Enthusiasm, Maslow and The Element

I am an enthusiastic convert – I subscribe to Sir Ken Robinson’s updated Jungian view that by people pursuing their passion(s), or being in their Element, there is a transformative effect on the individual and thereby society as a whole. Exploring-Art.com was my manifestation of To-Fu’s creativity rule number 24, Create a Framework, this blog is my framework. My Element? Perhaps I have discovered my Element via continuing education in the fine arts, and it is my word for 2012, to: Write. So to be my most creative, my most contributory I need to write more… I think I have that much right, but there is something I got wrong and reading The Happiness Project brought it to my attention.

I have professed that enthusiasm is a renewable resource. Trees are also a renewable resource; however, we need to plant more trees or we will run out. Renewable does not mean inexhaustible. So what’s my point? By focusing my goals on exploring art, and cultivating my Element, I skipped an imperative foundational step. To illustrate this point and also that I learned something during my Undergraduate Degree, let us talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a Business School 101 concept and essentially it states that people cannot be their most productive unless their basic needs are looked after. The ranking of needs from the most basic to most complex is; Physiology, Safety, Belonging, Esteem, and Self Actualization. Here is a sketch:

Okay so that might seem a little abstract, so here is how I would map that hierarchy to categories more meaningful to me and my situation, from foundational to inspirational, Vitality, Family, and the Element.

My resolutions for 2012, both the SMART goals and the poetry were backwards! I can’t just focus on my Element and have the foundation piece as minor side notes. I need to ensure my foundations are well placed so that I can pursue my Element, my atmosphere of growth, as Gretchen Rubin would call it, without the looming spectre of exhaustion.

My enthusiasm is a renewable resource, but it is not inexhaustible. I must first commit to myself and my family in order to succeed with my loftier goals. More to come on what that means soon.

The Happiness Project

Irony is everywhere. When I started my continuing education Fine Arts Diploma Program (FADP), and this blog, it was in a mini rebellion against the self help industry. The Element with its tagline “How finding your passion changes everything” was the major culprit that made me look down my nose at this entire section of books and enrol in FADP instead. Of course as you know from my review of The Element, which I wrote immediately after reading the book an entire year after my initial shun; I loved it.

I stumbled upon another self help book that I devoured this weekend entitled The Happiness Project and I loved it too. This book is probably old news for anyone who is into these types of books but it resonated with me and I feel inclined to reflect on it and its implications for Exploring-Art.com, which in some light could be looked at as the brand for my own Happiness Project. The output of this rumination will be the subject of the next few rapid fire blog posts. I am splitting it up to keep the outpouring of ideas digestible. It is interesting that I had alluded to some change ideas brewing from Wordcamp Victoria and which now, post weekend read, have been significantly altered.

First we will start with why I loved the The Happiness Project, then in later posts we will talk about what it means for me and our adventures exploring art.

It’s personal

The author Gretchen Rubin bares her soul. She shares graphic details of her temper, her husband’s illness and also profound glimpses into her inner conflicts. It is really inspirational to see someone open themselves up to complete strangers in this very rare way.

It’s relatable

Her personal stories resonated with me so much because I found the material so relatable. I had struggled with these challenges and came to many of the same conclusions. Her advice was often it depends – your situation may be different, you may have different needs. All of our journeys are unique.

It’s practical

The books is brimming with practical advice of little things you can incorporate into your own Happiness Project without having to travel to an Ashram.

The Happiness Project was wonderful. If you’re at all interested in promoting happiness in yourself and thereby in others as well, go get this book! More coming soon on its implications for me and Exploring-Art.com.

Unfulfilled Visions and Machinations of Change

My father recently read my post on Soliloquies and Utopian Visions, during our Christmas get together he commented that the counterculture of the 60’s was largely interested in doing away with work and promoting “leisure” as well. I knew this of course, with the cliche of “working for the man” being a hallmark statement capturing the sentiment; however the comment led me to think of two things I’d like to add as a philosophical tributary to the earlier monologue.

In his book The Element, Sir Ken Robinson differentiates between three types of pursuits that people spend time on: Work, that which you do professionally to make a living. Leisure, that which you do to relax or take your mind off things. Recreation, things that you are passionate about that you pursue with the rigour of professional. I think of this last category as extra curricular activities. It is in this category where peoples’ “Element” often lives. It is here where the path to self fulfilment lies – Meaning just hanging around and having a cocktail won’t lead to self actualization. Indulging in libations would be categorized as leisure and is fine in moderation; however it is not going to lead to a positive transformation of the individual and by extension society.

There’s a problem here that a skeptic will quickly surface. Recreation, or extra curricular activities require effort, and quite possibly blood, sweat and tears. If people aren’t getting paid to do it, how do you get people pursuing their passions instead of just lazing about? There’s two high level answers, one at the individual level and one at societal level.

In the RSA Animate clip of a Sir Ken Robinson speech they do an excellent job illustrating the first contributor to the individual’s motivation. Following your passion feels good! It wakes you up, you like it, you’d do it even if you didn’t have to. So what’s the problem? People get busy, have other priorities, get dissuaded and generally lose sight of whatever their favourite extra curricular activity is. So once you’ve found it, you still have to make time for it and practice it, which can be hard especially in a culture that is skeptical of the inherent rewards. Making and keeping a schedule for your activity is a good place to start. Finding other people who share your passion can also be an important part of routinizing it into your daily life. Robinson reuses “finding your tribe” to describe this important facet of successfully cultivating your passion.

The societal level answer is culture. If a country’s culture can create a sincere outpouring of grief over the loss of a not so benevolent dictator, or an impassioned defence of a “democracy” where only one party is allowed to field candidates, then surely it can also create an environment where pursuit of one’s passion is more highly valued than having 500 television channels. Culture is a complex emergent entity… Where do we start? We start with ourselves as individuals and as Sir Ken Robinson rightly indicates we start with our public education systems as well. Why schools? They have relatively less for profit corporate vested interest. They are a common starting place for much of the worlds population, and they are very clearly broken.

As a New Year’s resolution and a commitment to practice what I preach, I will be seeking out my tribe at the Victroria Writer’s Society General Meeting, and the Victoria area Wordcamp. What are you doing next year to enrich yourself?