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My element

Anouska cropped Ivy House

Think about when you are at your most content, when you feel the most joy. Don’t you want to have that feeling more often?

The second session of The Ivy House Award, ‘My Element’ will help us find this place, so that we can spend as much time there as possible.

But how do we know what this is? And why is it important? The second session helps us to discover the point where our strengths and passions meet, at a time when we have so much control over the direction our life is taking: sixth form. We will feel most fulfilled and content, when we spend time in our element. Unfortunately, there is no algorithm or formulae to figure out what combines each of our strengths and passions most effectively. Students are individuals, we are all totally unique, meaning there is no ‘one size fits all’ for finding where our element lies, it requires thinking, patience and determination.  

The second session puts us on the path to discovering our element, by encouraging us to pick apart our passions and strengths, with the hope of finding places where they intersect. We all have something, and some of us will have more than one.

For example, many people love team sports such as rugby, but what people love about it will inevitably vary from person to person. Some may love the teamwork and camaraderie, whereas others may like the feeling of leading a group, or the competitiveness. Equally, others may prefer individual sports. They may enjoy the feeling of control, independence, the peacefulness of training alone or one-on-one competitiveness. There are so many different reasons why people might enjoy one particular activity, but to maximise our feelings of contentment, we should aim to draw on our strengths simultaneously.

I’ve known for a while that I want to be a lawyer in the future, but being just a ‘lawyer’ isn’t a career: what kind of lawyer, what area of law, self-employed or employed and so on. It wasn’t until I did the Ivy House Award that I began to get more clarity about what specific career would make me feel most fulfilled. I established my core strengths as being communication, articulation and self-motivation (among others). I then thought about what I love. However, I didn’t just think about what I love, I thought really hard about why I love it. I have a passion for the law not just because I want justice or adore ‘Suits’, but because I enjoy contentious matters that are open to interpretation and full of grey areas. I also feel a sense of purpose and satisfaction when I am able to help other people. A lot more thinking went into this, as you can imagine, but what I did was separate my strengths and what I enjoy about my passions, so I was able to look for places where they intersect within the legal profession.

Without the Ivy House Award, I would still be searching for direction in terms of my career.

It has been crucial to consistently remind myself that my element is not fixed. It will evolve, grow and change as I do. My element is not the same now as when I first did The Award, but there are similarities, and I can be pretty certain that it won’t stay the same forever. I moved from wanting to be a commercial solicitor, to criminal barrister, to civil barrister, and the chances are it will continue to evolve as life goes on. These changes have come naturally over time, and I haven’t pressured myself to keep my element static. 

The second session reinforces the idea that the sooner we figure out where our element lies, the sooner our lives can move in the right direction, towards spending as much time in our element as possible. We can allow our element to change and evolve over time, but what must stay constant is that it remains priority in our lives. Don’t worry if you’re not sure, so many students feel a little clueless, I know I did. The point is to start thinking about it. We have to commit ourselves to exploring possibilities, questioning what we enjoy and why we enjoy it, and searching for where our strengths raise their heads throughout our lives. Be curious, experience different feelings and activities. Start noticing how you feel, and what it is that is making you feel that way.What are you good at, what do you love, and what do you love about it? We have a far greater chance of success (whatever this may be to you) and fulfilment when we live in our element. Session two will help you find it.

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