what is my element?

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Yes, I look silly. No, I don’t care.

Sir Ken Robinson, in his book, The Element, discusses the idea of this elusive concept as the intersection of natural talents and passions. He says that it is at this intersection that you can be the best version of yourself, be most successful and be happiest. He gives various examples of people who have discovered their Element and flourished, from dancers to musicians to cartoonists. I won’t give away the meat of the book – borrow it from a library if you’re interested, but it was a great push for me to search for my Element.

It took me a while to figure out what mine is, or are, since I think everyone really has several.

But I think I’ve narrowed it down.

  • Creativity/New Ideas – I can think of a million and one ideas on any given day. Now, following through on those ideas is another matter. I’m a starter, not a finisher.
  • Enthusiasm/Humor – I get incredibly invested in my ideas, or anything I care about, and can be the most enthusiastic and energetic person there is. I’m also told I’m very funny. I do know that I love funny things and will always be the one trying to lighten things up.
  • Writing/Language – I once took one of those types of intelligence tests and scored strongest on the linguistic side. Which makes sense, seeing as that is my major. I love words, grammar, writing, reading, blogging, and anything word related.

Perhaps because I think I’ve already discovered my dream job of teaching, I can see how well my strengths complement that discipline. Think about it; when teaching, I get to do something different every day or week, I get to create enthusiasm and use humor (best way to teach kids, after all), and I get to work with language and writing as an ESL teacher. Perfect! I hate doing the same thing over and over again for a long time, so a job where I have to come up with new ideas constantly and utilize them in a fun way sounds like heaven!

Finding how my talents and the things I enjoy work together has been a huge blessing. I know so many people who are working at jobs they hate, never getting enough time to spend on what they enjoy. What a drag! I looked at their lives and then looked at how my life could go; picket fence and suburbs and all, and it felt like I was being suffocated. But looking at my life in Korea as an elementary ESL teacher and blogger, well, looks like a field of daises with unicorns and fluffy cats and milk tea trees and clouds that rain coffee. Or something like that. All the best things in the world.

This book was enormously helpful. Yes, I probably could have figured all this out on my own, but having a guide and being able to read accounts of other people who’ve discovered their dreams just puts the wind right in my sails. I get so inspired to find inspiration. I also appreciate how Sir Robinson emphasizes the lack of higher education most of these people had. I’ve always believed you don’t need a degree to be happy or successful. If only the Korean education system agreed with me.

otter.

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dream burnout/disappointment

As COPs and EDs*, it’s easy for us to overload on planning. But there’s always a point where there’s just nothing left to plan. If you suffer from COP, then you’ve probably done this; planned everything a thousand ways, tweaked it endlessly, and now there’s nothing left for that dream. You’re left twiddling your thumbs, bored and aimless, until one day…BAM. Another grand idea comes along, whisking you off to Planningland. If you don’t stop yourself from planning and dreaming, you’re going to be caught in the never-ending search for the new, next-best dream, the next something to plan and dream about. And you’ll wind up at the end of your life with none of the dreams accomplished. You may even have twenty cats. (Well, that doesn’t sound half bad…) At any rate, dream burnout is easy to get. I’ve done it hundreds of times.

Here’s a piece of advice. Don’t make idols of your dreams. Dreams are wonderful, shiny, grandiose things that are called “dreams” for a reason. They don’t exist in reality in the way we think they will. They never can, because we can’t see the future. 100% of the time, they surprise us in how they turn out. Come on, you know I’m right. Nothing is perfect, and even if we plan out the flaws or dangers, reality always has something we don’t expect. Dreams can’t meet your highest expectations. If you think they will, you will set yourself up for dream disappointment.

Remember, even if you reach achieve your dream life, it won’t always be exciting and infinitely more wonderful than the life you have now. Life is mostly made up of endless days and in-between moments, not the biggest, brightest times. Think back on your happiest memories. When you were living that moment, was it as wonderful as the memory it created? I’ve discovered that often enough, a moment is better in memory than when I was living it. Mostly because I’m not thinking about how wonderful the thing is all the while I’m in it. Find time to create wonderful memories, but remember that life is never a continuous succession of adventure, and watch out for dream burnout and disappointment.

otter.

*COP – Chronic Over-Planner/Planning

ED – Excessive Dreamer/Dreaming

the next step or; like a jumper, man!

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Where are his eyes? On the next jump.

I have a really solid vision of what I want my future to be. I know my dream. It’s so close and tangible I can taste the kimchi.

BUT. <<there it is. There is danger. I suffer from COP and ED*. I’m in real danger of over-planning everything, writing down every single step of the way and really getting myself worked up and frustrated.

I heard some really good advice somewhere recently. Whoever it was said that instead of worrying so much and spending all your time making plans, you should focus on the next few steps. I think he said four, but I actually prefer just one. I think for a lot of people, even four is too much at one time, especially if each step is very involved or will take a lot of time.

When you focus solely and intently on just the next step, you leave yourself room for flexibility in the rest of the plan, you don’t worry as much, and that step is more likely to succeed. For me, the next step is clear; go to school and get a BA. That will take up the next two or three years of my life, and before I complete that goal, I shouldn’t worry about what comes after. Maybe six months before I graduate, I can start serious work on the step after that, but it just doesn’t make sense to plan something so far in advance. For one thing, a lot can happen during two years. Maybe I’ll get married. Maybe I’ll decide to move somewhere other than Korea. Anything could change my plans.

I used to be a jumper. As in on a horse. An Equestrian. (For whatever reason, most people don’t get that when I say “jumper.”) I jumped for two or three years, and absolutely loved it. One of the first things you learn in jumping is to only look at the next jump after you’ve cleared the first one. Once you start the course, you look only at the jump you are about to clear. Once your horse’s forefeet come off the ground, you must immediately turn your whole body and focus to the next jump.

I think this is so applicable to planning your future. Taking it one “jump” at a time and focusing your entire being on that next step means that that step is more likely to come out well.

Take advice from an equestrian and just look at one jump at a time.

(I really miss jumping.)

otter.

*COP – Chronic Over-Planner/Planning

ED – Excessive Dreamer/Dreaming

Picture via Pinterest

my current dream

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A sunflower. Which has nothing to do with dreams. 

I think humans must always have a dream. (I DREAMED A DREAM IN TIME GONE BYYYYYY!!!!!) Even when we are in the midst of depressing or insufferable circumstances, I think we will tend to imagine a greater place of happiness. I knew I wouldn’t stay in Taiwan forever, but until around four months ago, I didn’t have a clear picture of where I wanted to go. I had vague, nebulous ideas, but nothing concrete. I fully believe that those who plan where they want to end up are the ones most likely to reach their destination. My dream could change; it has before, but some things have always remained the same. I want to live in Asia; I love Asian culture and I feel that it suits me. I want to work with language; either as a teacher, writer, translator or blogger. I want to create and enjoy a beautiful life.

So below is a specific outline of where I see myself in five years. (Now I can answer that pesky interview question.)

After I finish school and get my BA, I’m planning on moving to Korea and teaching English. Ideally, I’d like to teach high school or middle school. I really love getting people excited about things, and I would love to be able to go more in-depth on topics related to English, America, and Western culture. I wouldn’t really be able to do that with younger students, and I feel that college-level is a bit beyond me…

I want to build my blog and become a pro, perhaps even moving into vlogging once in Korea. I know plenty of people who live off of their blogs, and that’s been a dream of mine for a couple of years now, ever since starting TFA. But I know it takes a while, and so I need a good job in the meantime. (If nothing else, I would need some better and more expensive equipment.)

I want to build a ministry for girls. Once I move to Korea, I want to connect with a local church and start a Bible/English class for older teens. Or perhaps connect with an overseas mission project and help establish clubs where I live.

Remember my other post about living in the future? These things are what keep me floating in Tomorrowland. I have to be careful not to lose myself in dreams of a future in Korea. I have to rein myself in and buckle down to Chinese even though I really prefer Korean. It takes discipline, but I’m learning and getting better at it, and I think this acquisition of self-control will be invaluable in my later life, no matter where I end up.

So for now, I’m keeping all this in mind, but not my whole mind.

Huzzah! SUNFLOWERS! (Which, again, have nothing to do with dreams.)

otter.

just do it

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Going somewhere? AT 150MPH! HUZZAH!

How many of you are like me? You are major dreamers, major planners, majors in figuring out how to live and do better without doing it. If you are a Chronic Over-Planner, raise your hand. Even in reading all these fantastic books about change, dream jobs, dream lives, more with less, and so on, I am still just waiting, not doing! I’m reading about a better life, not having one. I’m reading about how I should just sit and write, but I’m not sitting and writing. I’m reading and my brain is going, “Yay! THIS is how I should do it. At last, a solution!” But guess what? There’s always another book to read. There are lots of books out there now about how to get off your tush, out of your bad job, out of the drudgery of life and into something marvelous that will be an adventure every minute of the day! </sarcasm> Okay, so maybe I’m being a little harsh. I mean, these books are fantastic. The advice is good. But for the over-planners and chin-in-the-palm dreamers like me, I can spend the next two weeks reading all these books and won’t have accomplished much of anything.

It takes doing. Like Nike, man! “Just do it!” If I had to sum up all the advice in all these books, that would be it. Most of us know what we need to do. For us over-planners and dreamers, we’ve planned and dreamed everything about everything. Even if we don’t have all the steps laid out yet, we have the first one. You do, right? If I want to be a blogger, what do I need to do? Blog. Write. Post this article. Simple. I can worry about just exactly how awesome my blog will look when I get that new software, how I need to work on my photography skills until they’re stellar, how I need to have a full two-month plan before I type a single thing, but in the end, the first step is to write.

So here’s me, writing. I did it, Nike!

otter.

New Year, New Life!

Chinese New Year just passed, and since I didn’t do much in the way of, uh, “actual” New Year’s resolutions (read: none), let me do this instead. I’m going to share the most exciting thing in my life right now; the re-directing of it.

First of all, a little personal background. Up until recently, I was having a really hard time figuring out what to do in my life. I had some ambitions; be a writer, travel, be an editor, work for myself, and so on. These plans were nebulous at best, hazy representations of what I considered “the good life.” But they were based on expectations I and others had placed on myself. I , like the majority of other people, have always thought of work as, well, work. Something not very enjoyable that nevertheless had to be endured in order to make money and survive. I wanted to work in something fun, like writing, but, let’s face it, writing won’t pay the bills if you’re not an instant best-seller. So I knew I’d need something more, let’s say, professional, in order to survive. Something I could say and people would be impressed with. Something high-end that would fit in with my idea of successful.

Enter in a couple of books (thanks especially to my mother who got me into this first one). First, we have 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. I won’t go into too much detail, since it would be better for you to just buy it, but the book takes you on a 48-day journey to find what you’re “born” to do. Sounds cheesy, right? Well, it’s not. It makes you think about your best talents and how you could work in that strength, and also helps you realize that your dream job is plausible and possible. I had to write a list of dream jobs, and a couple of them were really obscure, like “tea-taster,” or “full-time blogger.” Obscure, yes. Impossible, no. At the very least, this book broke me out of the mold of having the “perfect” career and focusing on only the money.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. ~Confucius

Wise words, friends. So, I have my list of dream jobs. Have I narrowed it down? Not yet. I’m still young, I’m in no rush to find the rest of my life. It might make things a little less stressful, but I have a problem with over-planning and living in the future anyway.

Now, enter the second book; Living the 80/20 Way by Richard Koch. If you’re not familiar with the 80/20 principle of business, do some research. Trust me, if you’re new to this, it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. (*cue dun-dun-dun) His first book was strictly for business people, but this one focuses on applying the principle to your life. Much better for people who are bored by statistics. I feel like this book is a good runner-up to 48 Days, because it helps you get to your dream job and dream life in practical, minimal steps. Read them.

Am I excited? Oh yeah. I’m still spending more time planning than actually doing, but I think I’m on the right road to the future I want.

Huzzah, world! Here comes a crazy white girl!

otter.