finding the “element”

January 10, 2010

Recently, I was lucky enough to have the luxury of a beach side holiday. It was really rather wonderful being at Australia’s most gorgeous beach, ocean views and great company. We managed to cram about 22 people into 7 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms somehow and no one killed each other. My family of husband, myself and 3 kids were squashed into the “bunker”; one room with cot, double bed and double bunk – and surprisingly we all got a reasonable amount of sleep.

Anyway the point of this post is that while on holidays I discovered “The Element” a new book by Ken Robinson. It was one of those awkward situations – someone in your extended family is reading a book, you spot the book and instantly you want it. All self restraint disappears (not helped by holiday levels of alcohol consumption) This is the one book in the whole world you want to read, the solution to all your problems. You can’t stop thinking about it. Start creeping around rooms when they are out, to see if you can find it. You become one of those annoying people on holidays who steal other people’s books when they are trying to read them – you just can’t help yourself!

This is how I am about books, anyway.

The Element is about finding your passion, something which is a hot issue for me and has been for several years. The Element is defined as the point where your natural talents or gifts meet up with the things you love doing. As far as I can see the element is related to the Zone, and Flow (maybe there will be blog posts to follow on these ones) but is a further development on this concept. For example I might be quite good at say, physics, but I would hate doing it. I might love singing but I would always be quite average as a singer.

Writing could be the Element for me, because I do love writing and I have some evidence that I’m quite good at it. As far as it stands at the moment, my job has relatively little to do with writing, which is probably why I am frustrated. I love ideas and I am passionate about books.

Some of the key points in this book are:

– it’s never too late to find the Element – he even mentions neuroplasticity which is currently a hot area in neuroscience research – the brain is capable of changing over a lifetime depending on what you do with it

– finding mentors: it can be pretty hard to find the Element alone, much easier if we have others to help and guide us

– creativity vs imagination: imagination is having ideas and is essential for creativity, however creativity requires action as well as imagination

– the failure of education system – he talks a lot about how our education systems work against people finding their Element because of the hierarchical IQ and grade point systems which focus on scores rather than individual strengths or talents

– multiple intelligences – related to the above, there are many, many kinds of intelligence and the challenge is actually working out what specific strengths you have

– finding your “tribe” – it can be useful to find people who share your passions to discuss them with – he makes a distinction between a “domain” = type of work, and “field” which is the people who practice this work

– “what will they think?” – overcoming disapproval of others, or one’s own fear of disapproval

– he also talks about Flow and the Zone, which are related

Basically Flow is a term described by psychologist with a very long name, to describe a state of mind where you are absorbed and engaged in an activity to the point where you lose track of time. It is an energised state where you lose self-consciousness. Flow tends to happen to people like athletes, musicians, craftsmen or anyone who is very involved in an activity they love, in which they are talented. The Zone is a similar concept.

The next book I have about this topic is Barbara Sher “I could do anything, if only I knew what it was” review to follow.

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