This is going to take me a while to unpackage, so get settled in.
Lately I’ve been feeling….Idunno….conflicted as to the continuation of this project. This project started out about habits - I have no problem with habits now. Yay!
The problem has to do with skill mastery. Mastering the thing itself. What’s that mean? It means losing weight. Being able to smoothly execute writing projects at a high level. Maintaining equanimity and progressing in meditation. And though progress is coming slowly, I have to wonder when looking to my peers…is this progress fast enough?
My buddy James has focused all his energies on eating - he tracks calories and he’s lost a LOT of weight in the last year. Now, I don’t want to do it exactly like he does, but in terms of HIS goals - he’s succeeded. I can’t say the same for myself.
Although I’ve lost some weight and I’ve made fantastic long-term behavioral changes I haven’t gotten the THING ITSELF - the end goal, when I feel like I should have. I can expand this out to another guy I know who got into bodybuilding - immense payout from focusing on one thing. Writing a book, huge breakthroughs in meditation - they are not there.
Should I be focusing on one habit at a time? To clarify - the problem doesn’t come into play with habits - only with habits that require that added mastery step. Mechanically repeatable tasks accrue merit just by doing them at one level - flossing comes to mind. But most tasks aren’t like that - they require upping the ante a lot.
Certainly all the literature suggests I should focus on one thing. The oft-repeated advice is that it takes 10,000 hours or 10 years to gain true mastery of a craft. I’m certainly not talking about that level of skill. I’m talking about a year. But something bothers me about this approach and I think it’s because I want the self sustaining relationship of related skills.
Eating well and exercising tends to go together. Meditation can help deal with all frustrating situations. There’s a urge within me to do all things because they’re like a circle that supports everything.
The problem is that it often feels like I’m stuck doing 2 pushups. Yes the habit is there, but the benefits aren’t. And it’s really hard to be constantly pushing all skills.
There are a couple of ways to approach this.
1) Get basic habits in all my basic tasks. Focus on just habituation, then start pushing mastery in each of them.
2) Engage one skill from habituation to a decent level of mastery. Then move on to the next skill. This seems to be what most people attempt doing.
One of the other things I’m scared of is that engaging completely in one skill will take too long, and I will have in fact then abandoned my project of mastery in all skills. But this only comes into play if going after super mastery with 10 years of practice - I’m not after that (yet).
But perhaps it’s not either or. Perhaps an ideal is to focus on the benefits of both. I want to focus on few tasks but I want the benefits of a circle of skills. So why not deal in families? Why not focus on groupings? Meditation and writing would go well together because they both deal with deep seated fears. Exercise and food complement each other.
3) Engage in sets of skills. Groupings that support each other.
I think the additional key to either way out is to understand that pushing skill mastery depletes more “energy” - endurance, willpower, what have you. And though you want to push all skills, you have to avoid being ripped a part by depletion forces. This means exercising restraint and focusing on fewer things - you have to let some things go to push mastery.