Updated: Feb 14
Finding joy in the process, not just in a positive outcome;
Playing the game with abandon, no matter what the score;
Cherishing the journey, no matter the distance from the destination - this is Masterful Living!
In today’s world, we are mostly conditioned to live in a state that is the opposite of mastery. Results and successes are celebrated exclusively, setting us up to undervalue the journey of getting there.
Repeatedly glorified successes come with a narrow definition, subtly conveying that anything that falls outside the boundaries of this definition, is insignificant.
It is understandable then, that those of us who do not measure up to such elevated standards, should feel that until we do, we are somehow incomplete and not fully ready to be happy.
A promotion at work, a bigger paycheck, a more expensive car, a grander home, the ideal weight - all worthwhile pursuits that will bring joy, but only when accomplished.
What of the journey then? What happens while we are working towards such a goal?
Our focus is consumed by the object of our efforts and we drift away from being able to appreciate what we do have. We are simply waiting.
How do we feel when there are setbacks and progress takes longer than we’d hoped? What if there is reason to believe that we might not achieve?
Our sense of self is threatened. We hold on tighter to this evasive dream.
We might look for external validation, hoping that will make us feel secure in ourselves again.
We might rationalize the issue or look for a reason, maybe someone to blame - ourselves, others or the situation.
Either response is an act of resistance and drains our energy, leaving us less able to perform well, consequently pushing us farther away from the very results we seek.
To the contrary, Masterful Living begins with
the understanding that we can be happy right now, even when our goals are far from materializing,
the belief that the present moment is more important than an arbitrary time in the future when goals are accomplished.
Mastery requires the belief that any outcome is a good outcome because whether or not we achieve what we aimed for, there will always be something to learn and help us grow.
Mastery understands that life is filled with ups and downs and true sustaining joy depends on our ability to accept them both with composure.
Mastery in a word is Balance - absorbing external benchmarks while tempering them with internal values, accepting a setback while preparing to regroup, embracing achievements while recognizing there is more to learn, acknowledging the past and planning for the future while living in the moment.
The Journey to Mastery
Explore your self and become familiar with what is important to you. With this knowledge, you can set the standards of what Success means to you and not depend entirely on a definition provided by other sources. When you know what your aspirations are and how they are distinct from popular consensus, when you know what makes you happy, you will find the courage to be your unique, authentic self rather than getting caught up in trying to fit in or to prove yourself. You will find pride in your own accomplishments even if they are modest in comparison. When you are consciously able to decide what is important to you, there is an uplifting freedom that allows you to pursue your goals with unfettered enthusiasm. Increased Self-Awareness is fundamental to understanding your own values and setting your own standards.
Choose The Process, Aspire to Love It
A huge part of any success is the work you put into it. While determining your goals, choose not only the outcome but also the process. Viewing the process as something you have to suffer through to get to the result, is a recipe for dissatisfaction and stress. It is important to CHOOSE. We often struggle to recognize the amount of power we wield upon our own life experience, choosing instead to believe that some situations offer no choice.
This is especially true of career or work situations where we feel less at choice. The truth is that in this and every such situation, we are making a choice, most likely a difficult one. We are choosing to do something because the consequence of not doing it, is too high a price to pay.
It is also difficult to recognize choice when we are caught in challenging circumstances that we have no control over. Typically the choice we have in these cases, is in how we respond. Having the right mindset, helps us to see the choice in every situation. If your goal is to be healthy, there is a difference between feeling forced to workout and choosing to workout. The difference will be evident in how you engage with the work involved, which affects your performance and your results. You can count on the fact that any goal that is worth achieving requires a significant amount of hard work in the process. Master your goals by aspiring to love the process.
Emphasize Learning and Growth
"We either grow or we die" - I am not sure whom to attribute this quote to and while it sounds a bit harsh, the message is valuable - Growing is living.
Often the only measure we have of our own growth is successful results. With such a narrow view of growth, it's no wonder we are stuck waiting for the next success.
The truth is that every time we stretch ourselves and engage in intentional effort, we grow. Growth is independent of outcomes whether they are favorable or not.
When we try something for the first time, when we step outside of our comfort zone, when we take calculated risk, when we learn a new skill, when we take responsibility for our emotions, when we challenge ourselves to respond to a situation consciously rather than react impulsively, when we create boundaries for ourselves, when we let a resentment go - all of these and so many others are acts of progress.
When we prioritize learning and value being better than we were yesterday, we make it easier to be resilient through obstacles, resuming our efforts, maybe even enjoying them.
When we do not burden ourselves with ensuring results, which can be evasive even with best efforts, what incredible freedom we have then to focus on what is within our control - our mindset and our performance.
Practice Active Gratitude
Often in the throes of pursuit, our focus is drawn to lack, where our attention is occupied by the things yet to be done, goals yet to be achieved and reasons why we are not good enough or ready or worthy.
We may be prone to comparisons, feeling less than others who've achieved more, caught up in resentment from past hurts or consumed by fears of what might go wrong.
All of these, while very understandable and human experiences, they take us away from being present to our lives.
The best antidote that I know of is Active Gratitude.
Gratitude means feeling appreciative of the things and experiences that we do have. It brings us right back to the present acknowledging that in this very moment, we are whole.
I define Active Gratitude to mean being grateful not just in word but also in deed, it means being grateful for opportunity and challenge alike.
Active Gratitude means when faced with a challenge you recognize that you are faced with possibility - the possibility that you will overcome or that you will learn and that you will grow. It means, acknowledging that you are alive in that moment and are being asked to engage with a life that we cannot take for granted.
Your Masterful Life
Imagine a moment when you are wholeheartedly engaged in working towards a meaningful goal.
You are focussed on a task and giving it your best effort.
You look past outcomes and instead prioritize learning.
In that moment, you are filled with gratitude for the possibility in your life.
You don’t know what the future holds but you believe in your ability to make the best of it.
String every such moment together.
What fleeting destination can bring greater joy than such an enduring journey?
P.S. - Undeniably, most ideas I am suggesting you adopt in this article are not easy to do. If you are committed to a life of fulfillment and need help on your journey, please feel free to reach out to me or subscribe below to receive similar content. Thank you for reading!