Mastery: A Key to Living With Impact

Every Tuesday, when I leave my trainer, Eric, I thank him and tell him that was the best hour of my week. Believe it or not, I’ve actually gotten side eyes and comments about how lame my life must be to classify that one hour as the best. Granted most of those comments are from my kids, but still.

So I overthought about it for a while, and here’s where I’ve landed.

That one hour is giving me a sense of mastery. And mastery is so important to good mental health. It’s also teaching me about fear and how to work through it. Every. single. week.

What Is Mastery?
In terms of mental health, mastery is defined as “the individual’s actual or perceived control over significant life circumstances.”[1] The emotional state of mastery is associated with improved psychological well-being.[2] In broader terms, mastery is “comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment.”[3]

Some activities give us pleasure, and some give us a sense of mastery. And some give both.

Staying in the Process
For me, learning how to lift weights encompasses so many facets. There’s a process to follow. I’m learning the technical aspects of form. I’m experiencing mindfulness. There’s so much to consider while I’m lifting that I can’t be thinking of what happened prior or what could happen after. I have to be fully present.

Taming Self-Doubt
I get some serious practice in working through my self-doubt and my inner critic, let me tell you. I know that the best way to do this is to disconfirm what my critic tells me through my behavior. If it tells me, I can’t do it, I’m going to do it. I’ve learned to visualize the movement before I do it, practice how I’ll breathe, and go for it. If I move too slowly, hesitate or overthink it, I’m sunk.

Leveraging Fear
Squatting more than my body weight is scary. Figuring out how to leverage that fear into action can be a challenge. I have to want what’s on the other side — strength — more than the fear (or discomfort) I’m feeling in that moment.

Experiencing Progress
There’s also the progress aspect. I can see the progress physically, and as I’m getting stronger, I can lift heavier weights. I know where I’m going and how I’m getting there.

It’s exhilarating. And, yes, it is unapologetically, my favorite hour of the week.

Now let’s talk about you.
When you’re feeling stuck, uninspired, or bored in your career, your life, or your relationship, consider when and what was the last time you felt a sense of mastery. If you can’t come up with one, great! Now you have a place to start. It doesn’t have to be big, but it has to interest you. The more it interests and pushes you, the more potential for growth … for mastery.

If you need a little nudge to find it or move past your stuck points, you’re not alone. Coaching may be the right option. Reach out and let’s figure it out…together.

[1]Caplan, 1981; Daniel, Brown, Dhurrkay, Cargo, & O’Dea, 2006; Pearlin & Schooler, 1978.

[2] McKinley, Brown, & Caldwell, 2012.

[3] Oxford Dictionary.