The Pursuit of Mastery: The Key to Happiness

posted on: April 1, 2020
author: Anthony Pellegrino

Athletes on a field in their own pursuit of mastery

Photo by Mari Carmen Del Valle Cámara on Unsplash

In this article, I’d like to address a thought many amateur athletes may have from time to time.

That is what I’d like to call the “it-doesn’t-really-matter” thought.

You might know just the thing I’m talking about. 

This is that rather seductive feeling that emerges when you’re really pushing yourself during your training sessions or your performances. 

As you’re starting to give up on yourself, it goes a little something like this:

It doesn’t really matter, I’m just a (insert self-limiting belief here).

An amateur athlete is probably the most at-risk for this type of lazy thinking. 

I’m just an amateur, why am I working so hard, they ask themselves before they start to waver.

This type of thinking can occur because of athletes’ or performers’ limiting beliefs. 

It doesn’t have to be being an amateur, it could be anything, but the result is the same.

They can easily convince themselves that it doesn’t really matter whether or not they push themselves to their max; they’re not a professional or anything.

This is just for fun, this is just a game.

But this thought couldn’t be further from the truth. Pushing yourself to your maximum, even when it’s easy to think that it “doesn’t matter.”

This is the pursuit of mastery, the essential key to your happiness.

As George Leonard says in his book, Mastery – The Keys To Success and Long-Term Fulfillment:

The master’s journey can begin whenever you decide to learn any new skill-how to touch-type, how to cook, how to become a lawyer or doctor or accountant.”

Leonard states that mastery “achieves a special poignancy, a quality akin to poetry or drama, in the field of sports, where muscles, mind, and spirit come together in graceful and purposive movements through time and space.”

Yet, this pursuit goes beyond sports and athleticism. 

The pursuit of mastery can, and does, extend to almost every aspect of your life. You can work to master your relationships, your professional skills/talents of your trade, your fitness regimen, your mental toughness, etc.

Life gives you countless avenues to pursue mastery, and by extension, avenues for you to cultivate profound happiness and deep life satisfaction.

As we mentioned earlier, in the context of sports, amateur athletes are most at-risk of this “giving up” mentality, especially when times get tough, aka when you’re pushing yourself to your max.

If we’re not careful, these “giving-up” mentalities can develop into bad habits, which can extend over to other aspects of your life.

This may not seem like all that big of a deal in the moment. But this attitude will spread throughout your general mindset, and wreak havoc on your discipline.

While the situation at hand may be rather low-stakes for an amateur athlete, especially for one who may not compete in any tournaments, the corrosiveness of this giving up will have a very high-stakes negative effect upon your life.

See, for every time you decide to give up or let yourself be a little lazy, you distance yourself from your individual pursuit of mastery. This, ultimately, means you distance yourself from your happiness.

After all, they say that happiness is a compass, not a destination. 

Happiness is a compass, an active pursuit of mastery

Photo by Dunamis Church on Unsplash

As such, the pursuit of mastery, making progress with your goals and ambitions, will make you happy in virtue of the act itself. The happiness and satisfaction you feel once you complete said goals is just a bonus that seals the deal, that solidifies your happiness.

Mastery then has a lot to do with the psychology of achievement and the feeling of accomplishment necessary for your self-esteem. 

Growth makes us happy. It makes us feel good, both in the long-term and short-term. 

Therefore, you can replace the “it-doesn’t-really-matter” with the “I’m-developing-mastery” attitude. 

Indeed, the amateur games/matches most of us play aren’t as high stakes as those the pros play. Sure, our weekend exhibition matches are no Wimbledon, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. 

Every opportunity to cultivate your discipline, to sharpen your pursuit of mastery, should be held in high regard and taken seriously. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that your competitive mindset, your drive, your willingness to win, doesn’t matter, that it isn’t a big deal to give up. 

In the end, it is a big deal. Why wouldn’t it be a big deal?

Ask yourself, what bigger deal is there than your own happiness? 

Need help ditching the “it-doesn’t-matter” attitude? Check out and enroll in our online course, The Great Competitor Formula, today!

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About the Author

Anthony Pellegrino is a freelance journalist, writer, and content marketing strategist. He is currently studying to get his B.A. in Philosophy at Fort Hays State University. He works as contributor to Pulse Magazine and as a freelance content creator for several marketing agencies and brands. His writing is focused on philosophy of mind, metaphysics, politics, everyday life, and content marketing.

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