As a black belt, educator and parent, I am constantly working with mastery. The majority of my students and their parents come to the martial arts to gain mastery in very specific areas. Whether it means showing more respect at home, learning to concentrate better at school, or showing confidence by setting a boundary with a bully– all parents want their children to learn new skills and master them. Mastery of a discipline or sport doesn’t just happen. It takes resources, learning, coaching, and training. In short, it takes constant practice to become a master- not just a few lessons or a book that gets half-read. Here are three necessary abilities one needs in order to master any manner of skill:
The ability to say No.
Being able to limit outside influences by saying no is one of your most important abilities in the search for personal mastery. We live in a society where we are constantly being coerced into activities that may or may not be good for us. Whether it is buying an unnecessary product or service (that you are told that you just gotta have NOW!), the pressure to keep up with the Jones’s, or not being able to say no for fear of what others might think doesn’t matter. Mastery only comes to those who can focus and concentrate on a practice and its goals. While it doesn’t require a fanatical vacuum (a lack of any and all distraction) it does require attention and practice. Learning to say no to wasteful, frivolous fluff activities can give you the time and attention to be a better parent or partner, to increase your child’s grades, or develop higher skills in martial arts.
The Ability to say Yes.
Being able to say yes to what really matters is the flip side of saying no to what doesn’t matter. Being able to say yes requires you to have a clear picture of what you are saying yes to. Not having a clear picture of what mastery looks and acts like is a deterrent to achieving mastery. Help yourself by finding a role model or mentor that can help you to form a mental picture of what you want to be. Even the masters had masters and would constantly study books, listen to lectures, or ask questions to. They would then take the information and find a mental picture of what they wanted and then every day say yes to those activities that would support their vision of mastery.
The ability to Persevere.
This means that despite the criticism of others, the doubting of one’s self, or the pressures of the world, masters keep on keeping on. The ability to persevere means learning to say yes and no to the right things endlessly- that is without end until they have changed their vision or have been given new information that suggests saying yes to new ways of thinking or no to old ones.
Mastery is not a common word in everyday discussion. People stay away from it for the most part because they are either scared to commit to it, or to what others might think of them if they announced their intentions. But real change comes from stepping forward from a common and well-known position and taking a risk and trying something new. Take small steps- find an area or skill that you would like to improve in life. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering- Mozart chose music, Mother Theresa chose to help people, and both started with a single act or note. So encourage yourself, spouse, child, or grandchild to take a step forward in mastery and remember the formula it takes to get there- say no, say yes, and keep on keeping on.
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