Quotes, unless otherwise stated, are from Sir Ken Robinson.
Finding Your Element is a sequel to The Element by Sir Ken Robinson. I don’t think you need to read the first book to read the second. I’ll just give you a summary of the first: finding your element(s) is about finding your true passion in life, and how finding it will improve your life drastically. The first book summarized in a quote: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
Finding your element is “about doing something that feels so completely natural to you, that resonates so strongly with you, that you feel that this is who you really are.”
Finding your element is finding your passion, your calling, work that truly fulfills you. It is vital to understanding yourself and your capabilities. And that is what this book helps you find.
Okay, now that we have the basics covered, let’s get started. I’m including, in this cheat sheet, my favorite parts and exercises in Finding Your Element, and my own twists. Basically this cheat sheet is for me to continually come back to because I definitely won’t remember everything I want to remember otherwise.
EXERCISE ONE. How do you spend your time?
Take a piece of paper and write down all the things you do in a week, how much time you spend on each, and how you feel about each one. What would you like to change? What are your favorite things on this list to do? What, ideally, would this piece of paper look like?
The point is to change your life by analyzing how you live now and progressing to living how you truly want to live. But first, you might want to ask yourself, how important is it to you that you’re doing what you love?
Various exercises to utilize during your quest of finding your passion.
Mind mapping – Grab a piece of paper and write a concept or idea in the center of the page. Draw a tree of connecting ideas relating to the subject. Google mind mapping for some beautiful examples.
Journaling – Without editing yourself, re-reading, or editing. Just write.
Vision board – A collage that reflects your aspirations, hopes and dreams; who you want to be.
You’re UNIQUE! Your life has and will never be lived by anyone else. It is completely in your power how you live it.
Life is ORGANIC! You can’t always plan for what will happen; you’ll be much happier if you learn to go with the organic flow of life. Keep goals in mind, but have wiggle room. The key is balance.
“Because life is creative and organic, you do not need to plan your whole life’s journey in one go. Sometimes it’s helpful to have long-term goals, and some people do. It can be just as helpful to focus on the immediate steps. Beginning the journey, and being willing to explore various pathways, can be as productive as setting out with one final destination in mind. Sometimes you can only plan the next step. But that can be enough to move forward. The important step is the first one.”
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What are you good at?
“It may take much less effort to become good at something that comes naturally to you than at something that doesn’t. But if you don’t make that effort, you’ll never know what you might have achieved if you tried.”
Despite having a natural talent for something or not, you have to put in the work of developing the skill, you have to practice. We all have natural talents that, if utilized, can be very powerful forces in the world.
Our element(s) changes and shifts as we change. You may have one element, you may have several.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Which aspects of your life engage you the most and feed your spirit?
- Which ones engage you the least?
- Do you know what your Element is?
- Do you know what direction you want to move in?
- What would you like to do that you haven’t tried yet? Why haven’t you?
- At which time of your life were you the happiest? What were you doing?
- What activities make time disappear for you?
- Who are you genuinely jealous of because of what they do? For example, I’m jealous of Elizabeth Gilbert because she writes and travels for a living. I’m also jealous of iJustine on YouTube because she gets to spend her days making videos. This gives me an idea of what I’d like to spend my time doing!
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Create opportunities for yourself to really discover what you’re capable of. You may have developed stories about what you are and aren’t good at. They may be true, but they may also just be a story. Challenge your beliefs about yourself. Who knows what could happen? As we learned, life is organic. What new activities could you try? Explore.
- What sort of activities come especially easily to you?
- What do you feel your natural talents are?
- How did you first become aware of them?
- Do you have any aptitudes that you’ve never considered developing?
- Do you have any talents that you haven’t developed but wished that you had?
- If you’ve ever taken any aptitude tests, did any of the results surprise you?
- Which of your aptitudes do you think you could really develop if you tried?
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Everyone likes different things.
“I get physically depressed in shops. The moment I cross the threshold of a clothes shop, I begin to lose the will to live. My shoulders fall, my eyes dull, and I have to sit down to support the heavy weight of my heart. While my soul is quietly gasping for air in most retail outlets, I see other people sucking in the same atmosphere with looks of exhilarated enchantment.”
I thought this was hilarious. I don’t mind shops at all, but I feel the same way Ken feels with fixing cars. Bless auto mechanics.
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Finding your element and having a purpose in life is the key to happiness. “It tends to be difficult to find happiness unless you feel that what you’re doing is significant in some way.”
Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, believes there are five elements to well-being. Positive emotions, engagement, meaning, relationships, and achievement.
Exercise: Try doing a mind map. Write your name in the center and draw outwards to each area of well-being. Reflect on how well you feel you’re fulfilling each area. How can you improve in each area?
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Limitations are self imposed. “If you know what your Element is, you need the self-belief and determination to pursue it. If you don’t know what it is, you need to feel entitled to look for it. … The things that are stopping you only exist in your mind.”
Cheesy as it is, you have to believe in your possibilities.
“The man who does not want to act says he cannot.” –Antonio Gramsci
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Where are you now?
We’re all starting at different places. We could be committed or tied down, or free and able to make our own decisions.
“While it’s important to look at the obstacles in front of you and while it is essential to take stock of your situation, you can move toward the life you feel you should be living from virtually anywhere. An essential first step here is to take stock of where you are now.”
Exercise: SWOT analysis, developed by Albert Humphrey in the sixties.
Get out a piece of paper and draw a box. Divide it into four smaller boxes. In the top left box, write strengths, in the top right, weaknesses, in the bottom left, opportunities, and in the bottom right, threats.
Internal factors are on top, external on bottom. Record your aptitudes, passions, attitude; everything we’ve learned, and other things you want to add.
Consider your basic situation. Your age, responsibilities, financial situation. What’s keeping you from doing what you really want to do? What hurdles must you jump through too do it? What’re the consequences of jumping through them?
What resources are available to you right now to pursue your passions? Do you need to develop your strengths? Maybe through different opportunities?
What can you do about your weaknesses?
“If you move in the direction of your passions, opportunities tend to appear that you couldn’t have imagined and that weren’t there otherwise.”
As a personal example, I recently started messing around with filming video, editing, and uploading them to YouTube. I posted one on my Facebook, which led to a family friend asking if I wanted to be paid to record her daughter’s wedding!
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Be ready. Be realistic.
Be realistic when it comes to your dreams and decisions. You’ll experience a harsh reality if you sugar coat things in your mind. Be prepared for a change: a new environment, new people, new circumstances. It’s a new lifestyle! Are you ready?
“I regularly talk to people who have started to do the thing they believe they should be doing, but are worried that they might have made a mistake because they haven’t prepared themselves emotionally as they should have. Any new situation requires some time for adjustment, but you’ll be far better off if you understand beforehand how much of an adjustment you need to make.”
What kind of experience do you need to expose yourself to before you do what you want to do? How can you prepare yourself? How do you know if it is what you really want? For example, a lot of people tend to struggle with college plans. Do I want to go to college? What do I want to study? Where do I want to go?
“Some paths through life do not depend at all on having a conventional college education. You shouldn’t assume that going to college will guarantee your future or that not going will undermine it. Many people get much more from college if they do something else before they go. Mature students – those who were taking programs after other work experience – applied themselves with more energy to their studies than younger students who’d gone straight from school. This was because they knew why they were taking the program and were determined to get as much as possible from it.” – Ben Strickland, a senior at the University of Oklahoma.
It takes maturity and awareness of yourself to know what you really want, to know your purpose. There are other ways to gain this knowledge other than college, and it will always be there when you’re ready. Although, college itself can help you find yourself as well.
Are you going to completely dive in to what you truly want to do? Or should you start with baby steps? This will depend on a variety of factors. How comfortable with change you are, your financial and personal commitments, how much you want it.
How easily can you take a risk? What are the biggest hurdles? What would it take to get over them, and what would happen if you did or didn’t? Will your loved ones support or oppose you? How do you know? Are you ready?
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Find a tribe of people who share your interests and passions. Why? Because tribes are a source of affirmation, guidance, collaboration and inspiration. They are a foundational support system that will challenge you and push your boundaries. Without them, it is easy to feel isolated, clueless, and unable to foresee a path in your particular passion. What people and communities attract you? Why? Is it the work they do, or their personalities? We are organic creatures, who, just like plants, grow better when surrounded by certain other plants, a phenomenon in botany called “companion planting”. How to find your tribe? Utilize the internet, clubs and associations, classes and workshops, volunteer, intern, and/or find a mentor.
Exercise: Write a letter as if you were someone who knew you well who is explaining you to another person, who happens to be interested in supporting your work. Write it as quickly as you can.
Exercise: Draw four circles which overlap each other like a Venn diagram. Label each aptitudes, passions, attitude, and opportunities. In each circle, write a few words or statements that represent how you can deepen in this area. In each circle, prioritize them in most to least important. The top priorities are your next four steps in your action plan.
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