Whilst walking along the Cornish coast last week, we noticed four or five seals basking on the beach below us. We must have inadvertently startled them and they set off towards the sea. They were so ungainly! They hitched themselves forward, rolled around a bit and we winced as their flippers lost grip on the larger rocks and they slipped onto the pebbles.
And then they made it. I could almost hear them sigh with relief as they slid into the sea. Suddenly they were so graceful! They dived and weaved between the rocks, the roughness of the Atlantic in November causing them no problems whatsoever. Whilst they can make progress on land, it’s obvious they weren’t built to spend most of their time there and as we watched them swim, it was quite clear that they were now truly in their element.
The seal is at its best in the sea; I’m at my best on land. We operate so much better when we find ourselves in our element, when we are where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, whether that’s at work or at home. Hopefully, we’ve all had the experience of everything coming together and falling into place so we are fully focused on our task, absorbed and engaged to the extent that nothing else seems to matter. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this state ‘flow’, I call it ‘being in my element’ and we both believe it has a huge impact on our happiness and sense of fulfillment.
So how can we achieve this? For me, being in my element is a combination of my skills and my passions – it’s not enough to just be good at doing something to be in my element, I have to be enjoying it too. Knowing what our values are, understanding those things which are really important to us and whether or not we’re living in accordance with them can also help here. If time on my own is what I need to work effectively and to enjoy what I’m doing but I’m working in a noisy call centre, I’m not in my element. If I’m an night owl but my shifts run from 0600 to 1400, I’m not in my element.
Today’s pebble for your contemplation is this:
Are you in your element? If not, what needs to change? If you are, well done – how can you be in your element more often?
What do you think?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?