Building on strengths

3 tips for being in your element

“They were in their element,” is a phrase often used to describe somebody on top form. For example, a professor giving an inspiring lecture, a dancer producing a marvellous performance or a chef creating a wonderful meal.

So when are you in your element? Look for the specific activities in which you demonstrate three characteristics. You are doing what you enjoy, feel at ease and are able to excel.

Ken Robinson describes how such passion can lead to peak performance in his book The Element. (See link below.) For the moment, however, let’s explore where you come alive and do great work.

You can clarify when
you are in your element

One IT worker said: “I really enjoy solving seemingly impossible computer problems.

“Everybody else is going crazy – saying how much money the customer is losing – but I feel calm during the crisis. My company now employs me as a full-time trouble-shooter with clients.”

So what happens for you when you are in your element? One person said:

“I simply feel at home. Things seem to come naturally. I see patterns clearly and know what must be done to achieve success.

“I feel calm, clear and creative. It’s as if it is where I was meant to be.”

Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific activities in which you feel in your element. You may be writing, painting, solving certain kinds of problems, working with particular customers or whatever.

You can focus more on
being in your element

How can you spend more time being in your element?

You may have a sixth sense in certain situations. So it makes sense to put yourself in the places where you have such talents.

Great football managers select players to play in their best position. Why? Because that is where the player has what is called ‘personal radar’. Reading situations quickly, they seem to ‘know what is going to happen before it happens’.

Great managers in business follow a similar rule. They put people in the places where they can deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs.

Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Choose one of these ‘element activities’ that you want to do more of in the future. Describe the things you can do to spend more time doing that activity. Describe the benefits – both for yourself and other people.

You can keep improving
when you are in your element

Peak performers do what they do best and do it brilliantly. So keep placing yourself in your element, but also keep improving. As the much quoted Louise Heath Leber said after being voted Mother of The Year in The New York Post in 1961.

“There’s always room for improvement. It is the biggest room in the house.”

How to make this happen? One approach is to develop the habit of self-development. When working with some people, for example, I encourage them to keep a log called My Right Book. Looking at their daily work, they are invited to record:

Three things I did right today – and how I
can do more of these things in the future.




Two things I can do even
better in the future – and how.



Different people have different approaches to improving.

Great performers, however, remind themselves of what they must keep doing to perform the basics. Following these principles will always get them to 8/10. They then focus on how they can add the brilliance. This can take them to 10/10.

Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Focusing on where you feel able to excel, describe the specific things you can do to perform the basics and then add the brilliance. You can then keep developing and enjoying being in your element.

One Comment to “3 tips for being in your element”

  1. Hi, I found this an interesting exercise in developing a self-acknowledge or perceived strength. However, I consider, being in your element is where an inherent talent and is combined with inner desire to achieve a stated goal. I believe, for one to arrive at the ‘elemental destination’ you first need to explore what your talent could be. As this talent is typically latent, I find Johari’s Widow is a very useful tool to help identify the true self. Often our greatest strengths are the one we least recognise so seeking to identify them before we start the journey to finding an elemental state of mind is extremely important because climbing top the top of a tree to find you are in the wrong forest is a debilitating exercise indeed

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