Success Starts With Self-Mastery: 7 Effective Strategies

This is a guest post by Thai Nguyen. The power of words to evoke positive change motivates Thai to write. Formerly a professional chef and international athlete, he’s now somewhere in the world with a backpack, MacBook, and a story to share. You can follow his work at The Utopian Life, Facebook or Twitter.

It all begins with looking in the mirror.  Success in the public world goes hand-in-hand with success in your private life.  Effective leadership flows from effectively leading yourself.

 

“Effective leadership flows from effectively leading yourself.” -Thai Nguyen

 

Our empirically dominated culture places all focus on the external and physical world, blinding the importance of the internal and mental.  Self-mastery is being in control of the internal thought processes that guide your emotions, habits, and behaviors.

It’s the ability to respond rather than react.  The former is done with intention and awareness, the latter is visceral and without reason.

Self-mastery is captured well in this quote attributed to many:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

It seems counterintuitive, but being selfish and focusing on enriching yourself will lead to being selfless and enriching the lives of those around you.

 

Here are 7 effective strategies for cultivating self-mastery:

 

1. Talk To Yourself

There’s a voice inside your head, and that’s completely normal. It’s your internal dialogue, the inner commentary that strives to make sense of the world.  The first crucial step in developing self-mastery is to become an observer of your thoughts—to become self-aware, self-reflective. To think about your thinking.

Throughout history, psychologists and philosophers have presented theories on the multiplicity of the human mind. Plato divided the psyche into appetitive, logical, and high spirited.  Freud categorized into the Id, Ego, and Superego.  Modern theories continue to be presented and debated.

But they all agree on the multi-dimensional aspect—as strange as it sounds, there seems to be more than one “you” inside of you.  And often, we’re at odd with ourselves.  Self-mastery is about creating inner congruence—an agreement and peace between an external stimulus, our internal interpretation, and our emotional response.

A lack of mindfulness will respond to external stimulus immediately with an emotional response.  Self-mastery causes a pattern break and allows for an internal interpretation to take place.  Stop, fully observe the emotions welling up inside you and the thoughts that present themselves.

Self-mastery requires this observation and recognition.  Label the emotions and thoughts as they present themselves.

 

“Becoming the best version of yourself will equip you to spark change in others.” -Thai Nguyen

 

2. Make Peace With Your Past

While there’s truth in the statement, we’re the sum total of our experiences, self-mastery recognizes we’re certainly not confined to them.  It’s not easy to do; our experiences, particularly negatives have a way of seeping deep into our soul.  But although some stains can’t be removed, we can choose not to wear those clothes again.

A personal example, I made peace with my father and our lack of relationship: Acknowledging the post-war trauma he was no doubt affected by, and that he had to play the father role in light of a difficult script.  Self-mastery meant not allowing past negative experiences the power of emotional collateral to spark present and future fires.  As a result, the clean slate has given birth to the relationship I’d always desired.

Making peace with your past allows you an untarnished and more objective approach to the present, ideally resulting in a positive future.  It’s hard to pick up anything new when your hands are full with burdens.  It means to let go, forgive, and as humanly possible, to forget.

Author Eleanor Brown has a great quote on mastering your past:

“There are times in our lives when we have to realize our past is precisely what it is, and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it, and by doing that, we can change the future.”

 

3. Play Devil’s Advocate

Challenging your thought patterns and reasoning will help with self-mastery.  Putting on the other shoe and playing devil’s advocate will uncover weaknesses and holes in your thinking.  A more critical mind will result in making better decisions.  You’ll be able to iron out any unreasonable biases that appear in your logic.

Whatever decision you’re working through, come at it from as many different angles as possible.  Debate with yourself, have a spirited argument.  You may be surprised at some of the insights you come up with.

 

4. Keep A Journal.

7 Essential Life Lessons From 7 Ancient Leaders

Thai Nguyen is passionate about sparking personal revolutions in the lives of everyone he meets. A Professional Re-inventer: Thai is a 5-Star Chef, International Kickboxer, Writer, Speaker, and NLP/EFT Life Coach. If you are ready to stop dreaming and start living your Utopian Life, get connected with Thai today at TheUtopianLife.com.

 

1.  Embrace Change.

 

“Nobody ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and they are not the same person.” ―Heraclitus (545 BC – 475 BC)

Change is a reality weaved into the human experience. If there’s one thing we can guarantee will never change—it’s change. To move and evolve with our changing environment is crucial: keeping up with technology, advancing in careers, and constantly learning.

That’s not to say change jobs or buy a new car every year; it’s not change for the sake of change, but being more in synch with the seasons of life. Recognize when one door closes and another one opens.

 

“Nobody ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and they are not the same person.” ―Heraclitus

 

2.  Take the first step.

 

“Well begun is half done.” –Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

Procrastination is often defeated with a single strike. It’s the first domino that knocks down all the rest. And yes, it’s always the most difficult. But as Aristotle emphasises, the finish line becomes a sudden reality once you launch out of the starting blocks.

A popular mantra for the entrepreneur is to start before you’re ready—everything has a way of falling into place after that.

 

“Well begun is half done.” –Aristotle

 

3.  Iron sharpens iron.

 

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. –Plutarch (46AD – 120AD)

It isn’t easy to give and receive constructive criticism. It’s hard to even tell a friend they have spinach stuck in their teeth. But what’s unsaid can be more damaging than what is said. Particularly when our words can significantly impact our friends in a positive way.

Much better to tell our friends what they need to hear rather than simply what they want to hear.

 

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. –Plutarch

 

4.  Listen more, speak less.

3 Toxic Habits That Will Cripple Your Productivity

Thai Nguyen is a professional chef, international athlete, writer, and speaker. He is passionate about sparking personal revolutions in others.

More often than not, productivity is synonymous with success. The more quality content you are able to produce, the higher your conversion rate will be. Even talent is no match for productivity. The ever-entertaining Will Smith, with his numerous successes covering television, music, and cinema, was quick to respond when asked what his key to success was:

“I’ve never really viewed myself as talented, where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic. When the other guy is sleeping, I’m working. When the other guy is eating, I’m working.”

It is a sentiment echoed by many great figures: If you just keep showing up and doing the work, results will come. When considering what stands against being productive, the usual suspects are procrastination, distraction, lack of self-discipline, and lack of willpower. However, there are three toxic habits that eat these culprits for breakfast:

1. Perfectionism

Striving to be perfect is not a bad thing. As long as you see perfection as the ideal and not the real. The reality is that everything can be improved. That is why you see new iPhones and iPads continually being churned out. That is why records are continually broken in every sport. Perfection is a unicorn that keeps running away.

 

Contentment is the enemy of improvement. -Thai Nguyen

 

Perfection cripples productivity when you spend far too much time working on the product rather than getting it out there. The inevitable question of, “What is the ideal amount of time?” is indeed a tricky one. The resolution is to be clear about your desired outcome as you are working on the project. What is it that you want your customers to experience once they are exposed to your product? If you are able to meet that level of expectation, then you have done your job. If you are able to exceed it, even better. But do not try to go beyond that and revolutionize the world. Not yet, anyway. That will happen when you least expect it.

2. Contentment

Being happy with your current state of being, your achievements and quality of relationships, is certainly a desirable goal—as long as it has a “best by” date on it. Contentment is the enemy of improvement. It is what keeps good from becoming great. You should always be seeking to set the bar higher and improving in all aspects of life. Snow is beautiful until you have to live with it daily.

 

Talent is no match for productivity. -Thai Nguyen

 

You are probably screaming, “What on earth is wrong with being happy with a situation?” That adage, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” may be ringing in your head right now. The reason contentment should only be a spring break is because change is inevitable. Everything is temporal. Change is the very fabric of the universe, and as much as you may strive to stay stationary, the tide will move you. We grow older, and we mature; technology continues to make groundbreaking changes; culture and society will ebb and flow. Thus, change and improvement, not contentment, goes hand in hand with personal development and productivity.