There is a fluency and an ease with which true mastery and expertise always expresses itself, whether it be in writing, whether it be in a mathematical proof, whether it be in a dance that you see on stage, really in every domain. But I think the question is, you know, where does that fluency and mastery come from?
When life pushes back against us and we are struggling to achieve our goals; when things refuse to cooperate and go the way we want them to, then it is probably time to consult an expert.
There are a lot of people making a great deal of money from telling us how to be happy. It is no surprise that the self-help shelves of any bookshop are some of the best stocked, for we all want quick, and easy answers to our problems.
There is only one way to solve our difficulties. At least only one way that makes sense, and that is to become an expert in our own life. To achieve this, we need to immerse ourselves totally in what we do, freeing up our imagination to show us the best that we can be.
We are the only ones who understand the details of our lives. The advice on offer is often generic, and seems aimed at others with more glamorous lives. The answers lie in finding out as much as we can about every aspect of our life. Learning as much as we can about what we do, and how we do it, so that we can expand our knowledge base and become the best version of ourselves possible.
Where our work is concerned, we have no problem with the concept of expertise. Applied to being the best plumber, lawyer, engineer or brick layer that we can, it makes sense. A no-brainer. We attend courses, we keep ourselves up to date with the latest information, and we study the latest techniques so that we can carry out our work to the best of our ability.
For some reason, when we think about the rest of our lives, we find it much harder to consider the concept of expertise. When the problems, and difficulties, that cause us grief, lie in these other areas of our lives we tend to see them as outside our control.
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
The question we forget to ask is, “How do I become the best spouse, lover, parent, friend, or human being possible?” A question that we need to keep on asking over and over again, as the answer will need refining as we, and our relationships, change over time.
It is easy to put effort into maintaining our work skills. The results are obvious and easy to measure – a happy boss and more money in the bank. However, when it comes to the other, arguably much more important, aspects of our lives, we seem to think that they will sort themselves out without our help and do not need the same care.
We believe that living happy and fulfilling lives comes naturally, and that if we have to put effort into maintaining our relationships, keeping ourselves content, or even raising happy children, then this devalues what we do and who we are.
If we apply the concept of personal expertise to all areas of our life, we are likely to be happier.
Doing whatever it takes to become better informed, asking questions, thinking things through, reading widely, mean that we are more likely make wise choices, basing the responses we make on the best knowledge available, rather than continuing to act reflexively out of ignorance, or being paralysed by fear.
As decisions become more complex, and the consequences of making a wrong choice become greater, it is even more vital to get things right. We are not in the enviable position of the modern cricket umpire, who is now armed with all kinds of technological assistance in the quest for accurate decision-making.
When we bring this kind of expertise to bear on our life, we are more likely to be ready to deal with whatever crisis comes along. A solid knowledge base allows us to make the best decisions, and this means that we can approach the world much more openly.
It helps to follow the example set by our heroes, those people who resonate with us and are seen as leaders in their field. This might be a boss we look up to, a childhood football coach, or our grandparents who showed us how to sustain a long, and healthy marriage.
Most of the ‘achievers’ who share their knowledge spend a lot of time keeping up with their interests. They listen to podcasts on their daily commute, they read – a lot, and avoid attention stealing habits, such as watching too much TV, downloading yet another box set or indiscriminate use of the internet.
When we increase the sum of our knowledge, we can be more creative.
The decisions we make about our lives, be it the state of our relationships, the latest in our chosen hobbies, or listening to our children with compassion, wi be made from a position of strength. Allowing our imagination access to a solid, broadly based body of knowledge can only lead to better decisions.
Responding to life with mindful awareness of what we know, and perhaps more importantly, what we DONT know, including our skills and limitations, means that we will make good decisions.
Should we fail adapt and continue to respond in habitual, automatic ways, we are much less likely to achieve the results we want, or to be happy.
The Minimalist MInd