Finding Your Element

Summary Written by Jennifer Knighton
"Finding your Element is a quest to find yourself…it is a two-way journey: an inward journey to explore what lies within you and an outward journey to explore opportunities in the world around you."

- Finding Your Element, page 5

The Big Idea

Three Elemental Principals

"Being in your Element is where your natural aptitudes meet your passions."- Finding Your Element, page 33

The process of discovering one’s Element is more like a quest than a 10-step program – highly individualized, introspective, and challenging. Robinson reminds us of the unifying factor for this journey: the simple miracle of our existence. And his three principles set the stage for our quest.

Principal #1: Your life is unique. “There’s no one in the world precisely like you, nor is there anyone else living your life.”

Principal #2: You create your own life. “What sets human beings apart from the rest of nature…is that human beings have immense natural powers of imagination and creativity.”

Principal #3: Life is organic. “[L]ife is a constant process of improvisation between interests and personality on the one hand and circumstances and opportunities on the other.”

Insight #1

Where's Your Tribe

"Connecting with people who share your Element can have tremendous benefits for you and for them…affirmation, guidance, collaboration and inspiration."- Finding Your Element, page 188

The value of finding your tribe(s) cannot be understated. The members of your tribe offer validation and encouragement, but finding yourself in the wrong tribe sucks the life out of you. Robinson encourages us to “try a tribe on for size.” Spend time with other people with differing interests, seek opportunities you may never have considered, and look for others who are doing what you think might be your passion. Getting to know the culture of a tribe can help you determine your Element, as well as the ways in which you prefer to engage your Element.

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Insight #2

What's Your Attitude

"Whether you see the cup half empty or half full is often a matter of choice and experience."- Finding Your Element, page 148

Citing Carol Dweck’s research, Robinson reminds us that our mindset, dispositions, and attitudes have a significant effect on what we achieve in life. In fact, individuals with a growth mindset (versus a fixed mindset) believe that they can change and grow. “The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it even, or especially, when it’s not going well is the hallmark of the growth mindset.” So too, finding your Element is frequently the result of your attitude and persistence.

It’s important to remember that identifying your Element is an extremely personalized process. Finding your tribe and having a positive mindset are only a couple of the strategies outlined in Finding Your Element, but they resonated with me as key to determining if your current state (in work and life) is fulfilling or draining. If you’d like to delve deeper, pick up a copy of Finding Your Element and work through the exercises outlined in its pages. You’ll be glad you did.

Read the book

Get Finding Your Element on Amazon.

Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He works with governments in Europe, Asia and the USA, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations. In 1998, he led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy for the UK Government. ‘All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education’ (The Robinson Report) was published to wide acclaim in 1999.He was the central figure in developing a strategy for creativity in education and economic development as part of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, working with the ministers for education enterprise and culture. He was one of four international advisors to the Singapore Government for its strategy to become the creative hub of South East Asia.For twelve years, he was Professor of Education at the University of Warwick in the UK and is now Professor Emeritus. He has received honorary degrees from the Open University and the Central School of Speech and Drama; Birmingham City University, Rhode Island School of Design, Ringling College of Art and Design and the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. He was been honored with the Athena Award of the Rhode Island School of Design for services to the arts and education; the Peabody Medal for contributions to the arts and culture in the United States, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Royal Society of Arts for outstanding contributions to cultural relations between the United Kingdom and the United States.In 2005 he was named as one of Time/Fortune/CNN’s Principal Voices. In 2003, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the arts. He speaks to audiences throughout the world on the creative challenges facing business and education in the new global economies.His new book, a New York Times Best Seller, ‘The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything’ (Penguin/Viking 2009) has been translated into eighteen languages.

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