Self-Mastery

Learning Personal Leadership

Learn how to master your actions, emotions and impulses.

© iStockphoto/Yuri_Arcurs

"Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life." – Theodore Roosevelt, former US president.

What do you think when you hear the term "self-mastery"? You might picture someone like a martial arts master – calm, focused, and in control at all times. Or, maybe you imagine people who have their lives planned, and are in control of their own future.

Do you show these traits on a regular basis? Do you feel in control of your career and your goals? Or, like many people, do you feel that you should take more control of your actions and emotions?

In this article, we'll examine what self-mastery is – and we'll look at what you can do to develop it within yourself.

What is Self-Mastery?

When you have developed self-mastery, you have the ability to control yourself in all situations, and you move forward consciously and steadily towards your goals. You know your purpose, and you have the self-discipline needed to do things in a deliberate, focused, and honorable way.

Self-mastery also means mastering your emotions, impulses, and actions, and is vital if you want to achieve your goals in life.

Think about people you know who don't have any self-mastery. They're probably impulsive and rash. They might let their emotions control them, yelling at colleagues when they're angry, and then being overly polite to make up for this later. They're unpredictable and, as a result, people see them as untrustworthy.

When you demonstrate self-mastery at work, you prove to your colleagues that you have the inner strength and steadiness needed for effective leadership. So it's well worth the effort to invest time developing self-mastery. You'll likely become a happier, more balanced person – and you'll find that opportunities arise because of this.

Developing Self-Mastery

Self-mastery is a broad term that covers many aspects of your personal and professional life. Developing self-mastery can mean working on many of these areas. (If so, it may be best to focus on one or two areas at a time, so you don't become overwhelmed.)

Look at the following areas of your life to develop self-mastery:

1. Goals

Self-mastery starts with a vision of how you want your life to be.

Think about people you know who have incredible self-discipline  . Chances are that they know exactly where they want to go in life, and this vision gives them the strength to get there.

This is why it's so important to start with a clear vision of your short-term and long-term objectives. Learn how to set personal goals  , and get into the habit of moving towards these goals every day. The clearer you are about what you want to achieve in life, the easier it is to move forwards calmly and confidently.

2. Attitude and Emotion

Your attitude and emotions play a major role in self-mastery. Those who show strong self-mastery don't let their emotions control them – they control their own emotions.

Focus on something positive every day. Be grateful for things, even if these are just things like that fact that you do a job you enjoy, or that the weather is beautiful on your drive to work. Having gratitude and a positive outlook will set the tone for the rest of your day.

Resist the temptation to blame yourself when things go wrong. Self-sabotage   is a quick and cruel way of stopping yourself from reaching your true potential. If you find that you're undermining yourself, consciously make yourself stop. Instead, think of something positive and encouraging.

You can also change negative thinking with cognitive restructuring  . Write down the situation that is causing your negative thoughts. Next, write down the emotions you feel, and list the "automatic thoughts" you have while experiencing these emotions. Then, list the evidence that supports these negative thoughts, and the evidence that refutes them. Finally, list some fair, balanced, objective thoughts about the situation.

Being able to manage and control your emotions helps you build emotional intelligence  . This is your awareness of others people's needs and emotions, and your knowledge of how your own emotions affect those around you. Those who have good self-mastery are always aware of others, and they work hard to make sure that their emotions don't negatively impact other people.

3. Willpower

Think about how many times you've set a goal and, for one reason or another, never followed it through because of lack of willpower or self-control. It's happened to all of us, and we probably felt ashamed or disappointed that we didn't achieve what we wanted.

Willpower is an essential part of self-mastery. It's what pushes you forward to take action, even if you're feeling scared or hesitant. Willpower is also what keeps you moving towards your goals in the weeks or months ahead.

To boost your willpower, make sure you have both rational and emotional motives for what you want to achieve. For example, if your goal is to stop surfing the web in work time, a rational motive could be that it's against company rules, while an emotional motive could be that other people will lose respect for you when they see that you are not working hard.

Tip:

Listen to our Book Insight into "Switch" for more about aligning rational and emotional motives to make significant changes.

For many of us, willpower comes in short bursts and is often strongest when we first decide to make a change. So, use your initial burst of willpower to change your environment, so that it supports your efforts to reach your goal.

For instance, imagine that your goal is to improve your self-confidence   at work. At the beginning, when your willpower is strong, you could focus on changing the environment in your workplace by making a list of everything that hurts your self-confidence. You could also create a plan for overcoming those obstacles, and post items and affirmations   in your office that provide reminders about your goal.

After a week or so, you might find that your willpower is not as strong. But, because you changed your environment, you're better prepared to continue working towards your goal, because you have a foundation already in place.

4. Focus

Improving focus is also key to self-mastery. For instance, how much time do you waste during your work day? How much time do you spend on the Internet, talking casually with colleagues, or getting coffee? What could you accomplish if you fully used the hours available to you?

Start by working on your concentration  . Focus on one task at a time, and slowly increase your level of focus.

At first you may find that you can't concentrate on a task for more than one hour at a time, before you get tired and distracted  . Try to increase this to two hours by adding 15 minutes of focused work every day. This will allow you to strengthen your focus to two-hour stretches – and then even more, if that's what you need to get things done.

Key Points

Achieving self-mastery takes time and hard work, but it's definitely worth the effort.

It's best to work on one or two areas at a time. Start by identifying your life and career goals. Then, focus on maintaining a positive attitude during the day. Also, try not to let negative emotions impact anyone else.

Other strategies, like building your willpower and strengthening your focus, will help ensure that you keep moving forward toward your goals – while further building self-mastery.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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