Self-mastery refers to the ability to control yourself with strong willpower, fighting against impulses to achieve goals, dreams, and plans. It’s a crucial trait to move towards desired futures, but it’s much easier said than done. You’re basically fighting against yourself – and let’s face it. You’re a formidable enemy!
On top of that, self-mastery, as a concept, is incredibly complex. It can mean learning to get out of your own way, fight your deepest seeds of negativity, and keep your focus on a vision of your goals. It certainly sounds like a daunting task, and to be quite honest, it is! It’s something that has stumped many people, even the most successful of us.
Without self-mastery, it’s almost impossible to ignore all the distractions in the world around you. These things threaten to rip away your concentration and derail your progress. While the occasional setback is always one you can recover from, a long-term lack of self-control can ultimately stifle any growth or ambition you may have.
How, then, can you achieve this elusive self-mastery? Many have attempted to uncover these secrets. With a mix of scientific study and expert knowledge – and, of course, your own positive thinking – you can certainly learn this nuanced and powerful willpower. Here’s how experts reveal 3 ways to win the battle against yourself and achieve self-mastery.
1. Working Towards Your Goals Correctly
The main purpose of self-mastery is to achieve your goals. But if your goals aren’t correctly set, then working towards them isn’t possible, no matter how much willpower you may have.
Roy Baumeister, a researcher, and psychologist, outlines components in goal-setting that absolutely must be present for their attainment with self-mastery and positive thinking:
· Trackable Actions
If you cannot tell what your progress is in your quest to achieve your goals, you will not feel motivated by what you’ve done. Self-mastery doesn’t have to be a dull, lifeless journey where you imagine results in the future. It helps much more when you can see the results as they happen because you know willpower comes with rewards.
· Your Goals Must Be Clear
If your goals are vague or muddied, it’s tough to follow them. It makes it easy to cut corners, shrug off mistakes, and get lost along the way. Set very decisive and specific goals that are impossible to misunderstand, and you’ll have the direction you need to get to them.
· You Must Have Valuable Motivation
Just like with setting specific goals, it helps to have a specific motivation. Without enough motivation, you won’t be able to muster up the willpower to be consistent in your success journey.
· You Need Self-Mastery
What? You need self-mastery to practice self-mastery? It sounds a little confusing, but think of it this way: it simply means that practice makes perfect. By applying the self-control, you currently have to goal-setting and movement, you’re practicing that skill and slowly building it over time. It’s a win on all sides!
2. Delaying Gratification
Delayed gratification refers to the act of waiting to get the things you want in life. This is a highly important part of learning self-mastery, as it’s a difficult form of self-control that involves fighting urges. Those who learn to delay gratification often also learn to control their behavior more positively.
You may have heard of Walter Mischel, a psychologist responsible for some of the world’s most famous – if hotly debated – studies on delayed gratification as a concept. Arguably the most known of these was The Marshmallow Test, where children were offered the decision between eating one treat immediately or two treats if they waited and resisted the temptation of eating the first one right away.
Most children caved to the one treat immediately once left alone in the room, but those who didn’t were found to have better academic performance. This led to Mischel’s proposal of a system and concept he called the hot-and-cool, which tells us something about the importance of delayed gratification in self-mastery.
Essentially, Mischel’s theory states that the hot-and-cool system can be divided into two different concepts, which you can probably guess: the hot system and the cool system. He posited the hot system, referred to emotional, urge-oriented, impulsive aspects of willpower that cause you to leap for desires, often rashly.
The cool system, on the other hand, refers to thoughtful, rational aspects of positive willpower, where consequences are considered to build willpower. If you harness and are led by your cool system, then you are more likely to achieve self-mastery.
Here are some examples of delayed gratification in practice, backed by studies relating to their effectiveness:
· Social Interaction
Social engagement is often tempting, especially to extroverts or those who want to fit in. But many people have to put off extensive social interaction to focus on things like academic or professional goals and success. A huge amount of motivation and positive thinking is required in these cases, especially in adolescents and younger adults, making it a fantastic test of self-mastery.
Healthy eating can be difficult to maintain, and balanced diets lack a lot of the fun of junk food. With 37.7% of all United States residents dealing with obesity and other similarly caused chronic disorders, it’s no surprise that this problem is more difficult to manage than it seems. Using delayed gratification to resist the urge to eat junk food can help your self-mastery because this kind of self-control has a pronounced positive result. This will teach your brain that willpower is worth it.
· Financial Management
With goods and services easily available to purchase online with overnight shipping or fast turnaround times, it’s hard not to turn to retail therapy for just about anything. According to positive psychology coach and author Kelly Miller, it’s good practice to resist the temptation to purchase material objects in favor of the financially stable future you see ahead of you.
Individuals caught up in addictive vices, such as smoking, can benefit from the complicated task of mastering themselves over their addiction. Studies found that those who received incremental reinforcement in overcoming vices like this learn to delay gratification at a surprisingly impressive rate. Do note that if you’re struggling with addiction, it is advisable to seek professional help before going on your self-mastery journey.
3. Know Yourself And Prepare
Knowing yourself is central to self-mastery. If you don’t know who you are, you can’t understand how you’ll handle different impulses and sources of temptation. You need to be aware of the person you are and prepare to cover your flaws or prevent yourself from following old habits. Here are some ways you need to prepare to achieve self-mastery that requires you first to know yourself:
· Learn To Talk To Yourself
Everyone has a little voice inside their head that is worth paying attention to. This is an inner dialogue that dictates how you see the world, and you have to learn to observe that little voice fully. Essentially, you need to think about how you think. Why is this so important? Since the dawn of philosophy, great thinkers like Plato have realized that human beings are multi-dimensional, meaning their thoughts reflect different versions of themselves. With mindfulness, you can get in touch with all those dimensions and speak to them. When you understand these other aspects of you, you can better understand how to work towards self-mastery.
· Work On Cognitive Reappraisal
What is cognitive reappraisal? In layman’s terms, it’s changing the lens you use to view the world. Your personal lens plays a huge role in the possibility of self-mastery. Certain forms of the lens are more beneficial to your journey to others. Start with a simple question: do you see the glass as half-empty or half-full? If you answered the former, then here’s where cognitive reappraisal comes into play. You take the lens and actively shift it out, transforming it into something more positive. Look for silver linings, says author and psychology lecturer Andrew Solomon.
· Do A Little Self-Audit
Self-mastery requires that you are honest with yourself. So before you even begin, sit down and do a little self-audit. Assess your flaws, strengths, and habits. Confront the good and the bad and the ugly without any of your usual ego or pride in the way. Admit to your weaknesses and use this new information to develop your game plan for personal improvement. When you are realistically aware of all these factors, only then can you accurately work on yourself.
· Accept That Resistance Is Normal
Human beings tend to resist positive change, so accept that. Then, figure out how your particular brand of resistance can be overcome. Health psychologist and science help expert Kelly McGonigal states that learning to negotiate your natural resistance to alterations in your life is crucial to self-mastery.
With all the research that has been done into self-mastery, self-control, and similar concepts, it can be a bit of a surprise to realize that it’s still so elusive to so many. You’ve probably heard many stories about even the most successful people in the world falling to the temptation of some kind, whether financial, physical, or otherwise.
There’s a reason this is so difficult, and it’s one you’ve probably gathered from all your reading. Simply put, self-mastery takes a lot of hard work. It requires you to do the following:
- Be highly aware of your goals.
- Know how to delay gratification.
- Understand many other components that affect the inner workings of your brain.
That doesn’t mean that it’s an impossible task, but it’s one you should have realistic expectations for. Self-mastery is an end-goal for many people, so it will take some time to get there. Practice your willpower in your everyday life and pat yourself on the back for successes while reflecting on your failures. You’ll take steps towards that desired self-control!
If you’re struggling with self-mastery, you can seek professional aid from a counselor, therapist, or similar mental health professional that may be able to provide you with some input and advice. There’s no shame in taking a while to get to that place of strong willpower. These things take time, and as the cliche goes, slow and steady wins the race.