How to Objectively Measure the Value of Art

You can’t.

It’s all subjective.

See you in the next Meaningful Monday post!

Just kidding, but also not really because although this is how most conversations about art end up, I think it’s worth exploring the conversation killing statement that “art is subjective.” There is a cold hard truth to it that is way more objective than anybody’s subjective opinion could ever be on any piece of art.

Be it a painting, a film, a novel—hell, even video games—anything put out into the world for our consumption and entertainment is subject to being criticized by the masses, assuming it’s lucky enough to reach that wide of an audience. Otherwise, there will always be that dedicated minority who stumbles upon, and actively seeks out, the more obscure art out there to be subject to their criticism.

In today’s post we will explore what it means to criticize art, to converse about it, and to wrap it all up, what art means to all of us at the end of the day. With Your Write to Live being a proponent for fostering creative expression, I thought it would be a good idea to tackle the potentially darker side of creativity where you put your work out there for all to criticize.

Criticizing Creation

First off, I should note that when I say “art,” it is an all encompassing term that refers to not only paintings, but also films, novels, video games, music, and everything in between. Simply put, art is the creative expression of human skill and imagination.

The function of art is to draw attention to certain aspects of the world and the human condition to its audience. Artists do this by being attentive to nuanced details that we may or may not be aware of in our day to day lives. In turn, they highlight these details in their artwork, thus making us hyperaware of these aspects of life that we may not have otherwise noticed, at least not consciously.

A painting can capture how beautifully the sunlight reflects off the surface of a lake, music can capture the sonic expression of human emotion, and a well told story can demonstrate the complexities of human relationships, as well as our unending drive to strive for what we want to achieve in life.

So then to criticize a piece of art is to criticize the world, the artist, and potentially ourselves because of all the thoughts and feelings it may evoke in us. Some pieces of art speak to us while others may not, and there is an endless amount of factors that can affect our experience with every piece out there.

Maybe the piece doesn’t offer anything new or exciting. Maybe it reveals to us that which we do not want to see. Or better yet, a piece itself has been put together so haphazardly that it is hard to tell what it is trying to convey in the first place.

Whatever the reasons are, every piece of art isn’t for everybody. And how can it be? Even when you try to appeal to a mass audience, there will always be those who prefer the more obscure stuff. And on the flipside, there are some pieces of art that—for better or for worse—are so esoteric that only a minority of people will appreciate, let alone understand it.

Depending on what kind of art appreciator you are, you can be veering off to one extreme to another or finding some kind of healthy balance between the both, but at the end of the day, the popularity of a piece does not reflect as a measure for its quality. And even if a small minority of people love a more obscure piece of art with way more passion combined than the masses simple acceptance of what’s in the mainstream, even that becomes a hard thing to measure.

Because how can you measure the value of art?

Criticizing Criticisms

We’ve all had this happen before. We bring up a piece of art that we love and someone else agrees, and together you just go off stating all the reasons as to why that piece of art is “so good.” But then comes along some other person who disagrees and says that that piece of art is actually “bad.” Then maybe you all get a little heated and start arguing over the reasons as to why that piece is “good” or “bad.”

Depending on your debate style and skills, these kinds of conversations usually go in one or three possible ways:

  1. You and the other person endlessly defend your respective opinions and nobody learns anything from anybody.
  2. You and the other person defend your respective opinions and actually start to see the validity of each other’s opinions, while still maintaining your original stances.
  3. One of you actually changes the viewpoints of the other and the opposing party concedes to agree with some, if not all, counterarguments.

If you can achieve outcome number three, I definitely applaud you for your passion and logic because if it is so sound that someone else can finally open their eyes to the light, then hot damn is that a gratifying feeling to have.

And while that’s all well and good, you shouldn’t get too ahead of yourself because at the end of the day, these are nothing but subjective opinions that are barely, if at all, grounded in some kind of objective metric that can measure the value of art.

To beat the dead horse, art is still subjective and it I think I figured out the problem to how you can measure the value of art. It’s something you really can’t do, so the better question we should be asking ourselves is, “why does this person like or not like this piece of art?”

It took me a while to realize this, but basically when someone ever says anything is “good,” or “bad,” it’s just shorthand for “I like it,” and “I don’t like it.” Or to go even further if someone isn’t fully enamoured by a piece of art and they like some aspects, while not liking others, then that’s when you begin to develop a more nuanced understanding of art, and by extension life.

Because art and life are a beautiful cacophony of chaos and order, and a strange balancing act between the two. Not everything can be loved or hated to the most extreme level, or at least for not very long, because nothing is so perfect or so imperfect that there is absolutely no bad or good residing within it.

Art is Who We Are

We are perfectly imperfect beings with so many idiosyncrasies about ourselves that only we may ever truly understand within ourselves. Close friends, family members, or even extremely good therapists can definitely try to understand you as much as they can, but at the end of the day, only you know the true meaning of what any piece of art does for you because of your own unique lived experience.

Anyone who tells you that they know you more than you know yourself is really just getting too in love with their own genius in seeing some of your blind spots for you, but they don’t know the whole story or see the whole picture that is you. If anyone ever makes this claim about you, I would suggest you develop some skepticism and learn to know yourself better so you can learn how egregious that claim can be whenever anybody makes it.

You and only you can truly know yourself. It’s not up to anyone else, but you, and the way in which you relate to art is one of the best ways to get a better understanding of yourself. Begin to ask why you are drawn to certain genres, styles, and themes in art, and you’ll quickly learn what you truly value in life.

If you love horror, perhaps you enjoy confronting your fears head on.

If you love romance, perhaps you’re a romantic person in love with the concept of love itself.

If you love fantasy, perhaps you value the courage it takes to embark on an epic adventure.

Whatever your personal preferences are in art, they speak to you because in a way, they also speak for you, expressing all the inner workings of your being in visual, auditory, and conceptual fashion. You can tell a lot about somebody’s psychological make up based on what kind of art they consume, but again only they truly know themselves enough while you on the outside can only speculate so much about them.

And this is why a lot of conversations about art can devolve into petty debates about what’s good and bad, especially your taste in it. I was like this for a long time too where I mistook criticisms of my favourite art as a criticism of myself, just as much as it would be to have my own creative work criticized as well.

Art is Who We Are and it’s no wonder why we take our preferences seriously at times. I’m not in the business of telling you whether or not you should be offended if someone takes a jab at your favourite stuff, in fact there are some people out there who make it a point to make fun of their own favourite stuff, possibly because being full out positive about it might be seen as too fanboy-ish or fangirly.

But honestly, if you’re in love with a piece of art, paint the town with your love for it because art is what makes life more meaningful and definitely way more worth bearing with. It beautifies our lives with its attention to details we otherwise would not notice had artist not take the time to express themselves and embellish those details.

Resisting Rejuvenation

For as long as I can remember, I have contended with resistance to expressing my own creativity. This has ranged from writing novels, writing music, and editing videos. I often question how these things I find so enjoyable can also become so difficult to jump back into, especially when it gets to the point where I constantly have to remind myself how good it feels to get into the flow state because I can’t seem to as quickly as I once did when I first started a project.

Couple that with life’s little curveballs and it could be a recipe for disaster. Competing for our attention, there’s work, maintaining an active social life, and other responsibilities that seem to get in the way of our creative self expression. When all of these curveballs are successfully caught, evaded, or even if they end up hitting us in the face, it can seem pretty easy to feel like we just don’t have any energy left to work on any of our creative projects.

The crazier thing is that even when you do have a full day, week, or even a month to do whatever you want, resistance can still creep up on you. I’ve certainly experienced this throughout my life where I’ve had a significant amount of downtime from working, while all these creative projects I know I want to do work on fell by the wayside. Despite remembering the joy these projects brought me, I rationalized that I deserve to sit around all day like a potato, binge watching stuff on Netflix and YouTube, playing the hell out of video games, and then dozing off in the middle of the day when all entertainment options have been exhausted.

If you can relate to this, then I’ve got the solution for you, and it’s actually quite simple. It may seem counterintuitive and pretty obvious in hindsight, but what we must do in the heat of resistance is push through it and get to work anyway.

Even when you’re not feeling it, nay, especially when you’re not feeling it.

Here’s why:

Creativity is Our Life Blood

If you are a creative person with a ton of ideas, with little to no execution of said ideas, you know very well how excruciating it may be to “not have the time” or “not have the energy” to create something. All the while your other creative friends and family members, along with other creatives who have their work put out into the world, are pumping out piece after piece, and you’re stuck staring at a blank page or canvas.

Or maybe you’re not even at that stage, and instead choose to distract yourself with TV and video games, but no matter how hard you try to pay attention to your distraction, the back of your mind is nagging you about that thing you know you should be working on. That project you tell all your friends and family about with the utmost gusto like it would be the coolest thing put out into the world, but you’ve yet to put pen to paper.

Something I learned recently is that creativity actually fuels us, not drain us. You may feel mental and/or physical fatigue from the stresses of life, but actually starting a project can wake your soul back up and bring you back to life. Creative people die inside when they’re not creating because all of these ideas get locked up inside our minds and the overwhelm of having things left unexpressed brings about a ton of anxiety.

The funny thing about anxiety is that it’s really just a bunch of unspent energy. At the psychological and emotional level, anxiety is all about fearing death and being too afraid to act in the face of it. Yes, there’s a sense of possible death when we dare to do something creative because if you plan to put your work out there you risk getting criticized and having said criticism make your work feel like a waste of time. It would hurt to admit your ego was right, that you’re not that very good at the thing you do.

Or if you never plan to put your work out there to share with the world because you’re more of a solitary hobbyist, you can still run up against that perfectionism and potential fear of death. You may be doing it just to entertain yourself, but being your own worst critic and hardest fan to please, what would it say about you if you can’t even entertain yourself?

All these anxieties and more are there because creating art is a risk for the reasons above and more. While valid, you shouldn’t let them stop you from simply expressing the depths of your soul in whatever form you choose.

At the physiological level, anxiety and excitement are exactly the same. That surge of adrenaline coursing through our bodies that makes our hearts race? That’s our body’s way of readying itself for action, and if that action isn’t taken, that energy stays locked up inside and eats away at you.

It’s pretty much the same thing as wanting to confess your love for someone. The longer you keep it in, the harder it becomes to take the next opportunity to do so, all the while just feeling the pain of having something meaningful to you left unexpressed. Art is the exact same way, except it’s you confessing your love for yourself, and by extension, your love for the world and expressing how you see it so others can see it the way that you do.

This is why it is of utmost importance that if you do have a creative project constantly brewing in the back of your mind, that you get to it as soon as you have the time. In fact, I’d say you should make the time. It’s important. It’s in your soul to express it, so instead of creating excuses as to why you can’t or shouldn’t do it, just create the thing to begin with.

Free Yourself From Your Ego

Even when you have “good reasons” as to why you shouldn’t start that project, what it really comes down to is your ego getting control over you. It’s afraid that it’ll die once you start working on something, and so it tells you you’re not good enough to start yet, that you’re not ready, and no one is going to care about what you create, so why bother, right?

If these excuses sound familiar, then it’s time you recognize your ego for what it is and learn how to fight back. If you’ve ever been in a flow state while creating something, you know very well how good that can feel. Time seems to fly by and all your worries go away.

That’s the death of the ego.

The ego wants to stay alive by robbing you of the present moment because all it wants you to do is think about your past failures and regrets, and all the fears you have about the future. Creativity, on the other hand, brings you straight to the present and converts your mind’s proclivity to obsess over the past and future into a wonderful tool.

If you’re writing a novel, then you start to think about what has happened in the story so far and use that to inform the current scene you’re writing, and that’s a useful function of our ability to recall the past. And since novels aim to have an end goal in mind, you also start to think about what needs to happen next as a natural consequence to what you just wrote, and that’s a useful function of our ability to think about the future.

Life only happens in The Now, the present moment. When you experienced the past, that was the form The Now took, and when the future comes, it only happens in The Now as well. This is all we ever have and then seemingly in an instant, it’s gone. So why waste time worrying about the things that have past and things that may yet to be when you can seize the moment and create something that immortalizes your soul for eternity?

How to Achieve Immortality

If it’s the fear of death that stops us from creating, perhaps it’s the very act of creation where we achieve immortality. When you stop to really think about it, all of the artists that have come before us still live on in their work.

Jimi Hendrix’s physical body may be dead, but his spirit lives on in the music he bestowed upon the world. Those tasty guitar licks and funky vocals of his are the encapsulation of his soul at certain points in time of his life. Every studio track and live performance is a record of not only his existence that we can experience from now until eternity, but also the deepest depths of his soul with what he expressed through his music.

You may or may not reach the level of stardom Jimi Hendrix has, but one thing is for certain; if you too create something that is the genuine expression of your being, a piece of your soul will live on in that artwork for all time. Assuming, of course, that you have a means to preserve it and ensure that it remains preserved long after your physical being fades away.

Just having anything created is one step closer to immortality. If you’ve got a painting, a document containing your novel, or a sound file containing your music, that is a piece of your soul you’ve captured for any potential audiences to experience long after you’re gone.

Whether you do it for yourself and/or for the world, that is how immortality can be achieved. To what degree do you want others to remember you by is completely up to you and that’s why there are many services out there that provide ways in which your work can be shared and preserved.

So next time you’re not “feeling it,” take a moment to stop and think. If we’re all destined to be dust one day, why not express what big emotions we have in the very little time that we have?

The Importance of Mentorship

In order to achieve mastery in a given field, it is important to have mentors whose mastery you would wish to emulate. Forming a connection with someone who has already achieved the same goals as you can vastly increase your chances of succeeding. Not only do they show you how they made it possible for themselves, but they could also see the potential in you to do the same and tease out what you might have to do in order to improve.

The Eternal Student

One of the best ways to approach life is to act as if you are a student from now until eternity, constantly learning and constantly growing. While it is important to celebrate victories and milestones as they come, you cannot allow yourself to get too attached to those small instances of joy. They can feel really good in the moment, as they should, but a sense of pride and enjoy are fleeting, much like most things in life. It’s all temporary and not meant to last.

If you veer off too much into being proud of your accomplishment, you can risk stifling your growth because you will have become so arrogant as to think you know it all now because of this one peak among the valleys. Know that you can always be reaching one peak higher than the last so long as you draw breath. And all the other valleys that come in between are nothing but stepping stones toward that next peak.

Having a mentor guide you through your journey can help you measure whether or not the challenges you come across in your given field are worth conquering or if they are nothing but dead weight. Operating from your frame of reference you will only be seeing the forest for the trees and a good mentor will be able to see where you are at from the bird’s eye view above the said forest.

If you remain open minded about seeing each challenge as an opportunity to learn something new about the world and yourself, then you are already ahead of most people who do nothing but complain about life not giving them what they want. Important things in life must be earned through our own sheer hard work and determination. Almost nothing gets handed to us for free, and even if you do receive something for free, it’s not really free–but that’s a topic for another day.

If you also have a mentor while having this mentality then you can accelerate your growth if you are willing to take their feedback and criticisms of your ever growing mode of being. Mistakes will happen and you have to accept that. If we already knew exactly what to do and how, there would be no point in even experiencing life because then you would be operating from a place of absolute perfection that it’s not even human.

It does not matter how driven or ambitious you are, anything worth achieving requires a lot of hard work and determination, and none of that comes easy. And so a good mentor will constantly remind you that while you may make mistakes along the way, they can reassure you that it is all part of the process and in fact, they are important for the process because that sting of failure can often be a strong motivator to not make the same or similar mistakes down the line.

Choosing Your Mentors

A mentor can be anybody you look up to. Maybe you’re a bodybuilder and need a personal trainer to be your mentor. Maybe you’re an artist and need a professional artist to be your mentor. Or maybe you’re a writer and need a writing coach to be your mentor.

A mentor should be someone who you can talk to on a regular basis and share your progress with and have the express purpose of getting open and honest feedback on how you can improve yourself. They need to be well accomplished in a way that you wish to be and need to be willing to show you the ropes rather than see you as a burden to their own growth, in which case they might not be mentor material because they have yet to establish themselves in their field.

However, if for whatever reason you cannot find a mentor you can talk to in person or even online, there is also the concept of virtual mentors. These can range from a plethora of rich and famous people who may or may not even be in the same field of expertise you are wishing to excel at. For instance, as a writer, you can still look up to an actor not so much in content of what they do since it’s different from your work, but the content will be very much the same: a creative person who is constantly taking on new projects and exploring different sides of their self expression.

If you go the virtual mentor route, pay close attention to interviews involving these people and learn from how they compose and explain themselves when they are asked questions regarding their professions. The real questions, though, not the celebrity fluff like what their favorite flower is or if they like Christmas. Real questions that could be asked of an accomplished writer such as Stephen King that could be along the lines of, “how are you able to consistently write 1000 words a day?”

The first thing to note is that he has a very reasonable daily goal. Two thousand words a day might sound like a lot to some people–it certainly would have when I was still starting out as a writer–but it is definitely manageable with enough practice. Then the second thing is that it’s an almost daily accomplishment for him which can tip you to the fact that there has to be some kind of routine he goes through before he gets himself to sit down and write those 2000 words a day. And lastly, how he handles himself in the zone of writing those 1000 words is important to note as well.

What Stephen King does before he sits down to the write for the day is have a glass of water or tea around the same time every morning, about 8:00am-8:30 and ensures that his papers and desk are set in the right order as he sits in the same seat each day. This ritualistic approach to his writing primes his brain to remember that when he takes these certain actions that they will inevitably lead toward writing those 2000 words he sets out to write each day. And he does not allow himself to stop until all is said and done which happens between 11:30am-1:30pm before he is free to go about his day any way he pleases afterward.

Now while you might not take the exact approach as Stephen King would, as a writer it is important to establish daily rituals that get you into the mood for writing as consistently as possible. The content of Stephen King’s routine are not important, at least not for you. The context is more important. The context of someone who has reached a certain level of mastery in his given field who has an established routine that makes it almost certain that he accomplishes what he sets out to do for the day.

The advantage of having a mentor you can actually talk to, though, is that they can provide you with even more insight about their routines in a way that just reading a book about them would not suffice. Because then you can ask more nuanced questions about what happens if certain aspects of the routine are disrupted or somehow not possible, or what they would do if they still cannot engage in their practice despite having done their seemingly surefire routine. And if they are generous and humble enough, they could share how they deal with their own self doubt and how they squash it in favor of higher pursuits.

Humanizing Your Mentors

As great as mentors can be in showing you what is possible in a given field, we must also remember that they are still human and are prone to mistakes themselves. The point of having a mentor may be to emulate what they do in order to succeed, but that does not mean you need to follow their advice and examples to a tee.

While it is great to choose a mentor who is much further along than you are and is in a position to help you out immensely, you cannot fall under the trap of thinking that they are the paragons of success. If it is not enough for you to listen to them share about their past challenges and how they overcame them, you need to be hyperaware of the challenges they may still be facing in the present all the while lending you a hand with your endeavors.

So do not idealize or idolize your mentors. They may be ahead of you in your current field, but remember that they too may be lacking or struggles in other areas of life so not all of their advice and guidance may be valid. You will have to be very discerning in deciding whether or not to follow what they say. For all you know what works for them may not actually work for you, but a good mentor will always be adamant about letting you know that there is a multiplicity of paths that can lead you to your destination, not just theirs.

This doesn’t mean that mentors are completely useless in the end. It just means that you are better off with mentors than you are without, but you cannot depend on them to show you all the ropes. A lot of those other ropes they cannot show you are the ones you need to discover and explore on your own, using all that you have learned from your mentors in order to orient toward the right direction.

Do you have any mentors in your life?

What difference have they made in your life?

Let me know in the comments below!

Gamifying Life

A few weeks ago I wrote about living out motivational montages in real time and how important it is to sharpen skills on a daily, if not, consistent basis. The core argument was learning to push yourself to do the work, brick by boring brick, instead of expecting instant results like movie montages portray progress.

For some of you it may be enough to accept this reality and practice your skills daily whether you like it or not. For the others who may have an aversion to boredom, like myself, you might need an extra push in order to thrive in the grind. So today I present to you the concept of Gamifying Life.

What Are Games?

Sounds like a weird question to pose because the basic answer is pretty obvious. Games are things you play either alone or with other people to have fun. But if you’re familiar with Your Write to Live by now, you know we I don’t know due basic answers here.

I’ve stressed the importance of gamers knowing themselves in order to get the best out of not only the games we play, but also the everlasting benefits games can have on our lives. And it’s all those thought patterns and modes of behavior we develop when gaming we can take into our real lives and live by the same principles.

To take a deeper look at games, they are fun and engaging activities with a certain set of rules to play by and multiples goals to achieve in the context of a set of parameters. Achieving goals in a game requires you act out a set of several actions, a lot of which require varying levels of skill in order to enact.

For instance, the goal in basketball is to shoot the ball into the hoop to score points, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins. But before you can successfully shoot a ball into the hoop there are a variety of actions you can take before you can even attempt a shot:

  • Playing within the bounds of the court.
  • Continuously dribbling the ball.
  • Passing the ball to teammates.
  • Blocking other players from getting the ball passed to them.
  • Knocking the ball out of an opponent’s hands
  • Positioning yourself on the court based on your given role.
  • And so on and so forth.

Shooting the ball into the hoop is the main goal, but there are smaller goals you need to achieve in order to achieve the main goal. If you want to break it down further, you also have to take in account how a basketball player is capable of skillfully performing any of these actions, and that’s obviously through practice.

But then even practicing becomes a game itself because leading up to drills and practice games is the game a basketball player has to play off the court. They need to keep in shape so they have to watch their diets and workout to improve their strength and stamina.

And these things get tracked numerically because numbers reveal the results of our actions. Just as it is on the court when the team with the most points win, thus validating the collective games each individual team member has “won” before playing the main game.

At the broadest perspective, games are a set of goals we need to achieve in order to build toward a bigger goal. Some smaller goals aren’t always necessary, but they can play a big part in increasing our chances at achieving the bigger goals. At the perceived end of the game a numerical value and/or some other criteria measures how well participants have played the game.

Keeping Score in Order to Score

Life becomes infinitely more fun to live when you approach it as if it’s a game. And in a way, life really is the ultimate game because of all the mini-games you need to play in order to make the most out of it. One way to do that is by taking stock, especially when you’re stuck. What we measure grows, so if you’re keeping track of your progress in whatever you choose to do, you can always compare your scores across time.

So if you’re a writer like me, one goal you can set for yourself is to write a certain amount of words a day. This could be 500-1000 or even more depending on how ambitious you would like to go about it. On top of that you can also create side objectives such as outlining and researching for your story that increases its chances of landing with the reader. Learning from writing guides and from a writing coach can also help you increase your chances of improving your work.

If publishing a novel is your goal then writing it is the game you need to play to achieve that goal. Depending on how much work you’ve put into your novel you could sell about half or a full million copies in the first week of its release. If you sold a somehow really good first and only draft to a publisher, maybe you could sell about 100,000 copies on your first week of release. You could maybe even triple it to 300,000 if you took the time to revise that draft and sell a polished up one, 500,000 if you had a skilled editor help you with that.

(Throw in a writing coach to help you get a better understanding of your ideas and help you express them in the most intriguing and meaningful way possible, and maybe you’d even sale that 1,000,000 copies upon the first week of your novel’s release. 😉

While all this extra work isn’t a guarantee you could sell your novel in those great numbers, they can definitely increase your chances at doing so. Life itself is a game of chance and you can pull the odds in your favor the more you sharpen your skills and measure your progress toward your goals.

Playing, Progress, and Presence (Oh My!)

A lot of our lives are measured through our level of productivity. If you’re not being productive, you’re wasting your time, a lot of people seem to think. But I’ve argued before that life should be more about presence, not productivity. Productivity for a lot of people implies all else is a waste of time and you have no value if you’re not being productive.

We often measure ourselves and others by how much we do as opposed to looking inward and focusing on how present we can be. And so what happens when you play games? You’re immersed in the moment and attentive to all the details surrounding you. You’re focused on timing your movements with the moment to get the perfect shot. You’re having fun and get into what we call “the zone.”

So if we approach life and writing like a series of games we need to play, we’ll have a much better time at engaging with our passion rather than seeing all the “boring” aspects of it as tedious things that we need to get out of the way. It’s all part of the process and contributes to your progress when you approach it from a level of presence over productivity.

How to Comfortably Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The adage of “getting out of your comfort zone” is far too common in self-help and personal development circles, for better and for worse. It is for the better because there is no denying that life does begin at the end of the comfort zone. However, it can also be for the worse when the practice is advertised as intentionally getting yourself in the danger zone.

As I’ve posited in Movie Montage Motivation, growth comes from a constant daily grind toward mastery. It takes time to learn and train in something you’re interested in, it doesn’t all happen in the matter of three minutes to the tune of Eye of the Tiger. In fact, it probably takes listening to Survivor’s entire discography several times over before you can deservedly run to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s stairs and throw your hands up in triumph.

And if you pay close attention to Rocky’s facial expressions during that monumental montage, you could read the clear discomfort in his disposition that speaks volumes of how hard it actually is to get out your comfort zone. In today’s Meaningful Monday post, here are three things you can do get out of your comfort zone comfortably with little to no impact other than surprising yourself with what you could accomplish if you just applied yourself properly:

  1. Being clear about your motivations.
  2. Taking tiny steps.
  3. Committing past the resistance.

He Who Has a ‘Why’ to Live Can Bear Almost Any ‘How’ – Nietzsche

If you have a specific interest you want to become familiar with and master, it is important to evaluate what it would mean to you commit to it, as well as why you’re engaging with it in the first place. What is motivating you to learn about something beyond mere fascination with it? Maybe it’s learning about real estate investing, learning how to paint, or even in my case, learning how to play a certain genre of video game.

Whatever your motivation is, be clear as to why you want to gain some mastery in something and you will inevitably gravitate towards the methods in which you can achieve the aforementioned mastery. Or at the very least, something close to mastery; a level you’re comfortable with reaching and staying in, with the option to grow further down the line if you so choose.

Take for example my recent fascination with First Person Shooters, a genre of video game that I used to detest throughout my life. I’d seldom play them here and there and overall preferred games in third person because it is easier to see what my character is doing, as well as measuring the distance between my attacks and the positioning of my opponents.

One FPS I really want to “git gud” at is Overwatch because I am enamored by the lore, the character design, and overall gameplay. Despite my aversion to FPS games, I did play it for a while last year and got somewhat decent at it while using a Steam Controller to play it, but often felt stumped with how bad my aim was. So inevitably I figured that maybe I should switch over to playing with keyboard and mouse to have better control over my aim.

At first it felt like I sacrificed my movement skills from the Steam Controller for the sake of a very tiny improvement in my aim, but I’ve been at it for weeks now, along with playing a whole slew of other FPS games and have been in love since. I cannot believe that after all these years I have missed out on such a great genre because I wasn’t good enough at them to enjoy them, let alone garner any interest in them to begin with.

But you might be asking at this point, what is my why, and what is the how I’ve come to because of my motivations?

The simple answer is that I want to get good at FPS games so I can enjoy them better. After all, constantly getting rekt can get tiring fast, and it is gratifying to be able to avoid attacks and concoct strategies to outsmart either the AI in single player games or the human opponents in online competitive games. The deeper answer, I suppose, is wanting to be able to contribute to my team and help them achieve victory.

So how do I get good? Constant practice and playing, as well as some self reflection as to how I use the abilities of my chosen character in conjunction with the abilities of my teammates, and learning the beautiful balance between calling certain shots and letting others lead the team when they have better ideas than me. Couple that with video tutorials geared toward specific characters and how to use them effectively, as well as other general tips that can be universalized across FPS games.

Now hopefully I haven’t lost any sophisticated folks who are too good for video games–because I’ll admit this wasn’t the most meaningful example possible–but the principle is to take stock of why you want something and figure out how to get it. Sometimes you’ll stumble around blindly and trip over yourself, other times you’ll learn from cold hard experience. While this is fine for the most part, we do live in an age where there are resources for just about any interest out there with people who are more than happy to help others expand their awareness and proficiency, so seek those out as well.

Aim High, but Don’t Break Your Neck

The next thing you need to consider is how reasonable your goals are. You want to aim high enough so that there would be a noticeable difference between you right now and the you you will become as a result of your practice and dedication. But you also don’t want to aim too high that your intended goal is constantly out of reach and only serves to discourage you from ever moving forward.

This is the importance of taking it slow and taking small steps toward your goals, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s already hard enough stepping out of your comfort zone so why make things even harder for yourself, right?

What helps you digest big goals is to cut them up into tinier bite sized portions. Think about your favorite meal and what it takes to eat it. Let’s say you like burgers. While you could stuff your entire mouth with a burger, I wouldn’t recommend it. Big juicy burgers take several tiny (or a few giant 😉 bites to finish. It’s the same thing with achieving a goal.

I would even argue that you shouldn’t see the end result as your goal, rather treat that tiny chunk of the goal as the most important thing in your life. You know that cliché; life’s all about the journey and not the destination. So maybe instead of constantly looking toward who you would be as a master at something, maybe approach every tiny step toward that mastery as if it’s the most important thing and only thing in the world.