The Basics Of Self-Mastery

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The journey to self-mastery starts with you simply looking at your own reflection in the mirror. The face looking back


Pic by Jason Strull

at you is the face of a man or woman who is about to learn that success in your private life is only half of the goal. It will also be extended to your public life too. You are about to become aware that to be an effective leader, you must first learn to lead yourself.

Today’s culture tends to shine its spotlight on the outside, physical world. It turns a blind eye to where the real focus should be – namely inside – the real you. The key to self-mastery is taking control of your inner being; mastering your own thought processes that steer your behavior, your feelings, and your routines.

Too many people make knee-jerk reactions to certain circumstances. The trouble is that this is unconsidered. You need to be able to respond rather than just react. The typical knee-jerk reaction is simply an uncontrolled reflex. A response on the other hand, is made with thought, awareness and with a goal in mind.

There is a well-known quote. Its origins are accredited to many, but it is believed to have first been coined by Frank Outlaw – the late president of Bi-Lo stores. In essence it boils down to”

“Observe your thought process as this creates words.

Observe your words as these engender actions.

Observe your actions as these become habit forming.

Observe your habits, because these mold your character.

Observe your character because this forms your future path.”

Although it might feel inherently wrong at first, it is nonetheless true that taking the selfish approach of concentrating on enriching yourself, will result in you being selfless by enhancing the lives of anyone in your environment.

Basics of Self-Mastery

In order to take the necessary steps to gain self-mastery, follow these seven, simple steps.

Have a chat with yourself

We all talk to ourselves. Not in the physical sense, but in the mental sense. When you think and reason, you are in actual fact talking in your mind. It’s not weird and it doesn’t mean you’re going crazy. It’s perfectly natural. To take that first all-important step to self-mastery, you need to listen to these thoughts. You must develop self-awareness and self-reflectivity. You must consider your thoughts.

Over the years, many celebrated philosophers and psychiatrists have developed their own theories regarding the workings and complexity of the human mind. The one thing that all these specialists have in common, is their understanding of the human mind being as versatile and as individually unique as it is.

Whilst the physical structure of our brains is the same, as is the path that neurons travel, the thoughts themselves are individually unique. It may surprise you to know that most professionals agree, that within your thought patters, there are various aspects of the basic you. These different versions mean that we are always at odds with ourselves. It is therefore small wonder that many people find self-mastery so difficult.

To achieve self-mastery, you must first learn to manage the various responses to outside stimuli, so that you are able to make a considered analysis and apply positive thinking. If this thought management process does not take place, there is no considered response to incoming stimuli, only emotional knee-jerk reactions.

Self-mastery is a process of observing the various responses your thought patterns create, recognizing each one for what it is and then being able to apply positivity in a way that creates the most appropriate response.


Be at one with your past

It is said that as an individual person, you are the sum of all of your experiences. What self-mastery does is to acknowledge the various experiences, but it doesn’t allow you to be limited by them. It does however, take some practice. It’s because all of the experiences we have had, linger in our minds – whether they were good or bad. However, though these experiences will not be forgotten, you can nonetheless choose which ones to relate to.

Coming to be at peace with your past in this way means that you can take a far more objective slant on current life, and as a student of self-mastery – you can choose the most positive slant. We refer to people as carrying baggage around with them. The truth of matter is that you need to find somewhere to park this baggage. It will enable you to forgive, and to some extent, forget.

Writer Eleanor Brown made an interesting observation, saying that there are occasions in life when we accept that the past is just that – the past. It cannot be changed. However, what we can do is to alter how we recount past episodes in our minds and thus change what is yet to happen.

Become the Devil’s advocate

Being a Devil’s advocate means challenging different viewpoints. This will enable you to discover any flaws or omissions in your thought processes. The more you do this, the better your final decision making will be. Done correctly, this aspect of self-mastery will smooth out any negative trends in your thinking.

It doesn’t matter what the problem is that you are considering. You need to approach it from various angles. The more the merrier. There’s nothing quite like a spirited debate, and the more you challenge yourself, the more you are likely to come up with interesting and novel conclusions.

Maintain a journal

Keeping a journal that you regularly update is an excellent way of documenting your actions and thoughts. The more you journalize things, the more you are able to accurately recap past events and gain the ability to learn from them. Susan Sontag (the writer) says, with regard to keeping a journal, that it’s like having the ear of a person who cannot hear anyone else, speak, or write.

When you take the time and trouble to lay out your thoughts in the written word, it’s a bit like creating a blueprint. This is proven by Gail Matthews, a doctor of psychology who did some research on 267 individuals, finding that 76% of people that wrote things down and who then detailed a finite strategy, were more successful at achieving their goal than the 43% who only imagined their goals.

The conclusion is that the practice of devoting time to journalize your thoughts is a major step on the road to self-mastery.

You are not an innocent bystander

Self-mastery is all about being proactive and not merely watching the world go by. An excellent example of this is what took place with the stabbing of Kitty Genovese a little over 50-years ago. The fact of the matter is that while the stabbings were being carried out, the 38 people who witnessed this insidious crime took no action, under the misapprehension that someone else had assumed responsibility and was in the process of dealing with it.

In hindsight, psychologists theorize that the more spectators there are to an incident, the less probable it is that one of them will try to intervene.

In the world of self-mastery, a self-mastery devotee will assume the responsibility and will take appropriate action. A person in full control of their psyche knows that in a situation like this, there is no place for inaction. Inaction from everyone is the worst possible scenario. It needs someone to step up, and that someone is the person who practices self-mastery.

Correct interpretation

How do you see a glass with liquid in it? Is at half empty or half full? This is a fundamental question and one which drives a response to be one of negativity or positivity. If for example you get fired from your current job, you could either accept you have failed, or you could take the view that it gives you an opportunity to seek new employment that gives you more job satisfaction or that even opens the way to you becoming our own boss.

It’s simply a matter of interpretation.

Putting a different interpretation on things is fundamental to self –mastery. Take the case of a TED talk shared by the writer, Andy Soloman. This was concerning a woman who had been raped when she was younger and who had a child as a consequence of the rape. The circumstances destroyed her personal relationships and shot her career plans to ribbons.

At the time the TED talk took place, the woman was 50 years of age and she was asked whether or not she ever thought about the man who put her through her ordeal.

She responded by saying that initially she hated the man. Later however, she came to pity him. The initial thought was that she pitied the guy because he had little enough conscience to have done the dreadful deed. However, it turned out that the lady pitied the guy because he doesn’t know that he fathered a beautiful daughter who subsequently has two gorgeous grandchildren.

The lady went on to say that the rapist doesn’t know about his progeny but that she did, and that as a result, she felt that she was the fortunate one.

Honestly assess your own physical and mental assets

It’s not easy to assess your own capabilities without your ego and pride getting in the way. However, it is the only way of making a genuine self-assessment. You must first own up to any problems that you have. The very basis of self-mastery is being totally honest with yourself.

I like to call on something called the SCOC analysis, as determined by Armin Forstner. SCOC stands for Strength, (internal) Challenges, Opportunities, and (external) Challenges. You use the SCOC process to analyze a particular situation with a positive mental attitude, applying each of the components one by one.

It allows the situation or circumstance to be re-examined using a positive mind-set. Try it out on the next problem for consideration and you should be able to see exactly what I mean.

Using this SCOC protocol is not about making finite decisions. What it is about is laying out the groundwork in a positive manner that will eventually lead to making positive choices. With self-mastery, it is first important to survey all aspects of a given circumstance so that the right, positive conclusions can be drawn.

A good parallel is drawn with the flight emergency procedures that are explained before a plane takes off. It is stressed that it is important to put your own oxygen mask on before attempting to assist someone else. Wise words. If you fail to do so and pass out – you won’t be able to help anyone.

You are being groomed to be self-centered, but only so that you will then have the best opportunity of assisting others.

It puts self-mastery into context. By making positive decisions and taking positive actions, you can stand a better chance of positively affecting someone else’s life.

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