The Five Elements

There is an interesting concept I came across in some of my Eastern studies relating to the five elements. In Chinese astrology for example, not only is there an animal symbol for your birth sign but also a corresponding element relating to what part of that year you were born in. Also in certain Tibetan traditions, five elements were useful in bringing balance to the self. Let me lay out a summary of the elements and what they may mean.

Earth: This is a very solid, grounding type of energy. Things like dirt, metal, and stone are examples of this. The Earth element can bring about stability, heaviness, or solid protection if needed.

Water: A very flowing, fluid type of energy. Water conforms to it’s container, holds no shape of its own, and is less dense than Earth. It can represent the ability to flow with changes around the self, is sometimes associated with vast ‘oceans’ of wisdom, and other times can be a tsunami of force.

Fire: This energy is passion, motivation, drive, and motion. The element of fire also tempers and purifies. Sometimes things need to be burned away to give way to something new, this is another way in which fire can help.

Air: The element of air also takes the form of wind, fresh perspective, change, and freedom. Very light and expansive, air can be a sense of peace and freedom in certain cases.

Space: This element is the fifth element, a little more abstract. All matter occupies space, this is where the potential lies. The larger the space the more one can allow in to certain situations. It can be expansive or restrictive depending on the need.

In all of this lies the concept of balance. Within all of us is aspects of all of these elements and a certain strength in each of these. The energies of these elements can be strong, weak, or in a relative harmony. The goal is to try and assess where each of these reside and what type of adjustment may be needed.

For example, I worked with a manager who tended to be hot-headed. When too many things came his way he tended to be short, make rash decisions and at times lash out. Interestingly enough, one of his favorite past times was boating. He felt relaxed and peaceful while on his boat. In this case his element of fire was probably too strong and water was a way to ‘flow’ better and even out some of his temper.

In another case, a job seeker who is unhappy in their position but is afraid to leave the security of where they are, may actually have too much Earth element (grounding) and could use a little fire to motivate.

Another example could be the pessimist who thinks that they are out of options and can’t actually change their situation. This individual would benefit from increasing the element of space to allow in possibility as well as increasing the element of air to usher in some fresh ideas and perspective.

It gets interesting when you start using elements to assess workplace culture, work styles and leadership styles. When elements are incorporated into the perspective then it sometimes is easier to see potential solutions to change. A stagnant work culture may need more fresh ideas (air), then introducing new trainings or newer personnel may be useful.

What I suggest now is thinking about these concepts in different aspects of work and life and see if you can measure them:

1. What elements seem to be more prevalent?

2. How do you think they are weighted? Too much, too little, neutral or in balance?

3. What counter elements could be introduced to bring a better balance?

4. What activities or solutions could reflect those counter balancing elements?

Let me know what you think, I’m curious to hear your assessments!

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