5 Essential Ways to Cultivate Self-Mastery and Succeed in Life
Hey, I'm Emilie!
A certified life coach, meditation instructor, and spiritual entrepreneur. I’m here to help you create a vibrant life around your higher purpose and heart’s desires.
“The mind: a beautiful servant, a dangerous master.” – Osho
Here’s something shocking: scientists agree that 90 to 95% of what we think, say, and do results from thoughts running in the subconscious mind.
This means that most of our lives are dictated by unconscious impulses rather than conscious choices, making us servants of our minds rather than masters.
Unless we inverse these roles and learn to master our minds, we’ll continue being a puppet of subconscious programming and keep struggling against invisible forces that prevent us from achieving our goals and attaining our dreams.
As Will Smith says:
“You cannot win the war against the world if you can’t win the war against your own mind.”
In this article, I share with you 5 ways we can start regaining control over our own mind, so that we can consciously create our life, moment to moment, and stop sabotaging our own progress.
Self-Mastery Tip #1: Becoming an Impartial Observer
The first thing we must develop to achieve control of our mind is self-awareness. We must be able to observe our thoughts and emotions as they occur.
More than that, we must be able to observe them impartially, from a distance.
We must become a witness, a “watcher.”
That means adopting a non-judgmental and non-reactive attitude toward what’s being observed, whether it’s what’s happening within ourselves or in our external environment.
By being impartial observers, we create a distance between us (the watcher) and what’s being observed. This distance helps us separate ourselves from our experiences.
We understand that although we have thoughts, we are not just our thoughts. And, we see that while we have emotions, we are more than just our emotions.
This is the first step toward regaining control over what we say and do.
As Mel Robbins says:
“Your life is defined by the gap between what happens to you and your reaction to it.”
So, whenever you feel an impulse to do something – whether it’s to eat some cake, respond to a comment with anger, or buy a new pair of shoes to add to your ever-growing collection – stop and take five seconds to observe what’s happening within you: what thoughts arise? What emotions do you feel? Where in your body do you feel them? Observe both objectively and with curiosity, as though you were a scientist conducting an experiment.
Note that until you have developed this type of awareness, it might feel like there’s no distance between you (the observer) and your experience; they may even appear to be glued together.
But with practice, the distance between the two will stretch.
Self-Mastery Tip #2: Developing Self-Discipline
“Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.” ― Elbert Hubbard
It is said to be the number ability determining our success in all areas of life.
I also love this other quote about self-discipline, this time from Will Smith:
“At the center of bringing any dream into fruition is self-discipline. It’s about getting command of your mind to be able to choose actions that are in your own best interest. 99% of people are not willing to do what it takes to make their dreams come true. They are not willing to practice self-discipline.”
To develop self-discipline, pick one small thing that you know you should do but tend to avoid.
It could be, for example, making your bed in the morning. Make a point to do whatever small action you choose every day for a week. It’s important to start with something small and easy, because the success you have with this small action will give you the strength to tackle something bigger after. You can then increase the difficulty as you accumulate small successes.
Self-Mastery Tip #3: Applying the Slight Edge Philosophy
Have you read the book, The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson?
If not, I highly recommend it. Two important ideas from the book are that:
- Successful people can delay immediate gratification in favor of long-term goals.
- Successful people persevere even when results are not immediately visible.
Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure now.
Delayed gratification refers to the ability to put off something pleasurable now, in order to gain something more rewarding later.
People who tend to choose delayed gratification are more likely to succeed in life. Studies about this topic are explained in the book, The Marshmallow Test.
To control our minds, we must be able to delay instant gratification when it is detrimental to the achievement of our goals. For example, we must be able to say no to a piece of cake if we want to lose weight.
Also, we must have faith that the small activities that are seemingly insignificant will deliver results over time.
We must develop perseverance and patience.
Self-Mastery Tip #4: Building Concentration
Concentration is the ability to pay exclusive attention to one object. It’s one of the most valuable skills we can develop. To control our minds, we must not only learn to control our emotions, reactions, and desires, but also our attention.
Most of us deal with a condition called “the monkey mind”: an untrained and restless mind that jumps from thought to thought. We spend most of our time revisiting the past, anticipating the future, and imagining all sorts of scenarios. And because constantly thinking of random thoughts drains our energy, we end up feeling tired, even exhausted. Being easily distracted also slows our progress.
How to Develop Better Concentration
Concentration is like a muscle: if we use it, it gets stronger, but if we don’t use it, it gets weaker. Just as we can build muscle mass with weight training, we can build our “concentration muscle” by giving our single-minded attention to a specific object.
Here are a few simple exercises that can help you build concentration:
1) Count backward from 100 to 0. If you get distracted and lose count, start over. If it’s too easy, you can start from 500 or 1000.
2) Take three minutes, three times a day, to focus on the sensation of your breath at the entrance of your nostrils. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breathing.
3) Try noticing every object around you that’s red or yellow.
4) Avoid multitasking. Always do only one thing at a time.
Self-Mastery Tip #5: Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
The job of the ego-mind is to protect us from potential danger. It’ll do everything it can to keep you within your comfort zone (within what’s known and habitual) and will rebel against anything with an uncertain outcome.
The rebellion often shows up in the form of self-doubt, self-sabotage, anxiety, and procrastination.
It’s our job to train our minds to become more comfortable with the unknown. We do that by stepping out of our comfort zone and doing things that scare us a little.
That doesn’t mean that you have to go bungee jumping.
Doing simple actions that make you even slightly uncomfortable can train your mind to have the courage to step out of your comfort zone and approach challenges with more confidence.
You’ll show your mind that it is safe and OK to try new things.
Here are a few examples of actions that some people would consider as slightly outside of their comfort zone:
- Smiling and saying hi to a stranger
- Asking a stranger for the time
- Singing out loud in the street
- Asking someone on a date
- Going for a drink by yourself at a busy bar on a Saturday night
- Wearing an eccentric outfit
- Donating blood
Make a list of what makes you uncomfortable.
Place the items on the list in order from the least scary to the scariest. Start with your least challenging fear. Overcome it. Then, move on to the next item on your list.
Another Grrreat Mind Training Tool You Must Try
Another mind training tool that’s very effective against self-sabotage is visualization.
I haven’t included it here because I’ve already written an article explaining how visualization can increase our chances to succeed, based on principles from the fields of neuroscience, hypnosis, and NLP.
But for now, I recommend picking one of the five strategies covered in this post and experimenting with it for a week. Let me know which one you’re trying in the comments below.
Have a beautiful week!
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I'm a meditation instructor and content creator from Canada. Sharing ideas, tips, and tools to enhance our well-being...
A certified life coach, meditation instructor, and spiritual entrepreneur. I'm here to help you create a vibrant life...