The Mastery Mindset
The concept of mastery
It has often been said that discipline beats motivation every time, and there is much to be said about the advantages of having a positive attitude. These two concepts actually work together. If you think about it, it’s very difficult to maintain discipline, especially when it comes to doing things that aren’t fun or pleasurable without having a positive attitude and it’s just as difficult to maintain a positive attitude without applying some level of discipline to do so, especially when things aren’t going your way. I suggest that embarking on a path towards mastery is the solution to maintaining both if these ideals in your life. This podcast series is about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Or maybe I should say it’s about doing the work of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s face it, even if you’re like me and you enjoy talking about Jesus and evangelism activities, there is still an element of work involved. It’s not all fun! The Bible tells us exactly how we are to approach any and all work:
Colossians 3:23-24 states; Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.
Mastery is an allusive concept in western society today. Most of us tend to strive for the easiest or quickest way to accomplish something. After all we live in a world of fast cars, the fast buck and fast food. Personally I’m fine with the fast cars but unfortunately my experience with the fast buck has been “easy come, easy go” Ha! and let’s just say my waistline is not a fan of most fast food. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that the time, effort and discipline it takes to achieve mastery of something is not an everyday priority for most folks today. I mean, it’s a lot easier to take a pill or try the latest diet than actually modify your lifestyle and change your priorities. Our secular culture actually has an anti-mastery, quick fix mentality. Heart surgery rather than diet and exercise. Lottery tickets rather than retirement savings…
The dictionary defines mastery as “the possession or display of great skill or technique”. Ok, this might be true but there is more to it. George Leonard wrote a book titled “Mastery”. I highly recommend picking up a copy of the book and reading it several times. Leonard offers many bits of wisdom and principles that when practiced and applied will help get you on the path to mastery.
Leonard defines mastery as: the mysterious process during which what is at first difficult becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable through practice. Mastery is not about perfection, it’s about the process. You’ve also heard that “practice makes perfect”, and “Life is a journey, not a destination”, right? What if we applied these ideas to our work of sharing the gospel? What if we focused on the journey of learning and practicing without the goal of being finished. In other words, what if we could commit to a regular routine of practice and study just for the sake of enjoying it? We should embrace the practice and study itself… make that our goal every day. Think of it like your quiet time or daily devotional or bible study. The surest route to succeed at something is through the long-term, essentially goalless process of mastery.On the road to mastery, there are no experts. There are only learners. If you want to truly master something, you must be willing to remain a beginner and be humble… the beginner’s mind is required for learning anything new. There is an ancient eastern saying that says: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” This suggests the true wisdom of sticking with the basics. Too many of us today are obsessed with the search for the next big thing, the magic bullet or the latest novelty. Almost without exception, those who are masters are dedicated to the fundamentals of their calling. At the same time, they are the ones most likely to challenge their previous limits. So it is important to remain diligent with basic practices like reading the Word, prayer and verse memorization. However, in order to learn, a progressive change must also occur. Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning by sticking with the basics which will produce growth.
Leonard explains that most significant learning of any discipline is composed of brief spurts of progress followed by long periods of work where it feels as if nothing is improving. To take the master’s journey, you have to practice diligently, striving to hone your skills, to attain new levels of competence. But while doing this, as Leonard says, you also have to be willing to spend most of your time on a plateau, to keep practicing even when you seem to be getting nowhere. If the priority is the process itself than the plateaus don’t matter. If you are committed to a regular schedule of Bible study, you are already practicing “mastery”. You understand that your study will never be “finished”. If you have been doing this for awhile, you have undoubtedly experienced some of those new insights you get from studying the same verses again, this is the process of mastery… and the benefit of learning slowly is that it forces you to look deeply at the process and you discover incremental steps that you might otherwise gloss over if progress came easily.
If we look at work as Colossians 3 suggests that we do, work becomes more like an activity of “worship” than an activity of “toil”. If additional incentive is needed to make this paradigm shift in the way you look at work, notice the mention of the “inheritance” in verse 24. This inheritance is referring to the guarantee of receiving our new home in heaven as part of the gift of salvation. That’s enough right there to put me in a good frame of mind but when I know that I am honoring and serving my Lord by the work I am doing I can’t help but feel even better about what I’m doing. And, when I have a great attitude it undoubtedly helps me “stay the course” and maintain the discipline I need to continue doing God’s important work,… and the more I do the work of evangelism, the better I get, which in turn, makes me want to improve even more… This kind of summarizes the concept of mastery. Rewards will always come to someone who commits to the practice, but in this life the reward is not the goal. Since we are saved, we have already been promised the reward of our new home in Heaven. So focus on the practice, be obedient, that is the goal. You might be surprised what else you accomplish in the process…
Matthew 25:35-40 says… For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:35-40)
Homeostasis; the devils tool Our body, brain, and behavior have a built in tendency to stay within very narrow limits. Homeostasis works to keep things as they are whether good OR bad. We have a natural resistance to anything different. We have to address this nature of ours when we are witnessing AND we need to consider this resistance from others when we are attempting to share the Gospel story with them. Resistance is proportionate to the size and speed of the change, not to whether the change is a favorable or unfavorable one. So consider the SIZE of the potential change to someone’s life when telling them about Jesus. This helps me understand why there is so much pushback sometimes. Also, remember, to move in one direction, you may have to forgo many others. To pursue one goal usually means to forsake a very large number of other possible goals or shall we say priorities. The devil uses this sometimes to challenge your testimony efforts.Even though it sometimes feels as though we are making no progress when we practice giving our 3-minute personal testimonies which we developed together in a previous episode, we are actually turning new behaviors into habits. Learning is happening all along. The most successful path to mastery is to practice for the sake of the practice itself. Not for the result. Mastery is practice. Mastery is staying on the path.
Practice and Study The master of any skill is generally the master of practice and study as well. Practice or studying are often used as a description of what we do. Instead, we can look at practice and study as something we have, something we are defined by. Rewards will always come to someone who commits to the practice or study, but the rewards are not the goal. The practice and the study is the goal. Mastery reveals so much more to learn as you continue the journey. The destination becomes two miles farther away for every mile we travel. Masters love the practice and because they love it, they get better. And the better they get, the more they enjoy the practice and the study. It’s an upward spiral.
Mastery in Relationships We can also consider the concept of mastery in our relationships: Think about your personal and your professional relationships… rarely will any of us be willing to stay indefinitely on an unchanging plateau. When your “game” starts improving but your partners doesn’t, the game eventually breaks up. This is what happens many times with couples, one partner grows in certain ways while the other doesn’t and this changes the dynamic of the relationship, many times for the worse. (Phil. 2:4) says: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
- Here is a Good idea: having dinner with the family each night is a form of practice, one that you can commit to just as passionately as practicing your craft.
- It’s truly bizarre when you think about it that we will devote ourselves fully to developing our tennis game, but leave something like our relationships largely to chance, right?
Mastery in business Some people can make a lot of money in a short amount of time, but often there is very little value created for others or for the national economy. The individual gets rich, but the world doesn’t get much better. Maybe the path of the craftsman is a better one! Someone who slowly and methodically improves, contributes something useful and valuable to society, and makes enough money in the process (despite not getting rich)?And from a consumer perspective, every time we spend money, we make an indication about what we value right?Talent vs Work Idea: pursuing the path to mastery requires a certain type of mindset along with a willingness to work. This is likely influenced by genetics just as our physical abilities are influenced by genetics. People often say something to the effect of, “I’ve seen so many talented athletes with God-given ability who just didn’t want to work hard. They faded away.” These statements are overlooking the fact that psychological and spiritual abilities are largely fixed too. The odds that someone has the peak physical abilities (“God-given talent”) AND the peak mental abilities (willingness to work hard) AND spiritual abilities (belief & faith) are incredibly low. Thus, you would expect the people to perform the best who are very high on mental and spiritual abilities and high enough on physical abilities.Regardless of your genetic potential, you have to have the character and resolve to work just as hard to fulfill it. Potential is just opportunity. If you don’t take action and do something with your potential it’s as if you never had it to begin with.
The Christian Mastery Mindset = A Godly Focus The concept of mastery and having a mastery mindset is actually in sync with having a Godly focus. Man is a learning animal, and the essence of the species is encoded in that simple term. The mastery of skills that are not genetically programmed is the most characteristically human of all activities. By taking the secular idea of mastering earthly skills and shifting the focus to our Christian pursuit of following Jesus and worshipping and honoring Him, we will put ourselves on a true path to mastery the way God intended it. God’s Word instructs us to be better, to grow and learn and live a better life. When we are saved by Gods grace through faith in Jesus and the Holy Spirit indwells within us, we become a new creation and we want to become even better. Our goal as a Christian is to grow one step at a time towards living a life like Jesus who lived a perfect, sinless life. Of course we will never reach that kind of perfection but by striving towards that goal our lives will inevitably become even better and we will honor and glorify the Lords name in the process…
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