Mastery is based on understanding the true nature of ourselves and everything that is not ourselves, and being guided by a vision rooted in compassion and mutuality rather than domination. We can create a simple yet truthful model for human understanding and development based on Seven Dimensions of Mastery. As an aid to memory and organization, we use each letter of the word mastery to make a word that represents each of these seven core categories that underlie mastery. The Seven Dimensions of Mastery are Meaning, Assurance, Self, Truth, Energy, Resourcefulness, and You.
Mastery is first and foremost self-mastery, understanding our true nature and developing ourselves emotionally, mentally and physically. This is the opposite of domination. Domination of other people and our environment leads to destruction, the wasting away of our energies and resources in perpetual warfare of various kinds. War is at times necessary for defense, but is in truth ultimately a lose-lose situation, not a long term solution. Understanding comes from our willingness and ability to grow by seeking truth, which is forever unfolding and never complete. This includes all areas of our interest and concern, including relationships and community, science and technology, art and sports, religion and spirituality etc.
The first letter in Mastery is M, which stands for Meaning. Meaning in life comes through pursuing purpose based in a vision that has both power and compassion. A vision based on power without compassion and mutuality is destructive. A vision with power and compassion leads to positive growth and development of self and community. The vision that gives purpose and meaning to a particular person is uniquely fitted to the personality and interests of that individual, and develops in the context of their community, however they define it.
The A in Mastery stands for Assurance. Assurance is a synonym for faith. We continually seek understanding and knowledge, but these are never complete and therefore we often have to live and take action without them. In our most difficult and desperate circumstances in life such as when facing suffering and death, understanding and knowledge often fail to help us fully grasp and cope with our situation. That’s when we need to call on some source of extraordinary strength and resilience. That is Assurance or faith, however we define it based on our particular culture and personality. It may or may not involve established religion.
The S in Mastery is for Self. That includes the totality of what each of us is: mind, emotions, body, spirit and any other pattern or aspect that defines us. The core of Mastery is self-Mastery. Without a coherent sense of identity, self-awareness, and self-discipline, we are unlikely to master anything else. Mastery doesn’t imply perfection and even development across all areas, but may be quite the opposite. Sometimes it seems that it’s the little bumps and quirks that identify us as unique individuals. We can be highly disciplined, self-aware and skilled in one area, such as a career or hobby and be very naive and limited in another. While we are more likely to be happy if we are well rounded enough to fit easily into society, achieving our full potential can also require allowing ourselves to risk being as we are, warts and all. That means being able to unleash the full power of our mind, body and spirit and not being inhibited. That is a balance that we must each find between self-discipline and inhibition.
The T in Mastery is for truth. Truth seeking is the motivation to know ourselves and the world/universe as they are, not just as seen through the distorted lenses of our own fears, desires and assumptions. If we pursue truth in the knowledge of physical, social, psychological, spiritual or any other aspect of reality, we find that it continually unfolds and expands but is never complete. To know truth means being willing to accept that what we don’t know is infinite. It requires a combination of the bold adventurousness of the explorer and the humility of the monk.
E is for Energy, the source of vitality, health and life itself. We can nurture this energy by listening to and caring for our bodies and the earth with which we are interconnected. Through our bodies we interact in the most intimate way with the physical world; ingesting air, water, plants and animals in order to generate energy that keeps us alive. Since we can’t turn the energy of the sun into food directly, we need plants to do that for us. We are also bound to them in the reciprocal production of oxygen and carbon dioxide. These processes are so commonplace that we tend to overlook this intimacy of the bond that we have with nature. We tend to believe that we can dominate the physical world through science and technology; but that attitude of domination rather than mutuality is as much a problem there as is domination as the basis of relationships among human beings. These are the two most likely threats of extinction of human and other life on earth.
The R in Mastery is for resourcefulness. Creativity is a renewable and seemingly inexhaustible resource. Where do ideas come from? We can nurture creativity and resourcefulness as individuals and as members of organizations and communities. We can’t force creativity, but we can create practices, structures and processes that encourage and support it.
The Y in Mastery stands for You, the one who is not me but is in relation to me. It’s through relationship with the you’s in each of our lives that we come closer to understanding and experiencing our own humanity. The most important you’s in our lives are the people with whom we interact in the flesh and who also become the ones inside our heads and hearts; who are always with us, affecting our thoughts, feelings and actions. Whether they are parents, siblings, children, friends, mentors, team mates or partners, they become our internal symbols of both the positive and negative in ourselves and in human beings in general. As we come to terms with them, we have the ability to be reconciled with ourselves and with the rest of humanity. There is no self without others, without community. Even if a person is physically isolated, she/he relates to others in memory or in written or electronic media. It’s difficult to imagine that we can remain human without at least internally perceived relationships with others.
These are the Seven Dimensions of Mastery. They provide a framework for discussing and taking action on some of the areas that most impact our development as individuals, as communities, and as a global society. In a global society with an overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips, we hunger for ways to organize and make sense of our experience. Anything that adds even a small amount of coherence to our existence can be of value.
Dr. Bernard Brookes is author of the book Meaning and Mastery in Life and Work. You can get the audio book narrated in his own voice or the eBook or paperback here: Sample Audiobook
He is also author of the forthcoming book The Seven Dimensions of Mastery.