Do you remember your first day on the job? What emotions did you feel? I bet there was excitement, nervousness, and pride all at once. There was a sense of anticipation; almost an eagerness to see what challenges you could accept.
Even before you started, in that middle ground between accepting a new job and actually starting, the mind starts racing with the possibilities. You can’t help but imagine what stepping into this new role will be like. You begin to picture yourself in action, solving problems and making a difference. In your mind’s eye, everything goes perfectly. You can’t fail.
This is called Fantasy; by definition, an idea with no basis in reality. During this fantasy stage of employment, we can’t help but think about a potential version of the journey we’re about to embark on. Our mind turns our conscious and unconscious wishes into a fantastic, and fantastical, scenario that we play over and over and over again.
But pretty soon, reality sets in. Before you know it, that perfect world imagery has been replaced with real-world … well, reality. Things don’t go exactly as we’d planned. There are obstacles we cannot overcome. There are personalities that we struggle to get along with, and job expectations that aren’t exactly the stuff of dreams. The fantasy is over. We find ourselves in a new phase of our career called Survival.
In survival mode, the emotions are much different. There’s frustration, anxiety, and disappointment. Days are filled with either fire-fighting and never-ending to-do lists, or the monotonous drudgery of repetitious, mindless button-pushing. Goals seem further and further away, with progress coming only sporadically. We begin each day, not with anticipation, but with dread.
It’s here, in survival mode, that most people spend the entirety of their careers. Decades go by. The dreams that once inspired you to step into a new adventure fade away into the fog of a daily routine and the promise of an all-too-short weekend. Good times, huh?
But what if I told you that there’s another phase of your career just around the corner? What if there was something more than just survival? Would you be interested in that? Would you be willing to do what it takes to escape from survival and embrace something more? Are you ready to turn the corner?
There’s a phase of your career called Mastery; and it’s incredibly compelling.
Mastery represents control. It is, by definition, accomplishment. Masters dominate a particular skill or skill set. They are in control of their day, not the other way around. Back in the 13th century, “mastery” meant “victory.”
Mastery represents a return of the confidence and pride that colors the Fantasy stage. This time, though, those emotions are indeed based in reality – a reality that you have created for yourself. To-do lists are replaced with systems. Fire-fighting gives way to efficiency. Stagnation becomes progress and growth.
The great thing about moving to mastery is that you don’t have to wait for it to happen. You don’t need special tools or the right circumstances. All you need is the right attitude. You see, mastery is a mind-set. It’s a belief that you have been created for a purpose and a determination to see that purpose fulfilled.
Masters are merely those who have decided that survival is not enough. They are the few who have made the choice to live their lives intentionally. Roadblocks still exist. Problems still pop up. Nothing about the job or the environment is different. That’s because mastery is not a circumstance; it is a decision.
How do you see yourself today? Are you a survivor, or a master?