Thursday, December 9, 2010

In The Element

Ken Robinson says that being in your element means doing the thing that you have both an aptitude and a passion for.  Sometimes we simplify these ideas so that children think they have to look for a concrete element like math or science or writing.  What if the element isn't so easily defined?  What if the element has several components that look like several 'elements'?  I've been reflecting on a few recent experiences that have felt euphoric.  I was definitely in my element.  Is my element several things or is it one thing?  Are there common threads throughout all these experiences and is it necessary to define it as one thing?
  • I facilitated a discussion with some elementary school teachers on the topic Why we learn (because we want to).  I loved interacting with the teachers and weaving all their thoughts together into a cohesive discussion.  I had fun with an icebreaker activity in which I was very badly teaching everyone how to crochet, and making it relevant to a 6 year old learning to read.
  • I sat listening to my friend who was helping her boss to plan a staff development seminar that was to take place the following day.  She shared his ideas and what she thought her role was.  I helped her create visual images that illustrated the things they wanted to talk about.  The  part I really loved was getting inside her thoughts, and those of her boss, and really understanding the connections that were not as explicitly stated, but were needed to effectively communicate the ideas.
  • Isaiah and I worked together to create a 20 minute set of songs, oration and reflection celebrating Jaedon's 12th birthday a few weeks ago.  We did this at church a few days before the actual birthday. I scripted the 20 minutes and was really in my zone building the story from the various pieces.  I particularly enjoyed a segment of one of the rehearsals where I was sharing my interpretation of one of the songs to the 2 girls who were going to sing it.  It felt as if they were singing and enjoying the song and not really feeling it.  Helping them to connect with the song more deeply, and seeing the connection happen on their faces was very satisfying for me.  It didn't really matter that we eventually decided not to do the song.
  • I'm in the zone in many of my homeschool adventures.  Here's one from today:  Simonne was drawing a dog, a character in an ongoing story co-authored by Zachary.  S: "Mommy, do real dogs have pink noses or is that just in cartoons?"  F: "That depends on the color of the dog's hair.  Dogs with white hair or light colored hair are likely to have pink noses because they don't have a lot of melanin." S: "Melanin?" F: "Yeah, melanin is the thing that causes your skin to be brown.  The dogs with darker hair often have more melanin.." ... and a few more exchanges about melanin.  I was very excited to help her create a connection between something we had talked about in another context and this picture she was drawing.
What's the common theme? I'd love to hear what you notice. I'm noticing a common thread of building connections.  I think building the connections are very satisfying for me.  I often tell people that I hope my kids are benefitting from our explorations, but I certainly am. Every time I make a new connection, I see relevance in a bit of information, I'm excited.  I also really like sharing my connections with people.  The bit of information themselves are very boring without the connections, and the more connections I find, the richer the info becomes.  I have to tell people.

As an aside, something I've been really working on in the past few years is not answering questions that people are not asking.   In other words, restraining myself from sharing my wonderful connections with people who may not find them relevant.  I'm not answering a question they were even thinking about, much less asking.

I've found, though, that if I listen, I'll hear questions people are asking, and then the connections I've found can be added to the connections they have found and the whole gigantic network can really hum with excitement and enthusiasm from the energy pulsing through the connections.

What does it look like when you are in your element?


  1. Faith: another element of your zone seems to be: going deeper. You "got inside" your friend's thoughts, and helped her "really understand" the not-so-obvious connections. You helped the two girls connect with Jaedon's song "more deeply".

    Or maybe I'm only reading that because it seems to be something I enjoy. It's very satisfying for me to go below the surface and draw useful insights, understand the reasons, make sense of, clarify, etc.

    Thanks for the stimulating question!

  2. Faith,

    I just read your post aloud to Iris which lead to a wonderful discussion.

    It seems that we so often associate being in one's element with a specific pursuit or activity, when the activity is simply fertile ground. We go looking for the garden when in fact we're seeking the flowers that grow there.

    Just before she ran out the door to work, Iris told me that being in her element begins with the absence of should or have-to. Those constructs can totally derail the experience. Beyond that, it's about being present and focused.

    For me, I think there are several threads.

    Surely making connections is one of them. I used to want to do so in the company of others, to the point where I didn't value the connections unless others saw them too. However, nowadays, I love making connections, running as fast as I can through a field of them, scooping them up and threading them together as quickly as possible, whether or not anyone else cares to join me.

    Another element of elements for me is experimenting and creating something new. Where as making connections is like working your way through a jigsaw puzzle just spilled onto the table, experimenting and creating are more akin to being given a blank tablet and a #2 pencil and being told, "Have at it."

    They're similar and still different.

    A third thread is speed. There's something about everything coming at me so fast that others are ducking or running to hide that draws me deep into my zone. It's the demand for focused placed upon you from a downhill mountain bike ride or an 8:00AM deadline. I just love being in that zone where it's either be in your zone or fail.

    Thank you for inspiring a wonderful breakfast!


  3. WHY WE LEARN? (or are motivated to, or desire to)(what's in it for us?)

    Why are we seeking the flowers, not particularly the garden?

    my personalized thinking choices, understanding myself, (my motivations and the flavor of experience I desire) its to do with wanting to understand, to know how things work, flow, fit, etc. and, at some earlier point, coming to the realization of the flavor of pleasure from such endeavor.

    Does that not resonate with others, if they care to look at their motivations?

    Many years ago I recall the belief shared as to how we are wired to be pleasure seeking creations. Does this fit with you?

    I'm thinking this thread is simply about the essence of Option, about learning the self enduced enveloping of oneself with the awe of the pleasureableness of being present, with oneself, and sharing this when we are with others, co-inviting them to explore creating visions and the resultant emotional experience that grows in our fertile garden.



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