Loving what you do — or not:
An awful lot of people don’t enjoy what they do. They kind of get through the week and wait for the weekend. And there’s a lot of evidence for that; there’s been a lot of research to show there are huge levels of disengagement at work. You only have to look at other really startling figures like the growth in the sales of antidepressant drugs and levels of drop-out rate from schools. There’s massive evidence around the world of people not getting a lot from their lives and often being angry and frustrated from by them.
“It’s about having a balance in your life, that you find some time in your life, some point in your life where you feel you’re doing what puts you at your most authentic — the thing you were really made to do.”
And, yet, I also meet people who absolutely love what they do, who can’t wait to get to it. If you were to say to them, “Why don’t you try something else for a while?” they really wouldn’t know what you’re talking about. They’d say, “Well, this isn’t what I do. This is who I am.”
Firstly, this isn’t just about what you do for a living. I’m very clear about that. Some people can make a living from doing what they love — not everybody can. It may not be that sort of thing. They may not want to; they may not choose to. I interviewed all kinds of people for the book who were doing things that they loved but they don’t want to be paid for it. They’re doing it as it were “amateurs” in the literal Latin sense — they do it for the love of it. It isn’t just about what you do for the living. It’s about having a balance in your life, that you find some time in your life, some point in your life where you feel you’re doing what puts you at your most authentic — the thing you were really made to do.
“If you love something that you’re good at, then that’s a really great place to be in your life. And it can evolve over time.”
Being in your element, to me, is two things. It’s doing something that you’re naturally good at. So part of the argument here is that we have to have a generous conception of ability and talent. That’s one of my problems with the education system: We have a very narrow view of talent, for the most part, in education. But it’s not only doing things you’re good at — because I know all kinds of people who are good at things they don’t care for. To be in your element, you have to love it. If you love something that you’re good at, then that’s a really great place to be in your life. And it can evolve over time. But my experience of it is — and I’ve interviewed all kinds of people in all sorts of walks of life, in all kinds of different economic circumstances — that we all have this potential. It takes different forms for each of us because we’re very diverse. But it’s something worth reaching for because it gives you a sense of fulfillment that you don’t otherwise have.
The “quest” of finding your element, creating the life you want:
“If we create our life, we can recreate it…We owe it to ourselves to look deep inside to see what talents we really do have.”
Our lives aren’t linear. We create our life according to the talents that we find within ourselves, the interests that drive us, and everybody ends up having a unique resume. If we create our life, we can recreate it. Part of my argument in the book is that we owe it to ourselves to look deep inside to see what talents we really do have. Often, human talents are like the world’s natural resources. They’re buried under the ground; you don’t know that they’re there until you go actively searching for them and try to develop them.
There is obviously a balance between talent and passion…Broadly speaking, it’s this: It’s a two-way journey. Actually, no — the word I use in the book is “quest.”
“Quest” is a very interesting idea to me because if you take a journey, a regular journey, you might know where you’re heading to. You’re setting off from Boston to San Francisco. You know where it is and you know when you’ll get there. But some journeys aren’t like that. You set off hopefully, often, though, not completely sure what you’re looking for — that’s what the word “quest” is. It’s a medieval term. It’s where you’re setting out to find something with a purpose and an intention, but you’re not quite sure where it is and you hope to find it. Finding your element is like that.
Avid reader, sometimes a headteacher AND founder of Story shack. A place where you can release your imagination and see where it takes you....