Written by Jack Elliott |
How to accomplish mastery in doing what you love to do
I believe we are all called to be “masters” at something. We all know of people who “do what they love” for a living and they seem to do it masterfully. Others work at a job that allows them to “do what they love” as a hobby or sport. Whether you do it for a living, or just for the love of the game, success or mastery require that you approach it as master would.
Malcolm Gladwell suggests that mastery only comes after you have already dedicated 10,000 hours to the thing you love. Anders Ericsson, who is recognized as one of the world’s leading researchers into high performance, makes the case that it’s not inherited talent that determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we are willing to work to make it so! He calls this “Deliberate Practice.”
If you want to really master something, it’s going to require your willingness to push past your comfort zone, coping with frustration and struggle, and allowing for setbacks and failures. Masters know this, which is why Masters are always practicing. If you are doing what you love, then something such as commitment to excellence might be a reality; however, if you are merely doing what you like, then mastery may elude you.
How committed are you?
I’ve found, in my work with coaching clients (especially surrounding “their calling”) that it’s possible to build any given skill or capacity in the same systematic way. Honor your values above all else, only do what you love, do the work that is yours to do and believe that mastery will follow. As Aristotle pointed out, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Here are my seven steps to living a purposeful life, and mastering what you love.
1. Honor your values. Know them. Honor them, and never take on any job, hobby or practice that doesn’t reflect your values.
2. Pursue what you love. If you do what you love, you will have unlimited passion to do what it takes to be successful.
3. First things first! It’s natural to want to do the easy things, we all move instinctively toward pleasure; however the Masters use “delayed gratification” as a motivator, and they take on the difficult work of practicing in the morning, before they do anything else. That’s when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions. I love working with my coaching clients, but I find I am more attentive and a better coach if I have handled all my emails, phone calls and office tasks early in the morning, and then I get to spend the rest of my day doing what I love.
4. Practice intensely for a limited amount of time. Just be focused! It’s suggested that practice periods of no longer than 90 minutes are optimum. Ninety minutes is about the maximum amount of time anyone can maintain a high level of focus to any given activity. The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4.5 hours a day with a significant break every 90 minutes.
5. Renew Your Mind, Body and Spirit. After you’ve been focusing for hours on your practice, do something nurturing immediately following such an intense effort. Meditation is an ideal transition. During meditation your right hemisphere becomes more dominant, which can lead to creative breakthroughs, or for you to “hear” a Divinely inspired message to come through.
6. Seek limited guidance. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments to your game, or to accept a new idea. Too much feedback, too continuously, however, can created cognitive overload, increase your anxiety, and lead to you become distracted or confused. Remember, only seek feedback from someone aligned with your values.
7. Ritual practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. Researchers agree that none of us have very much will and discipline. But there is hope. Those same researchers say the best way to ensure you’ll take on a difficult task is to make a ritual out of it. It is suggested that you build specific, inviolable times at which you do your thing. This way, over time, you do it without having to squander energy thinking about when to do what–that’s deliberate practice! I have a client who is a pro bowler. He travels all over the country playing in tournaments nearly every weekend. He loves his life and his profession. But what does he do on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays? Practice! At least for 90 minutes every day, before he does anything else. What does he do right before a tournament? Practice for 90 minutes.
Follow these simple steps and you will see dramatic results in either your game or work performance.
Jack Elliott is a Life Coach that specializes in assisting folks through transition–especially Career Transitions. To learn more about his practice, visit jackelliott.com, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.