Although each of us would likely define “success” as something slightly different from one another, chances are it’s something the majority of us are striving to obtain more of in our daily lives. You may feel that those you deem “successful,” were destined to be or perhaps just got lucky. And, while that may be true in some instances, more often than not, success is driven by several tangible practices – motivation being at the core of all of these.
One of the core needs that feed overall motivation for success is defined as mastery or competence in the scientific community. The need for mastery refers to the desire to feel capable and competent in our environments – at home, at work and in relationships. You can fulfill the need for mastery by overcoming challenges or stretching your abilities in meaningful ways.
The sense of accomplishment, energy and satisfaction that comes from achieving a personal best, obtaining a goal or developing a new skill, demonstrates the importance of mastery and its relation to motivation and well-being. Simply put, the activities that people enjoy the most and with which they feel the most profound engagement are those in which mastery is experienced, along with the other core needs (autonomy and relatedness).
While mastery isn’t exclusive to successful people, it certainly is practiced (knowingly or unknowingly) by everyone defined in this way. Discover six ways that highly successful people practice mastery in the workplace and how you can act on these practices.
Set Clearly Defined Goals Or Objectives
Clearly defined goals and achievable objectives increase both the amount of motivation and quality within tasks. Without specific goals to work toward, you may feel disengaged, overwhelmed and have difficulty prioritizing and performing duties. Those who experience success often set their own goals and expectations in addition to the objectives their managers have laid out for them. Once the plan is sketched out, brainstorm with your manager on what obstacles you might face along the way to achieving these goals and what steps might be taken to overcome these.
Additionally, create a set of guidelines for tasks that clearly define “success” while also providing a clear path and structure for getting there. Establish a good strategy for completing the project or task by breaking it down into smaller, more near-term goals that are clear and achievable. A simple example of this mindset is “finish part one of the assignment in two days.” Whereas a bad example might look like, “do the assignment as soon as possible.” Your goals should have a time limit that is reasonable with the objective and work to be done in it.
Stretch But Don’t Overstretch
In order to be successful, people require clearly defined goals or objectives, so that they know what they are trying to achieve. The task or purpose must be challenging enough to hold an individual’s interest, but not so challenging that it becomes overwhelming.
In other words, if the work is too easy, you might become disinterested; but if it is too complicated, you may not bother to try. However, keep in mind that we feel strong mastery fulfillment when the majority of our time is spent doing activities we are confident we can not only tackle, but become greater at it. Similarly, we tend to thrive when we have part of our time focused on “stretch goals,” referred to as something you feel can you succeed at and also feels like a new or more difficult challenge. Effectively, there may be opportunities to “level up” in skills so you can tackle your work more confidently. If you are struggling to find fulfillment in your work, talk with your manager about more optimal challenges. Similarly, if you are finding it impossible to tackle a project, perhaps discuss ways in which you can upskill or collaborate with a colleague to complete the objective.
A recent study shared in Harvard Business Review claims, 72% of employees believe their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback. An essential ingredient of mastery is receiving significant non-judgmental feedback, so one can better understand important details about their performance and what steps to take to improve. While not always possible, instant feedback is ideal.
However, many managers may not have time to provide constant feedback or may struggle to prioritize feedback due to a heavy workload or lack of time. Those who have realized success in their careers know how and when to properly ask their managers for feedback – and exercise this practice on an ongoing basis. One way you can ask is by requesting a meeting with your manger with a clear objective so he or she can prepare adequately. Don’t simply send a request that says, “we need to talk.” Instead, outline exactly what you would like to discuss and why, and what items you are seeking more information on. On the flip side, asking for feedback doesn’t always need to take such a formal approach, but you should ask at an appropriate time and place.
Set Paths Or Opportunities For Growth & Continual Learning
A recent Forbes article quoted, “Taking time every day to learn the skills and trends needed to stay competitive in business is a must do.” Being successful starts by being a continual learner and applying what you learn into your day-to-day tasks – which may be defined as a permanent change in one’s work ethic. What you learn will reflect in your work and is likely to affect it positively.
This requires you to know what additional learning opportunities are available to you. And, while some may have the interest in pursuing these opportunities, they may not know what they are. Have a conversation with your manager to better understand the path carved out for you and what opportunities there are for upskilling or supplemental learning. Additionally, know your learning style and make sure those around you do too. Further, set aside dedicated time for continual learning. This will enhance your experience of mastery and overall interest in the work you’re doing.
Ask For Guidance
Have you ever had the feeling of being completely lost in a task – like you missed a step along the way or it’s simply too challenging? The good news is, you’re not alone. Even the most successful people have felt this way too. The difference is that they don’t let this deter them from completing the task at hand.
To overcome this, try leveraging the network you have around you. One way you can do this is by shadowing a co-worker or asking them for help. This can provide a meaningful amount of support to deeply understand a process, skill or strategy – particularly if you think it may arise again. If shadowing a co-worker involves you crossing over into a different department, you might want to consider asking your manager to assist in facilitating the conversation
Make Space For Positive Thinking & Practice Mindfulness
One key practice of highly successful people is that they regularly practice mindfulness and positive thinking. In fact, billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, Ray Dalio, encourages his employees to meditate often. In a Business Insider interview, Dalio said, “I did it because it’s the greatest gift I could give anyone — it brings about equanimity, creativity and peace.”
The benefits of positive thinking and mindfulness are that they provide space to further develop your skills. Positive thinking helps induce a positive attitude, which is very important in the workplace. Optimism and positive thinking will get you through the bad days, and likely will boost your relatedness to others around you. To improve your mindset to something more positive, consider taking time to connect with others, receive or give feedback, get enough sleep and take breaks when appropriate. Knowing the value of your work and its effect is also likely to boost your optimism, so know your work’s worth!
Remember to use these tips to foster Mastery within your workplace.