Life is comparable to chess. There’s a limitless number of viable moves. You’re free to choose, but every move generates all future moves. Consequences, after all, are unavoidable. There’s never an escape from even the smallest of actions.
You are the Architect of Your Life
Rallying Our Inner Strength
I just love the outdoors! With a couple of friends from our youth group, we go up to some mountain or valley and camp out for a couple of days.
Life’s a beach, some say. I beg to disagree: life’s a camp! The call of the wild gets me wild. Camping happened to be one of my Physical Education classes in school.
Some time ago, we took a trip up the foothills of the Sierra Madre. I was in charge of a group of teeners who, for the most part of their lives, grew up in suffocating city alleys. We started as a happy bunch out with a goal to explore some hidden waterfalls in a heavily forested mountain ridge, all the while enjoying the cool mountain air and the gentle rustle of tree branches.
Thirty minutes later, things started to change. One by one, a complaint club was formed. “How long will this take?” “You said this would be fun!” And also the classic “I can’t take it anymore!”
One guy skidded on a path of slush. Another one rolled down a slippery incline like a potato cascading down a windshield. And another guy was gasping with every step.
I told them that we just had to keep trudging on because there was no point in turning back. After all, what were we here for? We simply had to rally all our strength until we reached our destination.
Well, after what seemed like two hours of non-stop agony, things started to become much easier. They appeared to have come upon some sort of inner strength in large quantities. In a few minutes, we heard the mad rush of water. We had made it to our little paradise. We spent the whole day enjoying the breathtaking falls and its exotic beauty. It was such a lovely reward to all of us who, despite all the trials, decided not to yield to our earlier feelings and emotions.
Gaining Your Second Wind
Self-mastery is the ability of an individual to control his or her life in accordance with his or her desired values and principles. It is one of the key factors to achieving happiness simply because happiness is dependent on following rules and guidelines.
For instance, if you want to have a healthy body, then you have to follow the rules of proper nutrition and dieting. If you want to get along with your coworkers, then you have to follow simple rules of good manners. Life, in more ways than one, is about following rules.
One reason why top athletes always hit their mark is because of the hidden reservoir of strength and endurance that they tap once they get the urge to give up. This is what is known as the second wind phenomenon. You run very fast and become short of breath that you feel like stopping, but you push yourself to go on and, after a while, you feel reinvigorated enough to pick up the pace.
How does this sudden recovery happen? Well, when you run so fast, your muscles require more oxygen than you can breathe. You develop an oxygen debt that causes pain and burning in your muscles, making you gasp for air. But when you slow down, you are actually working just as hard as you did when you were at a faster pace.
Eventually, you catch up on your oxygen debt and pick up the pace, not knowing that it was the slower running that reinvigorated you. In the same manner, all of us need to draw on this second wind if we ever want to achieve mastery of ourselves.
Discipline Versus Disobedience
Do you notice how mainstream society has become more and more freewheeling? Many senior citizens today still yearn for the so-called “good ol’ days” when people followed rules and everything seemed to be so orderly. In popular media, rebellion (usually in the guise of creativity) and decadence (usually in the form of self-expression) seem to be becoming more and more normal.
Another disturbing fact about modern life is the emerging culture of instant gratification, or what psychologists refer to as the “I want it now” syndrome. With the rise of instant products and systems (from noodles to even marriage), many of us want to get things fast, right away, immediately, not to mention effortlessly and without a fuss. As one columnist lamented, “We are now seeing the rise of the something-for-nothing generation.”
But remember, nature doesn’t work that way. When you plant seeds, you can’t expect these to grow into trees in a couple of hours and produce fruits the next day. You can’t expect babies to learn the alphabet in one go.
Similarly, if we want to achieve something in life, we need to put in all our efforts and not just do a few simple tricks to gain it.
Laws are the rules by which the game of life is played, remember that.
One of the requirements of life is the ability to make choices. In order to do so, you need to know how to look at yourself clearly. The pursuit of self-mastery, like our mountain climb, may leave you bruised, broken and possibly battered, but always, always, a better and happier person in the end. It’s the destination, not the journey, that makes the trip worth enduring.
How to Achieve Self-Mastery
You Are In Control!
Over 300 years ago, a maverick Spanish cleric named El Padre Baltasar wrote a book entitled “The Art of Worldly Wisdom.” Today, his work is read by those aspiring for personal and professional success. It contains over 300 tips for learning how to deal successfully with others -and most especially, with oneself.
Consider maxim number 7: Don’t outshine your boss. Or maxim number 172: Don’t compete with someone who has nothing to lose. Or maxim number 265: Get those who depend on you into tough situations. But one of the best words are from maxim number 89: Know yourself: your mind, character, perception, and feelings. Only by understanding yourself can you master yourself. “There are mirrors for the face, but the only mirror for the spirit is wise self-reflection.”
How do you achieve self-mastery? The first step, as Baltasar says, is to know yourself. When you understand yourself thoroughly, you can see your strengths and weaknesses lie. You gain a vision of who you can be. Based on that vision, you gain the confidence to set goals and make commitments. This becomes your roadmap to success. And it all starts with knowing yourself.
Tips For Achieving Self-Mastery
1. Know yourself well – very well
Make a complete self-appraisal. What are you good at? What are you weak at? What is it exactly that you want out of life? What makes you really happy? The things that happen in your life result from the vision that you have for yourself. It might be a positive vision or a
negative vision. But however you view yourself, understand that your character will help through your goals.
2. Know your personal values and principles
Values are your set of beliefs and ideas about living, while principles are the guidelines you set as prescribed by your values. For instance, if you value generosity, then one of your principles could be always helping others. Having clear values helps you make the tough decisions in life. A value-led life is one of integrity and high self-esteem.
3. Be honest with yourself
The hardest people to deal with are those who cannot be true to themselves. In achieving self-mastery, an honest look at yourself can help you see that you, and not anyone else, are primarily responsible for your actions. If you make a mistake, acknowledge responsibility for it. Don’t blame it on someone else, justify or deny it.
4. Associate with people who practice self-discipline
People who are good at a particular skill can greatly influence you. The more you interact with them, the more you see how they are able to perform with such effectiveness. Spend a few days with a friend who enjoys sharing positive stories and giving kind remarks. You’ll eventually discover yourself speaking kindly and more positively, too!
5. Avoid situations of weakness
Stay away from places or situations where you might be prone to weakness. It’s like giving up smoking; if you’re really committed to throwing away your cigarettes, surely you wouldn’t be found inside a smoker’s lounge, would you?
6. Constantly adapt yourself
There are times when you need to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities. You may need to discard ways that no longer serve you, such as habits that you know won’t get you anywhere. A person who is committed to change constantly accepts and integrates new and beneficial things into his or her life.
7. Keep yourself focused
In any great endeavor, there’s only one way to follow: the straight way right before you. Distractions are more than just side trips; they actually entice you to deviate from your path. If you want to become a more confident person, then focus on the skills you need to gain more confidence. The ability to focus your mind on the things you want entails your complete attention. In other words, always pay attention to what you’re doing.
8. Regularly evaluate your performance
Assess your daily endeavors at the end of each day. See where you’re improving, and find out where you’re not improving. Apart from writing down your goals as mentioned previously, write down in your journal your feelings for the day.
From there you can understand your actions better and make sure that the next day will be better than the previous. Don’t compare your level of activity with that of others. It may only cause feelings of anxiety or inadequacy when you see how others progress.
9. Be disciplined
To have discipline means to follow a set of rules thoroughly and unfailingly. Discipline is something you do every day, with the expectation of ultimately achieving your goal. A person who exercises self-discipline wins the trust, confidence and respect of others.
You can improve your self-discipline by reinforcing your good habits daily. For instance, you can make sure you start the day with exercise or end it by turning off the TV at least one hour before bedtime.
10. Keep it balanced
The ideal 24-hour day is divided into three equal parts: eight hours each of work, home and family, and sleep. It’s great to earn big when you spend a lot of time at work, but make sure you’re not doing it at the cost of spending less time with your loved ones or compromising your health. Always keep everything in balance.
11. Have a positive belief system
Your life is determined to a large degree by what you believe in. Is it faith or fate? Greatness or goodness? Perfection or pleasure? If you believe you won’t get anywhere, you won’t. If you believe that people live for the sake of living, then there’s not much to live for apart from working and eating and sleeping.
But it is much better if you believe that there are powers at work in your life and you do your share to make your dreams come true. Those who believe that life is an upward journey are those who have life-enhancing beliefs. So see what you really believe in.
Manage Your Time Well
Do You Have Time For Time?
The way you manage your time reflects the way you manage your life. Setting aside quality time for your various endeavors and making the most out of each time allotted is the mark of a disciplined person. Here are ways to manage your time well:
- Know your goals in life. If you don’t know what you want or want to become tomorrow, you won’t be able to plan what you need to do today.
- Set your priorities. To prioritize means to rank things according to their importance. At any point in your life, there is only one most important thing to do – go find it and do it! People who are successful don’t necessarily focus on three or four things at once; they focus on the single most important thing at that moment.
- Be flexible. If you feel you need to reorganize your priorities in view of new developments, then by all means do so! Recognize opportunities when you see them.
- Do it now! The right time do something is right after confirming that a task is the right thing to do. Give yourself time to do it by clearing out unimportant activities, and make sure you do it right the first time.
Build Up Your Future
Use Your Hammer And Nails Well
A master carpenter named Howard was ready to retire. He told his boss Romuald that he wanted to leave and spend his final years with his family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. Romuald was sorry to see Howard go but asked one last favor. “Could you build just one more house?” Howard agreed, but wasn’t really excited about doing it; he just wanted to leave already. He did not put his heart into the job, working carelessly and using substandard materials.
The result was horrible. Howard finished his work and Romuald, after inspecting the house, handed a key to the astonished carpenter. “Here, Howard, is the key to your house,” said, “as my gift for your years of wonderful work for me.” Howard was in shock as he looked at the inferior interiors.
How do we build our lives? You are the carpenter who will build your own house. Each day, you hammer a nail, assemble a panel, place a board, or stall a wall. Are you happy with what you have done or would you have done it differently given another chance? Life is a do-it wisely by mastering your day-by-day life. Remember, your life is the only life you will build.
Your life today is the result of your attitudes and choices in the past. Your life tomorrow will be the result of your attitudes and the choices you make today.
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