Happiness – this seems to be the recurring theme. Ever since I started my journey to escape my current job, I have heard countless people talk and write about the search for happiness. Am I looking for happiness? I’m not per se. What I am looking for is contentment and fulfilment which I don’t feel I have right now. I guess, achieving the latter and former should ultimately lead to happiness.
So why is it we are all so unhappy?
What is happiness? Having searched Google, I’ve found there are a whole host of definitions. This however is my favourite and it resonates with me. Are we all so unhappy because we aren’t achieving our values or goals? Are we not flourishing as individuals? For me this is true. Why are so many of us now seeking a new way of living? How did we end up where we are in the first place?
Ken Robinson describes the fault with the education system “every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects…at the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities and at the bottom are the arts”. Why is this?
Ken Robinson has written many books on this subject and his famous Ted Talk – Do Schools Kill Creativity is a favourite of mine. The education system was created in the Industrial Revolution to produce academics. The subjects that were placed at the top of the education hierarchy were there because they were the subjects that would lead you into jobs. Back then this was what we needed and it meant a steady well paid job for those who chose that path. Today there is so much more choice and the working environment has completely changed. The paths the academic system led us to are not necessarily areas we particularly excel in, so is this the cause of our unhappiness?
The fact that the education system stigmatises individuals who choose to study arts means there is an unfair pressure being put on individuals to choose subjects they don’t excel in. Are we unhappy because we haven’t found our element?
Finding your element
Another book by Ken Robinson is Finding Your Element. Ken recommends using a multitude of methods to find your element; he never recommends one over another because he recognises that we are all individuals and we have different learning styles. He points out that we may believe ourselves to be weak at a subject, but the reality is this may be down to the way we were taught.
We all have unique learning styles. Having completed the Honey and Mumford learning styles questionnaire, my preferred styles are pragmatist and theorist, followed by reflector and lastly activist. This makes sense as I like a good plan and I like to understand why and how things fit together.
Thinking back about my education and experience, I have always favoured pragmatism. I am a pragmatist – someone who is practical and focused on reaching a goal. So long as I have a goal in sight, I am pretty happy working my way towards it.
I went through school to get to university. It had been drummed into me from an early age, in order to get a good job, I needed to go to university. I studied Business and Marketing, my favourite part was my sandwich year – practical application.
After university, I did several temporary jobs in the public and not-for-profit sector before I went travelling for a year. I returned to work in the charity sector (as a fundraiser) because working for a commercial organisation didn’t feel right. Many people are unhappy because they don’t see the value of the work they do.
Should I be happy just because I work for a charity?
To be honest, I think the work our front line workers do is amazing. However I am not happy because I still find my role unfulfilling and I don’t like the culture I work in. I would feel more fulfilled if I was having direct impact, working for myself and with more like minded people. There are several boxes that need to be ticked. Is problem solving for social good my element?
Organisational culture is interesting. Freedom, flexibility and creativity are important to me. Areas of which I don’t feel are promoted or encouraged enough where I work.
In fact, I feel creativity is quite often stifled due to laborious processes which drain the fun out of everything. Also, shortsightedness – the inability to plan for the future and see what might be is frustrating.
This has made me focus on who my actual target audience should I follow my creativity and innovation consultancy route.
The Opportunity Exists
Our education system is no longer fit for purpose; it no longer meets the needs of changing society. It doesn’t respond to the fact that children are growing up in a digital and always connected world. This creates different needs and brings many different opportunities. The present education system doesn’t prepare them for the future. The fact that our education system still chooses to be based on a hierarchy established in the Industrial revolution means that many young people are being excluded unfairly.
Children are taught to conform, following a standardised curricula so they can perform well in their standardised tests. Standardisation means we are ignoring and only developing in areas dictated by a few individuals – mainly politicians – and let’s admit it, what do they know about the real world?
We are all born with the capacity for divergent thinking but studies have shown that this ability deteriorates with age. It is educated out of us because of standardisation. By the time we leave school, our ability to think laterally has all but gone.
In this current age, we are looking for innovative solutions to the world’s problems, we look for collaborators as we know that the best ideas come from groups rather than individuals working alone. Our education system has not and does not prepare individuals for this. Tapping back into our creative mind set takes effort and requires re-education. There are a lot of people who could do with this training, finding and working with those who it would benefit most is now the challenge.
Even as a consultant, working for myself, I am still accountable to my client. Therefore, I should choose my client base based on who will bring me most contentment and fulfillment. Who will achieve the most from what I have to offer and where can we make the biggest impact.