I have recently learned about the concept of “Kairos” – it’s an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment, or the ‘supreme moment.’ I’m going to quote someone named Bruce, whose blog I found whilst googling and who probably is quoting wikipedia:
Kairos is the ability to adapt to and take advantage of changing circumstances. It is embodied in people “who manage well the circumstances which they encounter day by day, and who possess a judgment which is accurate in meeting occasions as they arise and rarely misses the expedient course of action”.
They say Napoleon possessed a keen sense of Kairos, of ‘seizing the moment,’ that helped him take advantage of a string of discrete moments over time, ultimately launching him into a position of great power.
I can think of a number of these moments when time has slowed down, when I have been faced with a decision or possible course of action, and when the outcome of that moment has literally changed the course of my life. Some examples: when I first decided to take a web development class; the first time I found a job posting for an interaction designer; the time I decided to write a mustached and sombrero-ed stranger whose profile I found on Friendster and who later became my husband; the exhilarating moment when I decided to go to grad school. These are moments when you have a heightened awareness of the potential future, and a sense that you are standing on a pivot point in time after which nothing will be quite the same.
Right now I find myself in the midst of one of these temporal pivot points, as I’m placing more of my energy and focus on healthcare experience design. As a 20 year veteran/patient of autoimmune disease, I have always been interested in healthcare but haven’t quite known how to position myself in the field; I considered public health at one point, but I’ve always been a designer and problem solver at heart. Now, finally, I have reached a magnificent convergence of my skills, interests, and life experiences – which include interaction & experience design, user research, data visualization, designing for behavior change, helping patients like me, and above all finding deep meaning in my work. The melding of all of these has led me toward one clear path: I want to help improve healthcare through design.
These past few days, as these thoughts have solidified and crystallized, as they have settled into my bones and made my life’s purpose clear, I have vacillated between feeling elated and feeling a sense of empathy and responsibility for the people that I want to help. More than anything, the decision has opened up space in my mind, my heart, and most of all my TIME, so that I can devote myself more fully to this timeline idea I’m messing around with, and generally think about how I can best help others.
There is a blog post by Loren Baxter (A Framework for Great Designers) and an inspirational keynote by Jon Kolko – My Heart is in the Work – that encourage designers to take on meaningful work that makes them happy, that creates positive change in the world, etc. It may sound slightly schizophrenic, but I have been whispering under my breath ‘my heart is in the work’ these past weeks. My dad always says that when you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work (he is living proof), so maybe it’s more like ‘my heart is in the play.’ Regardless, if you want some inspiration, I highly recommend reading the article and watching the presentation.