I don’t want to say that I have found the purpose, or meaning, of life – my life that is. Nevertheless, I have found what makes it worth living – again for me. I deliberately emphasizes for me, because what makes sense to me won’t necessarily – or most likely – make sense to others. This much I can say, though; if we were all able to live out our passions, a lot of us would certainly feel happier and more fulfilled.
As I wrote two weeks ago in my post Pursuing Passion, I have done exactly that, pursued my passion for photography, journalism and travel. When I combine the three, I lose myself into a different and much more intense way of living, I feel alive and vibrant; I am almost constantly in flow. Of course, it doesn’t only happen when I travel or photograph or produce a story, it can happen when I am listening to music, or I may find flow when writing or when reading – or it may occur in encounters with people I connect to. The point is we find flow when we do things we love to do.
In the before mentioned post I referred to the book The Element by Ken Robinson. Robinson is kind of a creative expert – an English author, speaker and advisor on education in the arts, and he often challenges the way we are educating our children. One of his main points is that the educational system should encourage the students to pursue their passions, more than just follow a prescribed and – for many students – boring curriculum. If students could find their passions and be encourage to pursue them – professionally, a lot more people would feel they are living a meaningful life, not only when off from work, but all the time; indeed, their work would be a fulfilment of its own, not just something to make a living of. Robinson’s argument is that there is a powerful driving force inside every human being that, once unleashed, can make any vision, any dream, a reality. That is The Element, which he writes about in his book. Robinson uses it as a term that describes the place where things we love to do and the things we are good at come together – as I mentioned in my post Pursuing Passion.
Some people may feel passionate for a range of activities and may be really good at them. Others may have a singular passion they can thrive with, that fulfils them far more than anything else does. No matter what, when people are in this place that Robinson calls the element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of self-revelation, of defining whom they really are and what they are really meant to do with their lives. This is why many of the people in The Element, who Robinson writes about, describe finding this element as an epiphany.
The big question is; how do we find this element in ourselves? How do we discover the passion that, if pursued, will make us good – and will give us this fulfilment I am talking about?
I quoted this in my before mentioned post from Robinson’s book: «The Element has two main features, and there are two conditions for being in it. The features are aptitude and passion. The conditions are attitude and opportunity. The sequence goes something like this: I get it; I love it; I want it; Where is it?»
I Get It. An aptitude is a natural capability for something. It is an intuitive feel or a grasp of what that thing is, how it works, and how to use it. Our aptitudes are highly personal. They may be for general types of activity, like math, music, sport, poetry, or political theory. They can also be highly specific – not music in general, but jazz or rap, just as an example. But how do I get or disover what I could be good at? This is maybe the hardest part of finding this place that gives fulfilment in life. Anyone who has been in the state of flow, though, know something about his or her natural aptitude. Some discover what they good at as kids. If you don’t know yet your aptitude, maybe looking back into childhood memories can unleash it again. Or maybe someone who knows you very well, can point you into a direction. An important point here is; it’s never too late to pursue one’s passion. There are plenty of examples of people who find their call late in life.
I Love It. Being in your element is not only a question of natural aptitude. It needs something more. Passion. People who are in their element take a deep delight and pleasure in what they do. They do it because they love – and couldn’t imaging doing anything else.
I Want It. Attitude is our personal perspective on ourselves and our circumstances. People who love what they do, often describe themselves as lucky. People who think they are not successful in their lives, often say they have been unlucky. According to Robinson, high achievers often share similar attitudes, such as perseverance, self-belief, optimism, ambition and frustration.
Where Is It? Without the right opportunities, you may never know what your aptitudes are or how far they may take you. There aren’t many bronco riders in Antarctic, or pearl divers in the Sahara Desert. Aptitudes don’t necessarily become obvious unless there are opportunities to use them. Often we need other people to help us recognize our real talents. An often we can help others discover theirs. I found my aptitude for photography because a good friend of mine purchased a camera when we were in our teens and got me infatuated with photography as well. Another friend made me subscribe to a photo magazine, which eventually spurred my interest even more.
What are you passionate about? What kind of activities makes you feel most alive and in touch with yourself? I would love to hear more about it.