Keeping yourself focused on the most important things in life can be a difficult job when you’re trying to balance work, family responsibilities, and your personal life all at the same time. There may be times when you want instant rewards for your hard work, and when they don’t happen as expected, you feel like the world has conspired against you.
But the truth is that you’re not important enough for the cosmic forces to get in your way. Sometimes you don’t get the rewards you want and deserve simply because there’s something better in store for you, if only you wait a little longer.
The Kid at the Grocery
The scientific evidence in support of self-control has been established fairly recently, dating back to the marshmallow experiments of the psychologist Walter Mischel in the 1970s. But common knowledge about the power of self-control goes way beyond that. Everyday experiences teach us the importance of self-control and what it can do for our character.
Growing up in our families, our parents and other elders constantly teach us how to curb our appetites for various things like food, toys, TV and games. We don’t always get what we want because it’s bad for us, although we’re not always aware of this fact.
How many times have you seen a mother and child pair in the grocery arguing about a particular product that the latter wants to include in the shopping cart but the former doesn’t want? More often than not, the parent is trying hard to reason with the kid and convince him to put the cookie tin back on the shelf.
But the kid’s judgment (what little of it he has developed at his age) is clouded by his desire for the thing, so he does everything he can to get it to force his mother to buy it for him. He doesn’t know any better. He wants his cookie, and he wants it now. In the end, the mother can just give in and buy the cookies, but that’s not a good way to teach the child self-control.
Do you also feel like throwing tantrum when you don’t get want you want? Some of us do on a regular basis. However, as a mature and self-aware adult, it’s important for you to exercise a little more self-control.
Growing up in our families, our parents and other elders constantly teach us how to curb our appetites for various things like food, toys, TV and games.
Wait It Out
There are many instances in life when your patience is tested. During these moments, you feel like every minutes stretches to forever. Young adults sit through their classes, boring or not, in order to finish their degree. They memorize words and sounds to master a new language. They take time to learn steps and instructions to learn a dance routine and perform it flawlessly.
All these activities require patience and fortitude in order to be finished, and unless you hold out until the end, you’re never going to see the results you wanted in the first place. To master your self-control and build your character for the better, here are three easy tips you can follow:
Stay calm when deciding about important matters. The easiest way to make a bad decision is to panic and act impulsively. Self-control is all about putting a lid on your runaway thoughts, especially during crucial moments. If you let panic or fear into your mind, you cannot make objective decisions.
Keep your emotions out of the way because they will only cloud your good judgment, leading you to make poor choices.
When faced with a choice, ask yourself: “What is the best thing for me in the long run?” People who never learn to rein in their appetites usually make decisions based on present circumstances only, forgetting the fact that whatever they do now will have an impact on future happenings.
Do you really need this expensive designer bag that costs as much as your pay check this month? Will you have enough cash left over to pay for your other expenses such as food, rent and utilities? If you think that buying the bag will now ruin your budget, then you should not make the purchase.
From staying up too late, to checking emails obsessively, to eating too many carbs, self-control is something we all struggle with on a daily basis. Although some of us may fail to believe it, we all possess the ability to develop self-control. It is a quality that separates us from the animal kingdom, due to our enlarged pre-frontal cortexes. Instead of immediately responding to impulses, we can plan and evaluate our actions beforehand. Self-control can be learned. And by mastering these ten skills below, we can start to tackle the burning issues of our modern every-day lives like going to bed earlier, turning the computer off, and saying no to the bread basket at the dinner table.
The worst thing you can do for your body (and your brain) is to go hungry. When your blood sugar is low, you are more likely to gravitate towards those sweet treats which will spike your sugar levels back up and leave you on the never ending roller coaster of diet and binge. Moreover, beyond the physical ramifications, going hungry is even worse for your brain. A study by Dr. Brad Bushman from Ohio State University showed that participants with lower blood sugar levels more frequently showed signs of irritability or anger. Our brains need fuel to run properly, and when that fuel runs low, the brain has difficulty regulating our emotions. Eating high protein foods will give your body that slow burn it needs to keep you fuller longer and keep the “hangry” away.
The mind can be a restless thing. And when your thoughts are driven by restlessness or anxiety, you are more likely to think impulsively and act on those impulses. Learning to control your thoughts through meditation can be the best tool for finding balance and suppressing the “fight or flight” response that is so common in stressful situations. When you meditate, your body naturally increases the levels on GABA in your brain, a hormone that regulates anxiety. It is the body’s main neurotransmitter tied to relaxation. If you can devote a few minutes a day to simply focusing on your breath and your senses, you will be calmer and your decision making will be sounder.
Similar to going hungry, going without enough sleep is just as detrimental to your body and mind. Your brain’s ability to absorb glucose is significantly diminished without rest, meaning you are less likely to exert self-control—over everything from eating to your other decision-making. Staying consistent with your sleep every night can make all the difference when it comes to being in control of your impulses. You will be more productive throughout the day and be more effective in dealing with stressful situations and frustrations. If you are someone that has trouble sleeping, go back and see #2. Meditating before bed can help your body drift off to sleep naturally as opposed to taking an over the counter sleeping remedy.
Exercise keeps you healthy in all aspects of your life: mind, body, and spirit. Aside from the obvious physical benefits, exercise provides biochemical changes in the brain such as increasing your levels of endorphins and serotonin. Physical activity also positively changes brain activity allowing for a more calm mental and emotional state. When you are able to think calmly and clearly, you are better equipped to remain in control in stressful situations. And of course if you’re faced with a confrontation, always opt to ‘walk it off’ and cool down before you engage.
5. Force Yourself Until it Becomes a Habit
Speaking of exercise, we all have those days we don’t feel like getting our butt to the gym. Or, we daydream and surf the web at work because we didn’t get enough sleep the night before to function properly. On those days, you literally have to force yourself to do the right thing; i.e. get to that workout class or take the time to refocus your energy and get back to work. Researchers say it takes at least two months for a new habit to form, depending on you and depending on the habit. So, until your efforts start to feel a little more ‘effort less’, keep pushing yourself. I promise it will be worth it.
6. Think Positively
Think about the solution, not the problem. In my new book Strong is the New Skinny, I discuss how becoming the best version of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally starts with a positive outlook. Dwelling on the negative will only reinforce that “I can’t” behavior. Instead, keep a journal of your efforts, the good and the bad, and forgive yourself when you fail. Highlight one time in particular where you succeeded each day and choose to focus on that instead. This will help reinforce the positive and set you up for future successes. That way, when you’re faced with confrontation, whether it’s the boss or the candy jar, you’ll have something to shift your attention to and avoid any negative altercation.
7. Get Others Involved
Realize that although your own efforts may be valiant, you do not need to go about it alone. Know when to ask for help. A support system should be just that, somewhere to go when the going gets rough. Ask your family and friends to keep you accountable to the goals you have set for yourself. It’s easier to cave in to temptations when no one is around. They can also join you in your efforts. For example, if you’re trying to control your drinking, opt for getting dessert with a few friends instead of going out to a bar. (And if you’re trying to watch your weight, go catch a movie instead).
The key to achieving self-control may lie in your ability to visualize it; if you believe it, you can achieve it. Mental imagery has long been used by professional athletes to boost their confidence and results. Studies have shown that both imagining and doing an activity can activate many of the same neural networks that link your brain’s activity to your body’s. Plus, on a strictly psychological level, envisioning success can enhance motivation and confidence. So, visualize what it is you want and then pre commit to accomplishing it, whether it be studying for and acing a big exam or simply passing on the morning doughnut box.
9. Distract Yourself
Back in the 1960’s Columbia University conducted a group of studies, colloquially known as the “Marshmallow Studies”, which sought to explain willpower. Researchers tested hundreds of four-year olds by placing them in a room one at a time, giving them each a marshmallow and instructing them not to eat it. While many of them did in fact eat the sweet treat, the ones that did not were able to do so by distracting themselves with other activities like singing or counting. When you distract yourself, you simply shift your attention away from the temptation whenever it creeps up. Try using this technique in your own life. Conveniently forget your credit card and only bring a limited amount of cash when you go out to avoid over spending, or choose to only keep healthy foods at home to avoid those late night temptations.
10. Do Your Research
When it comes to self-control, knowledge is power. Whatever it is that you’re struggling with, make it your priority to be the master of it. Read books or articles pertaining to the topic. Find people around you that have gone through a similar situation and use their experience as a guide to follow or avoid, depending on their success. Being informed will keep you prepared for whatever might come up.
This article was co-authored by Amy Wong. Amy Eliza Wong is a Leadership and Transformational Coach and the Founder of Always on Purpose, a private practice for individuals and executives looking for help in increasing personal well-being and success and in transforming work cultures, developing leaders, and improving retention. With over 20 years of experience, Amy coaches one-on-one and conducts workshops and keynotes for businesses, medical practices, non-profits, and universities. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Amy is a regular instructor at Stanford Continuing Studies, holds an MA in Transpersonal Psychology from Sofia University, a certification in Transformational Life Coaching from Sofia University, and a certification in Conversational Intelligence from CreatingWE Institute.
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Building self-control can be challenging, but it is possible to create change in your life and manage impulsivity. Feeling more in control of yourself and your actions can lead to feeling more in control of life, feeling more empowered about who you are, and helping boost your feelings of self-esteem.
What is self-control?
Self-control can be defined as the exercising of control of our mental, emotional and physical powers in times of temptation or pressure when there is the greatest danger of acting in an unwise or selfish manner.
The value and need of self-control might be illustrated by a car.
Its engine may have as little as 35 or as much as 400 horsepower.
But important as is the production of power by this engine, equally important is it being controlled, for of what value would a car be if you could not control the speed or the direction in which it traveled?
It would be an instrument of death!
The problem of self-control arises because we are capable of using powers wrongly as well as rightly.
Even as the forces of nature can cause much harm if not restrained—as witnessed by tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal waves and lightning—so also with the mental, emotional and physical powers we have, if not controlled, they can cause much harm.
Lets mention a few of this harmful effects.
Effects of lack of self-control
The shocking multiple murders reported in the newspapers and on the radio and TV are instances of persons failing to control a strong impulse to express hatred or frustration by murder.
Failure to exercise self-control accounts for the spread of lifestyle diseases, for the many unwanted pregnancies and not to forget about the widespread marital unhappiness, which results in separations, desertions and divorce.
And what is drunkenness but the result of a failure to exercise control of one’s craving for alcoholic beverages?
How often does a lack of self-control account for an auto accident as when a driver becomes irritated or lets his attention be diverted?
Time and again, research has established, accidents are caused by imprudent behavior on the part of “impulse-dominated personalities of drivers”—those lacking self-control.
The same even applies to one’s daily secular occupation.
It may be quite interesting or challenging, or one may find it greatly rewarding because of the money earned or other benefits.
These factors may well cause one to become a compulsive worker, lacking in self-control.
Such people often become victims of high blood pressure and suffer heart attacks.
Then again, many persons are unable to exercise self-control in the acquiring of material possessions.
Easily influenced by the flattering talk of salespeople, they make unwise purchases and thus become beholden to creditors.
To avoid such harmful effects in your life you will need to have self-control on some important aspects of your life.
Let us discuss the three major areas you need self-control.
1. Control your eating habits
Doubtless the pleasure most widely and most often enjoyed by humans is that of eating.
This pleasure might be said to be circumscribed by the principle that ‘we eat to live, we do not live to eat.’
For one thing, this principle should govern your eating, you will want to choose foods that not only please your palate but is also good for you.
You will also want to be careful not to starve yourself nor eat more than what is good for you.
Moreover, you should also watch your timing.
It is known that heavy meals tend to interfere with concentration and highly skilled activity.
Even as a professional singer would not want to eat a hearty steak or a turkey dinner just before giving a concert, neither should you do so just before handling a difficult speech assignment.
In fact, a hearty meal can also interfere with you enjoying an oral presentation.
Of course, people plagued with allergies or diabetes, or who are greatly overweight, have all the more reason to watch these principles of quality, quantity and timing when enjoying the pleasure of eating.
2. Control your pleasures
You may derive much pleasure from pursuing some hobby or form of entertainment.
But here, too, you must exercise self-control and put first things first.
What if your pleasures is putting you in the bad company of people who are engaging in illegal activities or using harmful drugs?
Or what if your pleasures is too costly, injurious to your health or creating hardship on your family?
If this is the case, would it not be appropriate to change to another form of pleasure?
Although duty and pleasure often clash, they do not necessarily need to do so.
But when they do, which do you put first?
Duty is defined as ‘that which a person is bound by moral obligation to do or not to do, while pleasure is the ‘state of gratification; delight; enjoyment,’ a feeling of being pleased.
What will help you to sharpen your sense of duty and keep pleasures in their proper place?
Reason will help.
Reason will make you realize that to the extent that you reneged in fulfilling your duties, to that extent you wrong and harm yourself and others.
Since you would not want other persons to harm you, you should avoid harming others with your passions.
3. Control your emotions
Many people believe that it basically is healthy to “let go” or to “let off steam.”
Their view is reinforced by role models in the public eye who seem to ignore self-control of any sort, who simply indulge their impulses.
Many who like professional sports have grown accustomed to wild displays of emotion, even violent rage.
Can you not recall, at least from the press, instances where brutal fights or mob scenes erupted at sporting events?
Admittedly, it is not easy to control one’s emotions when one feels slighted, hurt, or treated with prejudice.
However, a step toward regaining control of your emotions is to make peace or resolve the cause for complaint, rather than letting animosities persist.
How often offenses are only of a small nature, and are solely due to thoughtlessness, a lack of tact or upbringing or a momentary excitement, and are without evil intent!
Therefore, you should not be small-minded when it comes to forgiving others, but, rather, be broad-minded and forgive offenses.
Thus the oncoming dark clouds in your personal relations will be quickly dispersed and the sun will shine again. No one of us is perfect.
We all have our imperfections and we are all thankful if others forgive us.
But sadly, it is a fact that we usually see the imperfections in others much quicker than in ourselves.
The humble person, for one thing, is not easily offended and therefore is not so likely to be tempted to act without self-control.
The humble person is more likely to have patience when dealing with others, which makes for self-control.
It takes real self-control to keep your cool and to answer with mildness when others manifests rage (learn how to control your temper), but it is the only wise course, for it smooth’s out difficulties and makes for peaceful relations.
Lack of self-control can lead to many personal disasters.
During that interval one may do irreparable damage to one’s own life or to the lives of others.
Truly the value and need of self-control can hardly be overemphasized.
With it you can rein in your thoughts, words and action, resulting in an healthy body, mind and good relations with others.
Self-control is essential to success, in relation to your daily habits, your character, your attitude, your emotions, and your actions. Some people are able to control themselves in order to do what needs to be done to make them successful, while others have a lack of self-control over themselves, which leads them to be a loser. May these quotes inspire you to have self-control over yourself in all aspects of your life.
1. “If you learn self-control, you can master anything.” Anonymous
2. “One’s greatest challenge is to control oneself.” Kazi Shams
3. “Self-control is strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power.” James Allen
4. “The main factor behind success is self-control.” Rig Veda
5. “If you lose self-control everything will fall.” John Wooden
6. “Self-control, stop, think, what could happen? Is that what you want?” Anonymous
7. “Control yourself or someone else will control you.” Anonymous
8. “It is not necessary to react to everything you notice.” Anonymous
9. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Anonymous
10. “Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings, and emotions.” Anonymous
11. “Silence is not always a sign of weakness; it’s also a sign of strong self-control.” Anonymous
12. “Anger doesn’t demand action. When you act in anger, you lose self-control.” Joe Hyams
13. “You can’t control the fact people will annoy you, but what you can control is your reaction.” Anonymous
14. “You are always responsible for how you act, no matter how your feel. Remember that.” Anonymous
15. “I cannot trust a man to control others if he cannot control himself.” Robert E. Lee
16. “Mastering self-control, the act of restraining one’s emotions is the true key to success.” Timothy Pina
17. “Self-control – what lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle
18. “In that power of self-control lies the seed of eternal freedom.” Paramahansa Yogananda
19. “Self-control is the ability to control the expression of our passions and emotions.” Anonymous
20. “Master self-control within yourself.” ATGW
21. “We have a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Anonymous
22. “My super power is self-control.” Anonymous
23. “He who reigns within himself, and rules passions, desires, and fears, is more than a king.” John Milton
24. “If you can not control yourself to do what needs to be done, do you really think that you will be successful?” ATGW
25. “He who angers you conquers you.” Elizabeth Kenny
26. “Such power there is in clear-eyed self-restraint.” James Russell Lowell
27. “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” Donald Laird
28. “If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.” Napoleon Hill
29. The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.” Charles Darwin
30. “The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you don’t, life controls you.” Anthony Robbins
31. “Your brain shall be your servant instead of your master. You will rule it instead of allowing it to rule you.” Charles Popplestone
32. “Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.” Elie Wiesel
33. “He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures.” Friedrich Nietzsche
34. “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.” Aristotle
35. “Seek always for the answer within. Be not influenced by those around you, by their thoughts or their words.” Eileen Caddy
36. “We improve ourselves by victories over ourselves. There must be contest, and we must win.” Edward Gibbon
37. “Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.” Spanish Proverb
38. “In the midst of movement and chaos keep stillness inside of you.” Deepak Chopra
39. “By constant self-discipline and self-control you can develop greatness of character.” Grenville Kleise
Mastery is usually defined as be highly skilled or proficient in one or more areas of life. Self-Mastery takes this to its highest level. To be the Master of your own Self is to fully understand who you really are. It is a discovery of the Guru within, the inner guiding Light. It means taking full responsibility for your own life. Mastery in this sense doesn’t mean to control in a negative way; it’s the realization that you are the Universe, and that you and everything around you flows harmoniously together in the magnificent dance of your own creation.
The true Yogi is a master of everything in his or her life, so Self-Mastery becomes the foundation for Spiritual Mastery. The first step is to become conscious of who you are and then you can master the gifts and talents that you have. Like your spiritual practice, the path of Self-Mastery unfolds throughout your life. It is an internal and self-directed journey, whose progress only you can determine.
The key to mastery in anything is practice; the more you practice, the more proficient you become. The term “spiritual practice” doesn’t only denote what you do but also implies the necessity of regularity. Without practice and dedication, there can be no mastery. As everything is a projection of the Self, you could practice and become a master of anything. By becoming a master of all the different areas of life, you would ultimately gain Self-Mastery. This, however, would be a long process. The shortcut is to go directly for the Self. By becoming a master of that which controls everything, you spontaneously become a master of everything. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to say, “Capture the fort and all the territory will be yours”. This is the victory of Self-Mastery.
Self-Mastery also requires patience, truthfulness, purity, impeccability, and faith. The patience to accept what is and to know when to allow things to unfold in their own time. To be true not only in your words and actions but to be honest with yourself. To be pure in your lifestyle through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and good sleep. To be the best you can in all you do, with humility and respect. To have faith in the path you have chosen, faith in your teachers and faith in your ability to be masterful.
Let’s look at the steps you can take to unlock the full potential of your Self-Mastery.
Your thoughts are constantly taking you into the future or the past so, consequently, this is probably where you spend most of your life. To be aware is to be present—to live in this moment, the NOW. To be aware is to always keep coming back to what is happening NOW. The NOW is where you connect with your Higher Self, with your Essence. Being aware is to witness your thoughts, emotions, actions, and the world with non-attachment.
Meditation is the direct route which takes you into Pure Awareness in the silent spaces between your thoughts. However, right now, be aware of your breath flowing in and out. Be aware of any sensations in your body, be aware of your clothes touching your body. Be aware of the sounds around you, the sounds within you. Be aware of your thoughts and any emotions, effortlessly witnessing them coming and going. Now and any time during the day—when you’re eating, walking, working, doing anything—pause and ask yourself, “Who is listening? Who is watching? Who is smelling, tasting, feeling?” There’s a presence, a witness. This is your Higher Self. This is being aware.
Everything in life before Self-Mastery is a choice. Your choices create the life you live. When you allow the ego to control your choices, you live in lower vibrations. When you choose forgiveness, compassion, and Truth, you move into your Mastery.
To discern is to choose wisely. First, you need to be aware that there are choices and then to choose consciously—to become the conscious choice-maker. The subtlest level of discernment is to ask the heart for guidance so your choices come from love and not fear. When you ask, “What would my Higher Self do?”, you will always be true to yourself. When you choose Light over darkness, the whole universe opens to support you.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use your commonsense, but always remember that first impulse from the heart when making the final decision.
Now you are aware, start becoming aware of your choices. Take one thing in your life that brings you discomfort and yet you keep doing it out of habit. Sit quietly, close your eyes, bring your awareness into your heart center, and ask, “What do I need to change?” Then just listen. Don’t analyze, or judge, just listen to the voice of your heart.
Once you have made your conscious choice, you need to have the courage to act on it. The ego is always waiting to distract you, and the closer you approach Self-Mastery, the more powerful the distractions become.
To be focused on the path of Self-Mastery requires you to be one-pointed without being rigid. It requires you to stay alert, unemotional, and mature. To be firm without oppression, to be resolved without judgment, to be strong with humility. It requires you to practice silence and stillness so your inner wisdom can reveal itself. Surrender to the Divine so when things don’t seem to be going your way, you realize there’s an even greater opportunity waiting for you. Self-Mastery also requires you to be courageous, to step out from the crowd and know that there’s no turning back.
Take your conscious choice and make a commitment to it, while still remaining unattached to its outcome. Be aware of the distractions, witness them, and let them go. Stay focused but flexible. Look for the clues that will be sent to help you. Transmute any difficulties into opportunities. Trust your inner wisdom.
When you realize your Self-Mastery, you radiate your Light and Divinity for all to enjoy. There is no need for choice in the regular sense because all your actions are spontaneously in alignment with Natural Law. You can neither harm or be harmed. You can still enjoy the limited, localized value of the senses, while at the same time roaming free in the non-local Supreme value, “In the world but not of it.” Happiness becomes bliss, separation becomes wholeness, your feminine and masculine qualities merge. You realize your Oneness. Fully awake in the I Am Presence, Pure Consciousness, Truth, Love. Commanders of the Light, fulfilling the promise of your Destiny.
Imagine what it will be like to have no boundaries or limitations, to be free, and for all your actions to be spontaneously correct and all desires spontaneously fulfilled. Imagine Self-Mastery, it’s here waiting for you right now.
Embark on the path to self-mastery with Deepak Chopra and Roger Gabriel in our Primordial Sound Meditation Online Course. Learn More.
Slavery may be dead as a formal institution of human bondage, but it is alive and well in the hearts, minds and lives of too many people who have the ability to loose the shackles, but haven’t exercised the courage to do so yet.
While Lincoln famously said, “I will not be a slave,” the second half of the sentence is the historically important part:
“… So I would not be a master.”
No one should ever be a master of another man or woman … except one … yourself!
But with the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the immediate disappearance of the slave-owning class, we should pause here to define what I mean by the term:
Master: “One having authority over another; one that conquers or masters.”
All of us are either internally or externally driven. Or we are some combination of the two. But the point here is that the locus of control comes either from within or from without. External control is slavery. It may be voluntary servitude, of course, but it is being subservient to a dominating influence nonetheless. We relinquish control to the environment or to something or someone in it, enslaved to external conditions.
Or we master ourselves, find the internal locus of control and harness the will to steer the ship of our own lives to the shores of our own choosing. Self-mastery puts us at the helm. Not only do we choose the destination, and the route to it and the number of stops and detours along the way, and our cruising speed in the process, but most importantly for our happiness, as masters at the helm of our own lives, we can choose how we will interact with, and interpret and respond to, life on the open waters.
It’s true, however, that we don’t control what is in the water as we plot the courses we travel. And storms can develop very suddenly and very unpredictably. But masters decide how they will deal with those storms and what the storm will ultimately mean to them and how they will be affected by them.
But what if you have spent years trying to master some aspect of your life but fall short every time. What if the will just isn’t there? What if you try, then give in, almost like clockwork, predictably? Looking at self-mastery as a muscle helps: If you exercise it, it will grow.
Following are ways you can exercise the muscle of self-mastery until it is strong enough to overcome any self-enslaving, self-defeating trait or habit that is currently a stumbling block to your joy and happiness.
10 Simple Ways to become your own Master
1. Go on a budget. The self-discipline needed for living by a budget can help develop self-mastery. Believe me, I know.
2. Develop a talent that requires daily practice. The commitment to a consistent and regular practice schedule needed to improve and develop a talent, again, builds inner resolve and strength that can help overcome the pull of surrender in other areas of your life.
3. Fast. Fasting a meal or two or more (get your doctors clearance first) can help develop deep reservoirs of self-control and self-mastery. The physical desire for food, the hunger to be satisfied, will be weakened over time, becoming subservient to a higher part of you. Buddhist monks regularly fast for purification purposes and for clearing their minds. Hindus fast to better concentrate during meditation. Fasting can help you build bigger, stronger self-mastery muscles as well.
4. Meditate. The ability to calm the mind, clearing it of thought also builds self-mastery. It requires focus and practice and discipline.
5. Pray. Similar to meditation, prayer requires focusing the mind as well, keeping your thoughts from drifting, staying present, addressing Deity. While you’re there, you might as well throw in a request for improved mastery over whatever issue is of most concern.
6. Exercise. Running, walking, cycling, hiking, playing a sport, martial arts, any kind of regular workout builds inner strength. Our resolve to act in the face of the urge to sit, to rest, to watch TV, to take the path of least resistance, can be a great source of inner mastery.
7. Stop eating before you’re full. The self-control necessary to do this will benefit you elsewhere in your life as well. It’s been said, for that matter, that if you can’t control how much you eat, you will not likely be very successful at controlling other areas of your life.
8. Give up something you like for some set amount of time. Faithful Catholics do this every year for Lent. Try it. Don’t eat refined sugar for a week or a month. Don’t gossip for a set period of time. No pizza or potato chips for a week or two. It will strengthen your will and inner conqueror.
9. Perform feats of difficulty. Here’s the principle: To attain self-mastery over selfishness and desire, Hindu and Buddhist and even Christian ascetics have been known to subject themselves to extreme challenges and deprivations like going a month or longer with one arm raised above their heads or hopping on one leg for a year or taking vows of silence or isolation or meditating by an ice-cold river nearly naked, dipping blankets in the icy water and throwing them over their own shoulders as they meditate. Apparently, it works. Good news is that we don’t need to go to such extremes to benefit from the principle embedded in those extremes.
Here’s a (fairly) practical guide to applying the principle:
- Climb a mountain
- Ride your bike to work for a month (you just might keep doing it!)
- Run a marathon
- Train for a decathlon
- Overcome a fear (heights, speaking in front of others, spiders)
- Read the dictionary
- Go back to school and get a degree
- Learn yoga
- Learn a martial art
Again, the point is to do something difficult, thereby strengthening the inner over the outer being, conquering and subduing the physical and carnal to the spiritual and moral. My list should be considered only a starting point to begin considering ways of mastering that part of our natures and harnessing the strength that rests dormant in many of us.
10. Start small and build on small successes. The momentum each small victory will generate, no matter what kind of success or how tiny the success might be, will build more confidence to tackle even bigger issues. This way, step by step, you will become the master of your vessel.
“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.” Lincoln stated well a moral principle that the U.S. was slow to accept in law. Let’s not be so slow to accept the idea that neither should we be slaves to outside forces, circumstances and urges. Instead, let’s learn to conquer ourselves, learn self-mastery. Happiness will be had in greater abundance because of it.
What Do You Think?
- Did I leave anything off?
- What would you add?
- Please share your thoughts in the comments!
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Our character curriculum is centred on building four key character traits discussed in relation to human flourishing and success since the times of Classical Greek Philosophy: resilience, self-control, good judgement and fairness. Why do we focus on these traits? This series, called “The importance of”, explores the importance of each of these four traits.
Self-control includes being able to stay on task and interrupt any undesired impulsive reactions by refraining from acting on them.
Self-control and achievement
Being high in controlling our desires and impulses is important in achieving the goals we set for ourselves. While it is reasonable to assume that those higher in self-control would have higher grades, research has in fact found self-control to outdo even intelligence in predicting good academic performance. This is mostly because young people high in self-control spend more time doing their homework, have higher school attendance, focus in class more, and have higher grades (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005).
On the other hand, low self-control is linked to a variety of difficulties, including academic underachievement, an unhealthy lifestyle, procrastination and problems with the law (Moffitt et al., 2011).
In the classic Marshmallow experiment, Walter Mischel and his colleagues gave children a marshmallow and explained that they would get another one if they managed not to eat it until the experimenter returned. Those who were able to control their impulses and delay gratification were found years later to have higher academic achievements (Mischel, 2014). Being able to manage and regulate needs, desires and emotions are thus vital to performing well academically and sticking to school tasks.
Self-control and well-being
Self-regulatory skills also predict reduced stress and increased wellbeing. Hoffman et al. (2014) found that people with more self-control feel happier and are gladder about their life. This is partly because of lower emotional distress and avoiding difficult emotional conflict that comes with giving in to tempting impulses.
Emotional awareness is key in this process. Self-control doesn’t entail disregarding emotional responses, but on the other hand depends on the information provided by emotional awareness, including identifying our emotions as well as understanding why we feel the way we feel. This awareness has been found to be associated with depression and well-being both directly and indirectly, by promoting emotion regulation and self-control (Boden & Thompson, 2015).
Boden, M. T., & Thompson, R. J. (2015). Facets of emotional awareness and associations with emotion regulation and depression. Emotion, 15(3), 399-410.
Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological science, 16(12), 939-944.
Mischel, W. (2014). The marshmallow test: understanding self-control and how to master it. Random House.
Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J.,Harrington, H., et al. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-controlpredicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,108, 2693–2698.
Hofmann, W., Luhmann, M., Fisher, R. R., Vohs, K. D., & Baumeister, R. F. (2014). Yes, but are they happy? Effects of trait self‐control on affective well‐being and life satisfaction. Journal of Personality, 82(4), 265-277.
For more information on the Marshmallow experiment, watch this video of Walter Mischel talking about the test and self-control
Self management is one of the keys to achieving more in your life. Really enjoy your life and get the most out of things. With greater awareness and understanding comes self knowledge. You take control and get rewarded for the effort you put in.
Self knowledge gives you a foundation on which to proceed. Working on yourself gives you greater belief, increased self confidence and higher self esteem. From this greater motivation allows you to set goals that you feel you can achieve. By working on your talents and skills, backed up by solid and supportive values and principles, you can move confidently forward to realizing your potential. Not only can you chase your dreams but you can start fulfilling them.
Self efficacy is our belief that we can achieve our aims, our goals, our targets, our dreams. With belief in self our horizons can expand beyond our comfort zone. We can tackle new and enriching projects, take on board ideas that interest and excite us, and basically achieve much, much more. Epistemology is about knowledge and understanding, how it is acquired and how much things may be known.
So, what do we mean by self-management?
What are some of the benefits of self management? Things we might ask include:
- Looking at yourself in (perhaps) a new light
- Seeing what you have achieved but wanting more
- Assessing where you are at and where you want to go
- Putting in the effort in a constructive way to improve yourself
- Finding that balance in your life that gives you a solid foundation
- Giving yourself the time and encouragement to move things forward
- Going easy on yourself if (or when) you meet hurdles or barriers
- Nurturing yourself, day to day, on your path to a better you
- Seeing that life wants to see you succeed
- Looking to the future with confidence
And what can be the benefits you experience?
- Realizing the talents you have and using them productively
- Looking at yourself in a new light – with confidence and improved self image
- Moving forward with enthusiasm and with increased motivation
- Setting yourself goals, achieving them and setting yourself further targets
- Your increased self efficacy enabling you to achieve more
- Enjoying the journey of personal growth on which you have embarked
- Seeing your values become more substantial and more ‘you’
- Liking the direction that you find life takes you
- Looking at yourself with pride at your efforts and achievement
- See the ‘newer’ you in a new light – your self worth shining through
- Your self esteem enhanced and your life an exciting adventure
What questions might you have?
Further questions that might assist you include:
- Self management sounds good but can I do it?
- I manage fine at the moment, what more do I need to do?
- So, what is self-management? – define it for me
- What self-management skills might I learn?
- Do you have any self-management quotes to inspire me?
- Will I find out about time management?
- Will I control my life better with these skills?
- What is this self knowledge you refer to?
- Does self knowledge bring happiness?
- How about some self knowledge quotes?
- What exactly is self efficacy?
- Can you give me more information on self-efficacy?
- I’ve heard of theories of self efficacy, what are they?
What can you find here? What’s in it for you? We will be looking at how self management can have such an impact on our lives. We will provide some answers and some background to the questions raised in the last section. Managing yourself, assessing your needs and achieving more – you’ll really be able to move on. Productive self management boosts your self esteem and enables you to get the most out of life.
Feel free to check out the following pages in your quest in understanding self management and the part it has to play in your life.