The Paradox of Achievement: How Excellence Requires a Return to Building Block Basics

If you are anything like me, you have the desire to excel. Whether it’s yoga, cooking, your job, relationships or personal growth, it’s more fun to do things when we are good at them than it is to struggle along doing poorly and feeling inept. And once we find something we’re good at, it’s fun to get better and learn more, because success is satisfying! So for many of us high achievers the question becomes:

How do we get better and continue getting better at the things we love?

The answer may surprise you!

In order to get better at anything we must go back to the basics and not push ahead to the next level. If we truly wish to develop mastery at anything, we must repeatedly and consistently go back to the building blocks of whatever it is we are trying to master. No matter how much of an expert we become, and especially when we are expanding our skills and taking our knowledge and competence to the next, higher level, it is imperative for us to rewind and relay our foundation.

Because the higher and more glorious the tower, the stronger the foundation that’s required.

Take yoga, or any kind of physical pursuit. In order to progress to the advanced moves we must fully master the base moves. Why? Because the base moves provide the necessary strength, flexibility and skill to accommodate the next level. When we cheat or take shortcuts we may win in the short run, but we never master the skills necessary to sustain or move through to the next level.

In yoga, wheel pose (a backbend) is a pose that people sometimes wish to accomplish because it looks good. Never mind the spinal balancing qualities, the heart, throat and belly opening properties, many people simply want to do it because it looks impressive, which is fine, if it’s done properly.

Among other things, executing a safe backbend requires flexibility in the hip flexors, abdominals and shoulder girdle. It requires strength in the glutes, triceps, lats and shoulders. Meaning that one should become adept at doing a glute bridge before attempting the full backbend. And cobra. And up dog. And wheel pose with the head resting on the ground. And fish pose. The list goes on and on!

When people rush into a backbend, sure they may be able to whip one out, but the benefits of the pose are lost. They may end up overstraining a muscle or injuring a disc in their spine, meaning they will be shut out of all of yoga or other physical pursuits while they heal. Additionally, unless their wheel pose is strong and solid with a good foundation they cannot progress further in that pose because the integrity of the form is missing.

The same is true for any skill. We must first master the basics if we hope to excel.

No matter what you are seeking to accomplish in 2019, my challenge to you is to spend time going back to the basics before launching ahead. If it’s better relationships, go back and review and practice some basic communication skills. If cooking is your jam, consider mastering basic recipes and reconnect with simple flavor combinations. If you want to knit a sweater, begin with that first perfect stitch. The same is true for personal growth. Before getting too fancy or overly ambitions, take time to tune into your own heart and listen to the rhythm of your own soul.

Make this month your time to return to the basics. Check in on your mental, spiritual and physical foundations and make the necessary adjustments. Take down and rebuild what’s crumbling. Choose stronger materials this time around or change where you build your foundation in the first place. Give yourself permission to pause and check back in with the basics.

Begin again, knowing that the work you put in this time around will succeed because of the strength of your foundation!

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