I deeply believe that one’s level of satisfaction with one’s life is strongly connected to the presence of meaning in it. Meaning is not a universal concept, it is something that is subjective to each individual, but there is one important thing that I have learned that acts as probably the strongest medium to create it: the way you approach everything that you do. I first heard the term “craftsman’s approach” from my teacher Ido Portal and conceptualizing it helped me create meaning for myself.
I have seen profoundly happy people who were occupied with something that in our society is not usually considered as extremely fulfilling, but there was one trait that united them all: the complete immersion in the process and taking pride in whatever it is they were doing. And then I have seen people who are seemingly at the top of their game, but who were deeply unhappy with themselves and their lives. The latter is, unfortunately, is a trend you meet way more often, and I believe the cause of it is not the wrong occupation, but the wrong approach to it.
Everything around us makes us obsessed with productivity, which is not bad per se, but productivity for productivity’s sake is. We are conditioned to constantly strive for higher numbers, but we miss the whole chunk of time that brings us to the end point – the process of getting there. Reaching the end goal is often a very empty moment. It is not a secret to anyone that most Olympic athletes after participating in the games end up with all kind of mental issues. It is, indisputably, necessary to have a goal in order to aim high, but when you lose 4 years of your life in order to receive 5 minutes of fame, I think very few can say it was worth it. If we reconsider the way we treat the path towards our goals, the moment of achieving it might become duller, but our whole life will be more fulfilling.
The craftsman’s approach means treating the process as a medium, not only valuing the end result. This being said, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to be worried about the quality of the final product at all, but paradoxically, the more attention you pay to the process of creating something and less worrying about it being finished, the better the outcome will be. When you do things with love it is noticeable. When you take pride in what you are doing – you are adding indisputable value to it. Lack of this has led us to the world where we are surrounded by great abundance of soulless, meaningless stuff and people with no purpose in life.
Treat anything you do in life with care, respect and your full attention. It doesn’t matter whether it is baking bread, driving a truck, dancing, teaching people, creating music or coding. It is important to understand that you don’t need to do rare things to be fulfilled, you need to have a rare approach to what you are doing. The means are not important, what is important is the constant search for excellence. Your abilities are infinitely improvable, so is the outcome of your actions.
The craftsman’s approach is the ultimate road to mastery – a virtue lost in our culture, but it is a powerful thing that gives us deep feeling of meaning and satisfaction. I like the way Sarah Lewis describes it in her book: “Mastery requires endurance. Mastery, a word we don’t use often, is not the equivalent of what we might consider its cognate — perfectionism — an inhuman aim motivated by a concern with how others view us. Mastery is also not the same as success — an event-based victory based on a peak point, a punctuated moment in time. Mastery is not merely a commitment to a goal, but to a curved-line, constant pursuit.” So there is no hidden secret in how to live a meaningful life and have a purpose, everything you need to create it is always at your disposal.