Lately, I reviewed some notes from books I read during the past years and realized I collected a goldmine of precious lessons across various disciplines.
Most of the time, I’m reading several books at the same time and, on average, finishing one per week. But I also start lots of books that I don’t read to the end at all. Due to this chaotic approach, I often forget about the lessons I learn during the reading process.
Thus, I review my notes regularly, and this time, I came across the lessons from an author I deeply admire: Ken Robbinson.
In Finding Your Element, Robbinson teaches how to find your talents and passions and create a life you genuinely enjoy by combining what you love and what you’re good at.
1. Start Your Day With Morning Pages
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.”
Morning Pages were initially invented by Julia Cameron and are a fantastic way to start your days with more energy and joy.
In short, morning pages are about automatic writing. It‘s a way of decluttering your mind before you start the day by writing down anything that crosses your mind.
However, what you write isn’t important. What matters is getting into the creative state of writing down anything that you think of.
You might write down what you want to achieve throughout the day, what you’re excited about, or what you’re afraid of.
For me, journaling is a critical routine to stay happy, calm, and motivated every day, and I’ve been starting most of my days with morning pages for the past 1.5 years. I open my journal and write down whatever comes to mind: What I’m grateful for, my goals, my affirmations, what I find annoying, what I find exciting,…
Putting your thoughts on paper and turning your emotions into words is a fantastic and powerful way to get to know yourself better and get clear on what you want to achieve in life.
2. Passion Reveals Energy
According to Robbinson, doing what we love energizes us:
“If you’re doing something that you love, by the end of the day you may be physically tired but spiritually energized.”
I first came into touch with personal development and entrepreneurship during my studies in business administration when I was 19 years old. And I quickly knew that building a business around personal development was a goal I’d pursue for the next years.
Three years later, I’m running a personal growth business and passionately doing what I love every day. For the first 1.5 years, however, I built my business besides my studies, a full-term internship, and other duties.
And the only reason why I managed to host workshops, create online courses, and write dozens of blog posts besides my studies and a full-time job was my passion. I knew what I wanted to create, and more importantly, I knew why I was doing it.
Once you find something that genuinely excites you, you’ll find the time and energy to work on it, regardless of the circumstances.
I see single moms building thriving businesses. I see 16-year olds creating incredible products and services. And I see people with 9-to-5 jobs who’re building little empires out of their side-hustles.
So, obviously, passion reveals energy.
3. Mindfulness Can Make All the Difference in Life
Here’s what Robbinson states about how the combination of passion and mindfulness can impact our lives:
“Although mindfulness does not remove the ups and downs of life, it changes how experiences like losing a job, getting a divorce, struggling at home or at school, births, marriages, illnesses, death and dying influence you and how you influence the experience. . . . In other words, mindfulness changes your relationship to life.”
For the first years of my entrepreneurial journey, I was mainly into topics such as mindset, productivity, and high-performance habits and neglected mindfulness.
At some point, however, I realized I was stuck. Delivering results and achieving goals seemed to be harder and less pleasant. That’s when I realized I was missing out on a critical point of personal development: Balance.
Too often, we believe that being successful needs to be hard. The truth, however, is that life doesn’t need to be hard at all. No matter how big your goals are: Life can be fun, and our days can be filled with ease and joy.
A little self-reflection, checking in with yourself, and practicing some mindful routines such as journaling, meditation, or even certain types of sports such as swimming can be all we need to calm our minds and connect with our intuition.
As stated in Finding Your Element, practicing mindfulness will come with many advantages such as the reduction of stress, a stronger immune system, the ability to deal with negative emotions, and improved concentration.
4. Your Behavior Defines Your Happiness
For me, there are two types of happiness:
- General wellbeing and satisfaction with my overall situation in life: This includes being grateful for my health, for my boyfriend and family, for living in a beautiful, safe city, for having access to the internet and all the knowledge I need, and so much more that we tend to call basics.
- But there’s also temporary happiness, which I would rather call joy: This is what I feel when I buy an ice-cream or listen to a song that I love — temporary and with no significant impact on my overall, long-term happiness.
Whenever I practice self-reflection and do a little check-in of my life, I try to cover both aspects: Am I happy overall? Are the big things in my life, such as relationships, my job, finances, etc. aligned? And what specifically brings joy into my daily life? What are the tiny things that lead to a smile on my face, and how can I increase these little happy moments in my everyday life?
What I found over the past years is that I need to consider both aspects when practicing self-reflection.
I can be genuinely happy with my life and still have a shitty day because something went wrong. I might be frustrated because I missed a bus but still be 100% happy in life. One doesn’t necessarily need to affect the other. Having a bad day (or a few bad moments) isn’t the same as being unsatisfied with your entire life.
Only by separating your long-term happiness from the short-term can you have an objective view of your life and work on the areas that need the most attention.
5. Don’t Rely on Formal Education to Find Purpose or Happiness
Even though I’m incredibly grateful for having access to the traditional education system, I believe a huge reason why people end up being unhappy is because they rely too much on schools and universities.
Most of what we’re being taught in formal institutions is out of date and not relevant. Yet, most students believe they’ll find something they love at college and pursue it for their entire lives.
But here’s what Robbinson says about college and purpose:
“College is hardly the only source of education in life. And while you’re truly lucky to have this opportunity, if you take a break and see the world, college will still be here when you get back — and who knows, you might just find a purpose.”
During my 15 years at formal education, I hardly learned anything that helped me build the life of my dreams: I didn’t learn about finances, relationships, how to deal with setbacks, how to take action on your ideas, and so much more that I wish was taught at school.
Yet, the education system won’t change too soon. It’s a system designed to educate the masses, and even though this approach harms many individuals, it’ll probably stay the same for the many more decades.
The good news, however, is that most we have free access to incredible amounts of knowledge and information. Educating yourself is easier and cheaper than ever before.
Once you know how to use a smartphone, you’re able to find out almost anything. The amount of accessible knowledge on the internet is at an all-time high. You can get deep insights into everything if you take the time and make an effort.
So, instead of wondering why we’re unhappy and didn’t find our purpose yet, we might as well get out there and educate ourselves on how to do it better.
6. A Great Tribe is Priceless
Robinson defines a tribe as a group of people who share the same interests and passions. And he clearly states why being part of a tribe is incredibly powerful and important:
“Tribes that work together can achieve more than individuals acting alone because they stimulate each other’s creativity and sense of possibility.”
There’s a famous quote saying that you’re the average of the five people that you’re surrounded by. Admittedly, I don’t fully believe in the truth of that statement. I believe everything we consume makes up who we ultimately are: The books we read, the shows we watch, the places we travel to…
However, one of my biggest challenges during the past years was distancing myself from people who don’t bring any joy and happiness into my life and instead building a tribe of people who have similar values and aspirations in life.
Being dedicated to fulfilling your dreams is hard when those around you tear you down. Being around people who lift you up, however, is a pure blessing and an accelerator for happiness and success.
7. It’s All About Living a Life that Is True to Yourself
One more common reason why people end up being unhappy in life is because they follow other’s rules and expectations instead of creating their own.
We all grow up following the rules of others, and while some people manage to break out of that system and live a life that is true to themselves, the majority spend their lives being stuck in patterns created by others.
According to Robinson, here’s one of the most common regrets of dying people:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
The average life expectancy in western countries is around 30,000 days. And while time is continuously passing, we often act as if our time here was eternal instead of appreciating every single day of our lives.
Choosing to follow existing patterns instead of creating your own rules is, of course, easier. But is it worth it?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do.”
— Ken Robbinson