Awhile back I was listening to NPR in the car, and they were speaking to a musician and athlete. I can’t find the segment and I don’t remember exactly what she said, but she was talking about the willingness to accept the drudgery of deliberate, painful, boring practice being an essential element to sucess in both music and sports. To be good at something, you have to work at it even when it is not fun or interesting or exciting. In fact, a majority of the time spent on it will not be fun or interesting or exciting, but the mastery produced will be satisfying.
I was alone, driving in the car, as I listened, and it struck me that her mentality is quite applicable to housekeeping. The actual practice of it is rarely interesting or fun or fulfilling, but satisfaction can be found in improvement, even when it doesn’t feel like anything is really being accomplished. Just as in housework, in mastering an instrument or a sport, you very rarely get that moment of something being really completed. It is ongoing, never-arriving, always-room-for-improvement work.
Yet with both an instrument or a sport, we assume it is worthwhile and admirable for a person to dedicate himself to mastery. We call such people role models or heroes or accomplished people. Yet if it is homemaking that a person applies herself to gaining mastery, the most praise she can expect is to be called ‘Martha Stewart’ with a somewhat derogatory undertone.
But the principle remains the same and should be an encouragement, whether or not the watching world attaches the same value.
Improvement and mastery is satisfying. Improvement and mastery takes time, deliberate intentionality, attention, work, and repetition. A majority of the time spent in the activity is dull if not painful. But those who acheive greatness find the dull or painful repetition worth the end result. They look past the present difficulty and boredom to the end it is accomplishing; they look at what they were capable of a year before, see progress, are made happy and satisfied in seeing that progress, and press on so that in another year they will see improvement a year hence.
And that examination, and not the in-the-moment drudgery, is where a bulk of the fulfillment and happiness lies.