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November 19, 2012

Tell me what you're made of and I'll tell you who you are

Ever felt bored? Disillusioned? Disoriented? Frustrated... for no apparent reason?

What’s your Element? How Finding your Passion Can Change Everything
Have you ever read something that is so simple it’s revolutionary? The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson, Professor Emeritus of Education at Warwick, is one of these simple masterworks. Robinson focuses on the life changing results that can occur when one discovers their ‘element’, the meeting point between talent and passion. That synergy between our strengths and zeal can remove the ‘work’ element from work, replacing it with fervour, anticipation, and verve.

Tell me what you’re made of and I’ll tell you who you are
‘I don’t know what job I want to do but I’m going to apply anyway’ is a phrase I hear from numerous students on a daily basis, when I inquire after their motivation for their chosen career field. The chagrin and frustration I experience can be paralleled to theirs, I’m sure. Pursuing ‘world class education’ in one of the most reputable academic institutions in the UK and beyond is hard enough. Paying a hefty fee for a degree that, in theory, should be ‘value for money’ – alas, this phrase has entered the Higher Education industry exacebrates matters further, as the ‘value’ for many corresponds to retribution in kind, that is, a job. Right or wrong, that’s not the point! The point is the following: If you are prudent enough to place a ‘value’ on your degree, have you taken the same trouble to place value on yourself? Let me makes this clear:

Where does you value lie?
Your value lies in your strengths. Have you ever been encouraged to really consider and reflect on your talents, your passion, your intrinsic capacities? If yes, have you done so? If no, when would be the right time for you to start doing so? How can you convey your value to others, if you can’t reflect on it yourself? Let’s start from the basics: skills vs. strengths

What’s in a Skill? What’s in a Strength?
A skill is a quality you have mastered through practice and repetition and have habitually become accomplished at it. you rarely consider whether you like it or not, as it’s what you’re good at.

A strength is an innate talent, a capacity that, while it improves and strengthens with practice, it feels so pure and inherent. A strength makes you ‘tick’, gives you the buzz to go about doing your work, and makes time move a lot faster than it actually does. Combine your strengths with passion and that’s your ‘element’, your calling in life, if you will!

Task of the day
This is a tool that can help you understand your value(s) to start with… Please, answer these questions by listing five items for every answer:

1. What am I passionate about?
2. What are these activities that I derive the greatest joy from?
3. I am happiest when I do the following:
4. What are my friends saying I’m really good at?
5. What are my skills?
6. What are my natural talents and strengths?

Now, go through your answers and list down the common characteristics that occur and re-occur in them. This is your 'element', what makes up your purpose in life. From here, you can proceed to ask yourself:

7. What are the jobs that could entail some of the above?

My Element
A few days ago, while helping a student for with his interview preparation, I was asked the following question: “Why do you do this job? With your knowledge and expertise you could be doing anything you wanted!” While this assumption merits a few more (sensationalist maybe?) blog posts, I was stupefied at my instant answer: "I do this job because on a Saturday morning I can’t wait to go back to work on Monday!" And it's true, promise! When I’m with students time stops! It does not matter if it’s one or ten hours, I give my autopilot a bad name by doing the job better than him… and I'm loving it. You can say I’m in my ‘element’.

In hindsight – hindsights, what priceless gifts they are! – if I look back, I could have spotted my ‘element’ very early on, but life was too busy and my inimical societal and academic conditioning was too comfortable to bother! Yes, the long and winding journey was worth the wrong choice of jobs, destructive co-workers, self-exploration and self-awareness that followed and rendered everything worthwhile. Yet, you don’t have to go through all this…

So, what’s your ‘element’?
Do the exercise above and discover your strengths that lie dormant and wait for you to awaken them and put them to use. Feel free to share your findings with others here! It’s time we all looked inwards before we pursue our dreams and realise how incredibly precious, wonderful, unique we are; the prevalent ‘other way around method’ is set for despondent disillusionment…

Stay positive!


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  • Oh dear Ioanna your blog entries are always so inspiring to read…!! I have experienced the same th… by Terry on this entry
  • Dear Anne–So, Thank you very much for your comment! First of all, well–done for recognising your val… by Ioanna Iordanou on this entry
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