Success vs Mastery: stop starting, keep going.

The road to mastery

Here’s our typical way of acting in our social media based culture:

  1. Run 20 min
  2. Post achievement on Facebook (that makes it real)
  3. Repeat 3 times
  4. Plan to run a 10 km race
  5. Post on Facebook (or preferred platform of choice) about how we’re committing to a goal
  6. Run 10 km
  7. Officially state that we’re now a runner because of the achievement
  8. Temporarily drop habit because of a roadblock
  9. Repeat step 1 with a different goal

This happens without social media too. All too often we start this internal dialogue of defining ourselves constantly through bursts of achievement. Don’t get me wrong, this is part of life and it certainly serves a purpose. But the concern has always been, what happens after the goal is achieved.  Do we keep going past the temporary discomfort of a short term goal and develop a long term one? Do we constantly seek another time limited goal just to ensure that we keep ourselves accountable? Or, what happens most often, do we simply complete the goal and say: “hey I’m good enough now” and drop all of the habits that have led to the achievement?

We all practice labelling; it’s in our nature to reflect and define ourselves and others through experiences. But what is missing is the idea that both success and failure should be treated in the same way: they are static periods of time where a lesson is learned. Achievements should be celebrated; it means we’re doing something right! But much like failure we shouldn’t dwell on either of them because both of them are parts of the road that lead to mastery. Focusing on a hand-full of successes is similar to obsessing about failure: obsessing about either of them limit our life experience to things that are either good or bad.  Success then becomes a drug. We get a high from achieving goals so we set more just to keep the high going. If we fail repeatedly our psyche crumbles like a sand castle against a giant wave. We’re left to try and re-define ourselves but we don’t know how to in times of trials.

Mastery is the culmination of all things learned over time both in success and failure. Mastery is being a life long learner. It requires the tenacity to push beyond all the time limited things that we do in life, and beyond our mental limitations of how we define ourselves through immediate failure and success. It’s celebrating the near wins. Those “almost but not quite” periods of time which we define as failure are stepping stones to achievement. What is known through the process of mastery is that all things remain unfinished. There is always something to improve upon and experience simply acts as the momentum; we can either use it to propel us forward or slow us down.

The key to mastering anything is being consistent:

Show up daily. Show up early. Show up whether you want to or not, whether you had raging success or you flopped flat on your face last time. Just show up.

About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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