“An individual is free only to the extent of their own self mastery”
~ Steven Pressfield,” The War Of Art”
Greatness is a choice, and everyday we must recommit to our vision or fall victim to the comforts of modern life.
Perhaps on some scale this was always the case with humans. However, to our hunter gatherer ancestors laziness was a matter of life or death. Now, unfortunately its encouraged by the people who aim to profit from our desire for the easy road. Everywhere we go corporations are trying to convince us to let them do all work while you sit back and relax.
Although these modern conveniences can be incredibly useful, its up to us to not surrender our lives over to industries that would prefer we all stay predictable little consumer cogs in their wheel of products and influence.
Watch the film “Wall E” to get a glimpse of where human evolution could go if we keep opting for instant gratification over process orientation.
The only road to mastery is through process. You can not fake it or have someone else do it for you. You have to get up and decide to continue your training. Health and fitness are learned skills that are as much of an art form as painting. The analogies are infinite because your life is your canvas.
Just as a sculptor can create a beautiful work of art our of a piece of stone, so too can you remove all the crap around the work of art that lies beneath the extra baggage you’ve been carrying for years.
Baggage we become so identified with that we feel attached to it even though we know it no longer serves us, and is in fact killing us. This baggage is subtle and if you let it will convince you of its value but provides nothing tangible to prove its worth.
This baggage comes in many shapes. Toxic relationships, unfulfilling careers, social media addictions, negative self talk, substance abuse, non nourishing behavior and so on. Just as the sculptor chisels away the unnecessary stone to reveal the perfection that was always inside, so too must we drop the baggage that is is covering our masterpiece until the man or woman we know is in there can emerge.
Our chisel is our awareness. What are we focusing our attention on? What we focus our attention on blossoms and blooms like water to a flower. Each day we have the choice of which plants to water. If we spread our attention over too many things nothing will have enough to fully mature.
This is why we must exercise the 80/20 principal and due away the the 80% of things in our lives that only cause distraction and rob our attention away from the core 20% of what really matters. Choices are abundant and if we’re undisciplined we can easily find ourselves being pulled in a thousands different directions.
This is usually when people employ the busy excuse. In other words, because they’ve mistaken overload for productivity they have rendered themselves “too busy” to take on something as vital to their life as health and fitness.
In his book “The Entrepreneur’s Blue Print” Peter Voog writes about mastery vs. overload from the perspective of business, but I think it applies directly to health and fitness as well.
To paraphrase, Peter says that whenever young entrepreneurs come to him and boast about how they read 52 books last year he simply asks them what the biggest thing they learned was and how they applied it to their life? Not surprisingly it’s almost always very little. Instead he challenges them to read the same book 3 times and to not move on to the next chapter until they are so familiar with the lesson that they could teach it.
That was a big eye opener for me both professionally and personally. You see, our brains are so conditioned for immediate gratification that we actually get a shot of dopamine when we complete a task. So although reading a book a week feels like you’re accomplishing a lot and that shot of dopamine feels good you’re not actually making a significant change in your ability to add value to your life. You’re overloading your brain with topics and stories across too many genres and therefor are gaining mastery of none. Although slightly more admirable than a social media addition, to me this falls firmly in the 80% and is another form of distraction.
To bring this concept full circle imagine an olympic level swimmer. How would their training routine look? Strength training? You bet. Explosivity training? Absolutely. Cardiovascular conditioning? A must. Lots and lots of time in the pool? No question. These modalities are all well within the top 20% and therefore strictly regimented to continue the mastery of craft that has been honed and refined by generations of pattern recognition.
What you wont find however, is experimentation with crash diets, disproportional hypertrophy training or any other baseless trend or method that doesn’t directly serve their goal of being the best in their sport. Why should the average person care what an olympic swimmer does to stay on top? Because if we don’t model our lives after those who have ascended mediocrity, become the best in their field and tamed the inner critic, then we will continue to chase our tales; working really really hard and getting absolutely nowhere.