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The Oasis of the Desert

Mastery of any skill or subject requires practice. With some things, mastery may come fairly easily, perhaps even within a matter of a few weeks or months; with others, it may take years, even decades, of dedicated practice before mastery begins to reveal itself.

Have you ever noticed how when you start something new, there's often an exuberant energy that accompanies it? Some (and, I think, rightly so) term that energy, "New Project Enthusiasm (or NPE)." Interestingly, the most common element of NPE is that it seldom lasts long. Sometimes, the novelty can wear-off in as little as a week or two. When the initial excitement dwindles (and if you choose to stay with the activity anyway), you enter what I call "The Desert Phase of Practice." For those familiar with mastery on any level, the desert is a place you never really leave. (How's that for an inspirational thought to live by? And to post on your refrigerator door?)

Ecologically, we know the desert to be a dry and harsh environment. So too, can the day-in, day-out process of slogging through the practice of something that's long sense (and quite rightly) shed it's original allure. When such becomes the case, commitment must take center stage. But for commitment to truly take over, a vision of where you want to go (or who you want to be) must be caught. Without such a vision, your practice will inevitably devolve into a never-ending battle with frustration, boredom, and aimlessness; and, like most difficult-to-care-for items, it will probably (and I apologize if this reads a little fatalistic) die on the vine within a fairly short time.

I cannot overemphasize this point: the key to commitment is vision...a vision of the person you want to become in mastering a particular skill, field, or art. If you've been working at something for a while now, you know this to be true. And if (like happens to most of us on occasion) you've lost some of your enthusiasm, perhaps it's time to refocus your vision. The way you do that is by setting specific and tangible goals for yourself. Please note: you MUST write down your goals, otherwise they'll be forgotten as easily as the weather last week. Write down your goals. (I don't think I can overemphasize this point.)

Goals are the hands and feet of vision. They give you something tangible to strive toward. With goal-setting, it's good to have some short-range goals, for they help you focus on the basic skills needed to tackle more complex problems; and one or two long-range goals, because, as the late Zig Ziglar might have said, "thinking big provides the enthusiasm necessary for achievement."

In summary, vision is the fuel, and goals are the driver in terms of pursuing mastery in any endeavor. Seeing where you want to go and then allowing yourself to be carried away in the pursuit of your goals will enable you to keep chipping away at things for years on end. In fact, if you stick with it long enough (and I hope you do!), there may even come a time when vision and goals are no longer necessary. For lack of better phrasing, I call this, "The Oasis of the Desert Itself." It's a quality of being that no longer needs affirming accomplishment to keep you motivated. It's where you become happy in your practice and find special delight in doing something just for the sake of doing it. The doing is the reward itself. For those pursuing mastery, extrinsic reward is absolutely necessary (at least for the first few years); for those lost in the intrinsic reward of just doing something mindfully and whole-heartedly, mastery no longer seems to matter all that much. Personally, I've experienced this phenomena in several arenas of life.

To wrap it all up...

To inspire your own enthusiasm, develop vision. To drive your vision, create goals, and then pursue them as though your life depends on achieving them. And, if I may be so bold, allow yourself to remain open to the possibility that one day you'll no longer need such extrinsic motivators. In point of fact, becoming visionless and goalless can become a goal in and of itself—sort of like a visionless vision or a goaless goal. Pardoxically, it's not really something to strive for. Like allowing God to Love you the way He wants, it's something to invite, receive, and enjoy.

God's peace, dear friends...


Note: This afternoon I head up to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for the Zoweh ( Heart of a Warrior men's conference. I'll be with over 400 men from all over the United States. Since I'll be gone for several days (and won't have computer or internet access), this will be my last blog post until next Wednesday (28 Mar 18). God bless!


IKIGAI Weekly Blog Schedule (per The Training Trinity):

Mondays: Meditative Prayer

Wednesdays: Holistic Discipline

Fridays: Martial Arts Practice


The Life You Were Born to Live

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