jewellery collection soon. Find her on Instagram