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The ‘Quest’ To ‘Find Your Element’

Life can get routine — wake up, go to work, make dinner, go to sleep, rinse, repeat. But what about time for your interests? What about the things you really want to do?

We recently spoke to Sir Ken Robinson about this very tension.

You probably recognize his name because he gave one of the most watched TED Talks of all time:

During our conversation, Robinson talked about his latest book, “Finding Your Element: How To Discover Your Talents And Passions And Transform Your Life” (read an excerpt).

He emphasized the importance of understanding your own talents and abilities, harnessing your own creativity and using that self-awareness to sculpt a fulfilling life.

In particular, he talked about how finding your element is a two-way journey — or quest, as he likes to say — both internal and external:

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.

I say in the book it’s a two-way journey — it’s a journey inside to spend more time with ourselves. A lot of people in my experience don’t know enough about themselves, about their talents or their abilities. I meet all kinds of adults who tell me they haven’t got any special talents at all, they don’t have any particular passions or interests, and I just don’t believe it. I think there are plenty of people who haven’t found them, who haven’t known where to look — it’s one of the problems with education that we get steered away from them. So there are a whole series of exercises in the book to help people reflect on their own talents, things they’re good at, whether they really know what they’re good at. And there’s a whole set of exercises about understanding how your passions come about.

And it’s an external journey in the world around you and to find new experiences and new opportunities. It’s those two things and how they come together that I try to map out for people in the book.

Read more highlights from our interview with Robisnon.

WEIGH IN: How have you accommodated your passions into your life? How do you make time to pursue them?

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Apr 24, 2015
Dick West (Dr. Walter Richard West, Wah-pah-nah-yah or Wapah Nahya, Light Foot Runner), 1912−1996, Southern Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Cheyenne Sun Dance—The Third Day, 1949. Paper, casein, 24 5/8 x 35 1/8 inches. © 2013 Philbrook Museum of Art, Inc., Museum purchase, 1949.20, Photo: John Lamberton.

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The Rev. Jamal Bryant leads a rally outside of the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station during a march and vigil for Freddie Gray, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP)

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