Life Mastery

Personal educational trajectory

A personal view of education provides answers to the questions: Why should I learn? What should I learn? How do I learn? The answer to the question “why learn?” was partly given when we were talking about advanced civilization and the achievements of the human beings who created an abstract world. This abstract world is comprehended by each person unless they wanted to remain only in the animal world, or in modern conditions, a consumer. As human beings we are constantly being educated, but either we make conscious learning our main goal or we will be educated by the social environment around us. In the latter case, one is unlikely to draw all the advantages of civilization but in the mind of the consumer and in his life, there will be all the disadvantages of progress, which we discussed in previous posts.

To learn more about the pros and cons of progress refer to this article.

The result of education is life mastery, or a person’s ability to consciously influence their lives. Happiness and success are human-made processes, and life mastery is the ability to create them. Everyone desires to possess the tools to achieve happiness and well-being. This tool is what we will call life mastery, and it also helps us to develop ourselves. The development of the life mastery is a person’s main stake for their future. This stake is very high for every human being. Humanity as a whole will adjust to the future and will not lose in any matter, but for each individual, the baggage of mastery greatly affects their entire life. Each person’s life may change randomly, but the life of the doer (world changer) can change through the gradual and conscious development of life mastery.

Some people struggle when it comes to deciding on what to learn. This choice is not consciously taught anywhere. Those who have a personal view of what knowledge and skills are useful in life usually refer to studies about the future or reproduce established stereotypes (for example, the constant demand for software engineers and other IT specialists). The modern person cannot work out and qualitatively manage a personal trajectory of development.

In order for a particular person to understand what to learn, an appropriate theory will be necessary. We need models that can take into account all aspects of a person’s current development and allow that person to make their own adjustments as the world changes. The Introduction to Systems Thinking course offered at our school teaches such models that can be applied to work and other life issues. The tasks of raising a child and self-development, learning to ski and swim, choosing a profession, and family life — they all share common approaches with the tasks of designing an IT system or building a car.

Everyone learns life by their own example, and that’s the right thing to do. Some people don’t want to be bothered with the complexity of transdiscipline learning, some will burn out before they start to get positive results from applied practices. To understand how one’s thinking changes and mastery is formed, one needs models that will allow them to consciously approach dedicating time to learning theories and mastering techniques, as well as understanding one’s desires and the state of optimal experience (flow).

In Csikszentmihalyi’s words, flow is “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it” (1990).

If you are not familiar with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience we recommend to read it.

This course will present models such as “Person as a Platform,” “Spectrum of Formality Thinking,” “Competency Quadrant,” and “Stages of Habit Formation” to help answer the question, “How do I learn?”

Life mastery can be formed unconsciously like it happens to most people, or it can be the subject of conscious self-development. We will discuss models that will explain how learning takes place, break down life mastery into its parts, which will help a person to form and adjust a personal educational trajectory independently.

What Life Mastery consists of?

Before we talk about structure, let’s define the main requirements for life mastery. Everyone wants their life mastery to lead them to happiness, success, prosperity, and long life. These generally accepted goals can be refined and detailed. A modern person’s life mastery should allow us to:

  • always be in demand as a specialist and professionally play new roles (professions), be able to create successful systems and change the world;
  • be ready to solve any new tasks that life throws at us in the future;
  • manage our interests and needs, emotions and feelings, attention and enjoyment (flow) rather than being guided only by biological needs and worldviews offered by the social environment.

Based on these requirements, life mastery can be divided into three components: applied mastery, thinking mastery, and self-collectedness mastery. This division of life mastery is only a model proposed by the Systems Management School, and there may be other models (for example, there is a division into hard and soft skills). This functional division makes it possible to discuss separately what needs to be developed in a particular person and how to do it. This is what each part of life mastery is responsible for:

  • applied mastery is used to create work products in the form of official documents and systems. The level of applied mastery indicates professionalism in the proficiency of a particular applied method or practice. For example, the practice of bookkeeping allows one to compile a balance sheet, the practice of the crawl creates a person who can swim.
  • thinking mastery is activated when new problems need to be solved: it is used to translate a problem into a well-formulated task, then to figure out how to solve it, and then to determine the best applied methods for solving the problem. Everyone has thinking mastery, but it is developed in a different way in each person. One person can quickly and easily figure out a new accounting activity while someone else might need a lot of time to do that. This is what it takes to “have the brains” to quickly understand new problems, applied methods, and practices;
  • The self-collectedness mastery helps you to pull yourself together at the right time and be ready to take action. This mastery is usually referred to as discipline, patience, ability to concentrate, ability to cope with emotions, etc.

Adults with a high school education have at least an entry-level degree in these three levels of mastery. Most of us have developed concentration and thinking mastery since early childhood, in school and university. For the most part, this was done unconsciously, and maybe to this day, some people do not recognize their value.

After university, people who are concerned about self-development strive to “pump up” their applied professional competencies. They wonder “where to study” and “what to study”, hunt for new best practices, go to conferences, and attend three-day courses, and intuitively they do the right thing. In the physical world, it’s applied mastery that brings results. After all, the employer demands that a specialist has proficiency in the applied competencies that the employer needs. However, insufficient qualification in concentration (self-collectedness) or thinking mastery does not allow one to quickly master new applied practices. A person’s personal educational trajectory should take into account all three types of mastery, and a person should not be guided by the learning standards of the last century, paying attention only to applied mastery.

It is important to note that a high degree of focus is needed in any activity. Whether you want to be a police officer, a scientist, or a musician, you can’t go anywhere without focus. Without it it’s hard to achieve professional excellence, that’s why it was put first in education programs and adults tried to draw the child’s attention to the need to be disciplined, organized, and so on. As for thinking mastery, those who chose an easier occupation were content with an average qualification in thinking mastery. Government education did not permit unnecessary overqualification: it made no sense for a mechanic or a pianist to study calculus. The foundations of thinking were established in such a way that a person could learn and further improve their applied skills in the chosen profession.

Changing careers was not a common practice until recently. Therefore, there was no requirement to how we need to change or build up thinking mastery. Now applied practices have begun to change rapidly compared to past centuries, and existing experience has become reset to zero more often. You can be a master at lathe work or SEO optimization practices, but this knowledge of applied activities does not guarantee quick retraining if your competence is suddenly no longer needed. High skill in a single applied practice might not save you from problems in the future. Moreover, if in the early twentieth century a carriage driver had the intelligence to retrain as a cab driver, he could then not worry about the future. But nowadays a single retraining may not be enough. It is quite possible that the people of the twenty-first century will have to change their profession more than once. Therefore, it is important to invest in the development of thinking mastery, which gives a professional outlook and the ability to work with different applied practices.

The basis of the life mastery of the future is the thinking mastery. The focus of attention must be shifted from the applied level to the thinking level. As the intellect strengthens and the professional outlook develops, it will be possible to make a turn in a new professional direction more quickly. There will be enough intelligence to get used to the new activity quicker than others. But this will require an upgrade in thinking mastery, as transdisciplines have changed considerably in recent times.

In addition, many adults will need to re-learn the role of the student. The common stereotype that “I have already graduated” indicates a loss of learning skills. Many adults rarely consciously engage in self-education, planning their studies over a period of several months to several years. People of the twentieth century occasionally took advanced training courses within their chosen profession, now education is becoming mainstream, but is still limited to short courses and hour-long masterclasses, from which people want only practical activities, preferably in a game form, without excessive theory. Adults get into the role of a student with reluctance; they struggle to keep their attention on complex material for 1–2 hours and have a hard time completing months-long courses with regular homework. Schools and universities do not teach how to perform the role of a student consciously. In particular, to plan one’s development, to manage attention at different time intervals, to manage emotions and feelings, to control one’s thoughts and body. Without focus, it is impossible to master the new and challenging transdisciplines of thinking mastery.

The application of the three types of mastery occurs simultaneously. Each discipline or transdiscipline studied can be assigned to one of the levels, and be studied separately from the others. For example, mindfulness theory refers to the mastery of focus (collectedness mastery) and explains to us how attention works and how to train it. Systems thinking refers to the thinking mastery, and helps us connect different pictures of the world, which allows us to solve complex problems. Management accounting refers to applied skill and teaches us how to write a financial description as a manager. However, when one works, all levels of mastery are engaged at once. In the role of a manager, a person applies the discipline of management accounting and uses an IT program, he understands how financial description relates to other descriptions of business activities, and concentrates on work, limiting other worries and anxieties to enter his mind.

Thus, continuous learning means developing self-collectedness mastery, thinking mastery, and applied mastery. Managing one’s own life mastery is the foundation of one’s personal educational trajectory. The combination of the three types of mastery and high proficiency in them allows a person to be not only in demand by society, but also to live an interesting life and be happy.