Become an Expert at Being Yourself

In his book The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell proposes that success in any given field requires at least 10,000 hours of dedication and practice. At first glance, Gladwell’s claim might do nothing more than help you come to terms with why you haven’t become really exceptional at very many things. It did that for me anyhow; and it also helped me better appreciate what its taken for me to get very good at some things.

But the 10,000 hour rule becomes particularly intriguing within the context of coaching and, more specifically, that part of coaching that involves what I have been calling Personal Mastery. In a recent conversation with a friend I posed a hypothetical question asking what impact 10,000 hours of practice would have if it were dedicated to us becoming better parents, or spouses, or healthy citizens. Breaking it down in terms of parenting, 10,000 hours looks like 90 minutes a day for 20 years. But for those 90 minutes to fall into the category of what Gladwell was talking about when he first proposed the idea, those 90 minutes would be minutes when you were dedicated to the art of being an even better, evolved and effective parent.

I see Personal Mastery as the practice of becoming an expert at being yourself. And what would this world be like if we approached our life with this transcendent goal in mind? And what does it involve?

Personal Mastery comprises a set of intentions and behavioural actions which, together, expand personal consciousness and make manifest the person of character you wish to be. It is everything you do with intention to cultivate your best or highest self. And just like sitting down to practice the piano, take a language lesson or develop a new leadership skill, Personal Mastery does not happen by accident. But when committed to, lays the foundation for a rich and meaningful life and leadership legacy.

One of the first thing i like to do with clients interested in developing their own Personal Mastery practice is have them complete an inventory of sorts: I ask them to capture in a journal all the things they do to cultivate their optimum energy, wellbeing, creativity, belonging and connection with others and the world around them. They may have to look back at the things they used to do before life got in the way, and for some, they may have to start from scratch with little to go on and begin to explore them selves in the world noting the sensory journey of even the most simplest of pleasures.

If you want to try this exercise get yourself a nice notebook, a Personal Mastery notebook, and begin taking your own inventory. Pay attention to what you eat, read, watch, as well as how you interact with others, both at work and home. Take note of your exercise habits, your daily routines, your bobbies and interests. Start attending to each moment and inquire deeply into your own state of mind with questions such as:

How is this moment feeding my energy and wellbeing?
Who is the person I long to become?
Why does this relationship help me to be myself?
What food energizes me on all levels?
What do i find beautiful in the world around me- that when i notice it- increases my state of wellbeing and peacefulness?

What is Personal Mastery?

Personal Mastery is everything wise, conscious, disciplined, principled, and purposeful that we do to cultivate our greatest self for the benefit of the world. Senge talked about it as the ability to master results, as well as the methods behind results. In a related fashion, Richard Barrett, of the Barrett Values Centre, sees Personal Mastery as a distinct psychological state reached by having “learned how to become viable and independent in the sense that [we] are self-sufficient and not beholden or dependent on others for survival, relationship, and self- esteem needs”. He asserts that developing the skills of Personal Mastery “is largely a cognitive process that requires a commitment to personal growth”.

As a leadership coach, Personal Mastery is at the heart of my work and I believe it to be the key to developing our Presence as leaders. Not leaders by way of status or power, but in terms of having an ability to influence people, events, ideas, and outcomes in positive ways.
As a practice, Personal Mastery requires a willingness to investigate one’s own heart and mind with respect to beliefs, assumptions, values, and mental models, and to make continuous improvement a way of life. One Scholar and mentor whose work I particularly admire is Dr. Terry Anderson, author of Transforming Leadership, he brakes Personal Mastery (he calls it self mastery actually) down into a set of 12 behavioural skills that can be learned.

Yes, that’s right. Personal Mastery can be learned!! and with it comes a whole new level of personal and professional fulfillment. Join me next week and together we can venture further on what will promise to be an exciting journey. Until then, consider this:

What personal practices in your life (physical, mental, spiritual, relational) bring you wonder and inner fulfillment?


Personal Mastery

Personal mastery is an area of leadership development and practice that i find most interesting. I think of it as a practice of rigorous self-directed learning that attends to both our outward presentation but also, and perhaps more importantly, our deepest sense of self. One of the earliest and most influential descriptions of Personal Mastery is found in Peter Senge‘s Fifth Discipline. In it he suggests Personal Mastery means having the capacity to produce results, but also to “master” the principles underlying the way [we] produce results”. This description opens the door to numerous avenues of discovery and i have decided to make this my jumping off point for Blum’s Blog.