When you’re a kid growing up in the United States, adults constantly ask you what you want to be when you grow up – a question based on the assumption that here, you can become whoever or whatever you want to be. By the middle of high school, they begin advising you to make a backup plan, in case your dream career doesn’t work out. The pragmatic and the idealistic approach are both deeply American, but rarely in our culture do they coexist peacefully. Nowhere is this more evident than in the history of American education, whose pendulum swings perpetually back and forth between more “progressive” pedagogies designed to tap students’ deeper talents and “back-to-basics” interventions designed to quell the fear that we’re falling behind the rest of the world on concrete measures of math and literacy.

In How to Find Your Element, his new workshop for Big Think Mentor, Sir Ken Robinson describes the search for your place in the world as a two-way quest – a dialogue between what you want to be when you grow up and what the world needs from you. In the “follow your dream” world of Disney and network TV, this kind of reasoning would reek of compromise. In the world of college and career prep it would seem silly and impractical. What it is, in fact, is a much-needed reminder that we are both social and solipsistic creatures, and that a life well-lived is likely to serve others while satisfying our inner passions. When people get lost in their lives and careers, Robinson would argue, they’re usually serving one at the expense of the other.

Video: A Two Way Quest, and its Perils, with Sir Ken Robinson – full video available with paid subscription to Big Think Mentor


In How to Find Your Element, his 7-session workshop for Big Think Mentor, creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson tackles the epidemic of dissatisfaction with work and life. He offers practical exercises and tips for discovering your “element” – the environment and set of activities that will activate your unique abilities, sustain your happiness, and enable you to live your best possible life.

In this workshop, you’ll learn to:

- Understand the concept and the value of “finding your element”

- Recognize the perils and promise of the two-fold (internal and external) path to   finding your element.  

- Discover your specific talents

- Identify your passions (which may differ from your talents)

- Take steps to ensure that your attitude and beliefs are steering you toward (rather  than away from) your element.

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