Are You In Your Element?

Sunset on tracks by Scott Pehrson
Sunset on tracks by Scott Pehrson

When I was in elementary school I remember getting a project for art class. We were to sketch a face. I spent hours on mine, meticulously shading and blending and I am sure working on whatever other techniques we were taught in class and meant to focus on for the assignment. I was so proud of my master piece and excited to hand it in because I was sure I would get an “A” (at least!). When the teacher handed back our work, I received a “B.” I was crushed. Not only was I crushed, but from that point on I was completely discouraged from pursuing and exploring my artistic side because my confidence had been shattered and in my mind I had officially been told I was no good at art (looking back perhaps a bit drastic from an adult perspective, but not to a fourth grader).

A few years later I started drawing dresses in a notebook, again spending hours meticulously shading them in with my colouring pencils and drawing different angles of the dresses I had dreamed up. And then I would tuck this little notebook back in my bedside table and show no one. Why? Because I was now embarrassed and self-conscious of my art work. I had accepted that I was no good at art and was then too shy to share it with anyone for fear of future criticism. I still thought it was quite good, so as long as I didn’t let anyone else see my work and open myself up to further judgement then I could continue to enjoying drawing. But as the years passed, my time was eventually taken up by other activities and I stopped altogether.

I haven’t thought about either of these memories in many years, and it was not until I recently read the book “The Element: How Nadia Cheema © 2013Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” by Sir Ken Robinson, that I was reminded of them. This book is truly inspiring. And yet it is also daunting. It inspires you to look within yourself and identify your true passion. It inspires you to look for what it is that makes time stand still because you are so in the moment that there is no difference between one minute and one hour. There is no concept of time, or work, because you are in your element. As Robinson describes, “the Element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the Element, they feel most themselves, most inspired, and achieve at their highest levels.” Looking for your element is also daunting because you actually have find your passion! A passion that has likely been buried deep beneath years of linear education systems where being “intellectual” and being “creative” are considered polar opposites. A system where intellect is determined by calculus multiple choice exams, and creative expression is graded instead of nurtured. And most importantly, a system where probably no one has ever asked you what your passion is (at least not in school), not to mention tried to help cultivate it.

The book takes the reader on an engaging journey, using real life examples (think Sir Richard Branson, Paul McCartney and Ariana Huffington) to exemplify the transformative effect that finding your Element can have on your life. But “being in your Element doesn’t promise to make you richer. Quite the opposite is possible, actually, as exploring your passions might lead you to leave behind that career as an investment banker to follow your dream of opening a pizzeria. Nor does it promise to make you more famous, more popular, or even a bigger hit with your family. For everyone, being in their Element, even for part of the time, can bring a new richness and balance to their lives.”

The book also takes a critical look at our current education system. As Robinson argues, “education is supposed to be the the process that develops all resources…Many of the people I’ve talked about in this book say that they went through the whole of their education without really discovering their true talents. It is not exaggeration to say that many of them did not discover their real abilities until after they left school – until they had recovered from their education…I don’t believe teachers are causing this problem. It’s a systematic problem in the nature of our education systems. In fact, the real challenges for education will only be met by empowering passionate and creative teachers and by firing up the imaginations and motivations of the students.”

I love the line “recovered from their education.” I think many of us need to also break away and recover from the corporate grind that drains us of our creativity, inspiration and imagination. This resonates with me as I look back on the months since I was let go from my job in finance – where I was not inspired, challenged, or passionate about my job – and feel that these months have been a recovery process. I have slowly begun to reconnect with my creativity and actively search for inspiration. I started to do this before I read this book, as I took writing and drawing classes over the winter and embarked on the journey of starting my own company, Nudy Patooty. But reading this book has enabled me to identify the process that I have been going through, and inspired me to continue to pursue these passions and continue to search for and cultivate my Element.

But reading this book has enabled me to identify the process that I have been going through, and inspired me to continue to pursue these passions and continue to search for and cultivate my Element.  I just launched a crowdfunding project (**link to via Indiegogo to launch my new line of undershirts, Nudy Patooty, (to prevent perspiration stains, protect clothes and reduce dry-cleaning costs!), and am excited about the new direction and journey I am on!

Are you living in your Element?  What passions do you have buried deep within you, waiting to be cultivated?”

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