Self-Mastery, Self-Motivation, & Self-Care: The Holy Grail of Happiness & JoyOn the road to having a LIFE that you LOVE, your ability to manage yourself, motivate yourself and take care of yourself (self-care) are the holy grail of happiness and joy in my view. There is an intricate relationship between these three areas as I will cover. Before I dive in, I am asking you to read this particular post with LOVE of yourself in mind. I am asking that you do not read this post and say to yourself, “Oh, great – something else I am not doing, or not good at, or…” or some other negative, self-defeating thought. I invite you to read this post with the curiosity and wonder of a child saying to yourself instead, “Oh, let’s explore what new things there are for me to consider on my journey to a happy life.” Use the content of this post to say to yourself – how can I start making my life better? What is one thing I can start doing now? Use this as an opportunity for self-assessment and growth – not to beat yourself up for what you are not doing.
What Is Self-Mastery?The concept of self-mastery, which is defined as self-control, self-discipline, or the ability to control one’s own desires or impulses, has been written about since man’s earliest days. Epictetus (Greek Stoic philosopher born 50 AD – died 135 AD) is credited with saying: “No person is free who is not master of himself”. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) is quoted as stating: “The hardest victory is the victory over self.” Author Napoleon Hill wrote about it in his 1937 book Think and Grow Rich -a book I highly recommend. It’s still being written about as I write this.
The Importance of Self-MasterySelf-mastery is important if you want to have a happy life. From my perspective, self-mastery has at least 4 components. I don’t know what anyone else has to say about it, but this is what makes sense to me as I deconstruct something that I have been good at for a long time. I have written a great deal about the individual items listed in this post so I won’t repeat myself with explanations. I sincerely doubt that anyone who doesn’t take care of themselves can attain self-mastery because they are woven together in my view. The same goes for coping strategies or mechanisms. You could attain some level self-mastery, again in my opinion, without necessarily understanding what stops you but it seems unlikely to me that you could really have self-mastery without understanding yourself to the level of knowing what stops you. But then, what do I know? What I know is the more LOVE you put into your LIFE in any capacity, any form, any amount – the better your life will feel. Favorite pillow! Of course, it says LOVE!
- Coping Mechanisms or Strategies
- Understanding what stops you
Understanding What Stops YouI’m starting with this first because I think it is a helpful place to start. Many people have never thought about what stops them in life. I find it a powerful place to look every now and again. This is not a comprehensive list, but a good general list.
- Fear- of failure, of success, of…you name it.
- Something new or something that you lack the experience or skills for
- Something that you don’t want to do
- Something that you are resentful about
- Something that is painful
- You lack time or other resources
Coping Skills, Mechanisms or StrategiesWe all understand that I am not a therapist, so here’s my take on coping skills or mechanisms based on experience. How you cope with life is very important, yet it is not a topic that we typically talk about unless you are in therapy or a group therapy session. We see the by-product of a lack of coping skills or mechanisms in our societal problems today. We have the escalating rate suicide of our youth, obesity across all ages including very young children, drug and alcohol addictions as well as other problematic behaviors. It seems pretty clear to me that, as a whole, we are not too good at coping skills. Life is hard. We know that. Bad stuff happens. Coping skills can make the tough times more manageable. Frankly, really rock-solid coping skills can see you through trauma or even multiple concurrent traumas. I only learned about coping skills or mechanisms in late 2018 when I was told that I didn’t need therapy because there was nothing wrong with me because while I have endured a long-standing trauma, I have amazing and very strong coping skills or mechanisms.
- Positive Outlook or Attitude
- Time Management/Organization Skills
- Self-Care-recognizing that you are emotionally drained, stressed out, anxious or physically tired and then immediately engaging in the self-care activities to soothe yourself and recharge your mind, body and emotions.
- Quality Sleep
- Problem-Solving Abilities (& Resourcefulness)
- Personal Growth & Development
- Forgiveness & Letting Go
Self-CareThis is a critical aspect of self-mastery in my opinion because taking care of yourself is extremely important if you want to be happy and healthy and have a LIFE that you LOVE. I have witnessed people work themselves almost to death, saying that they can’t take time for themselves because they have too much to do, and they are lifeless. They are unhappy. They have lives with no joy. And they did it to themselves although they can’t see that. Some people take better care of their cars than they do of their bodies and minds. It’s a combination of taking care of your physical body, your emotions and your mental state – those three aspects need to be cared for. We don’t drive our cars for 24 hours a day and expect them to keep working. Our vehicles get to sit in the garage overnight or at least for X number of hours. Yet, we charge at life, eating junk food, drinking soda, not getting enough sleep, working without playing and we wonder why we are not happy. It’s no wonder so many people are unhappy. I am not saying, by the way, that you can’t eat junk food. Everything in moderation. You just should eat enough healthy foods to allow for the periodic less than healthy foods and beverages. You can work self-care into your daily routine. At least that’s how I do it. I know that I function much better when I have stayed true to the things that work for me. There are other things that qualify as self-care, but I think that this list is enough to get you started.
- Sleep-good quality and sufficient amount
- Diet-rich in nutrition (or take supplements to hedge your bets)
- Exercise – walking counts
- Meaningful relationships, friendships, family – social connectedness and outings or visits
- Things that make you happy- intentionally put into your days
- Living space that makes you feel good
- Ways to recharge, rewind, recover – whatever they might be so long as they are not self-sabotaging, addictions, or other behaviors that are negative or harmful.
- Something to look forward to-make it up if you have to
- Have a vision for your life – one that excites you, one that energizes you and touches your heart.
- Create a reward system (or Level UP) that is both meaningful and financially responsible for where you are in life and where you want to be. This should be FUN! You get to decide what the rewards will be for the various milestones or projects or tasks that you complete. A reward system that YOU design should provide ample motivation. If it does not, then simply go back to the drawing board and consider what is missing or change the rewards. Change something if it is not motivating you.
- Have goals for your life – hopefully ones that come from the vision you have for your life.
- Lists-Lists can provide motivation if you are driving your life forward. Even on a very bad day, having a list can help you turn things around IF you are driving your life forward towards a vision you love.
- Time management practices or habits -using your time effectively gives you more time to do what you love.
- Social Engagement/Outlets – connect with people.
- Create a TEAM or partnership to propel yourself and others forward.
- Growth & Development -will help you get to the life you LOVE, help you stay motivated, reduce obstacles, and help you solve problems. The better you know yourself the better you will be at self-motivation.
- Visual Signs to encourage yourself onward. This may sound hokey, but it really does work and can be fun and funny!
- Celebrate milestones, accomplishments and progress – on top of any rewards that you have received along the way! I mean really celebrate all that you can in your journey in life. Why the heck not?
Putting It All TogetherIf I put this into an “If/Then/Else Do” loop, it might look like this… (Haha on me that I am even attempting such a thing). At least I am chuckling.
- IF you are overwhelmed by this post and have nonetheless kept reading to this point THEN -pat yourself on the back! That’s power and courage in one action. THEN you will also want to read my blog post titled Dealing with Overwhelm: How to Put an End to Feeling Overwhelmed with Life Once and For All Plus 29 Tips to help you in the Meantime. Some people have an on-going and never-ending struggle with overwhelm. Deal with that once and for all. That is possible.
- IF you are not coping well with life THEN- consider making a list of all the people, organizations, and groups who could help you. Ask for help. Then look at the coping skills and decide which ones will benefit you the most and start doing it. Look at the list of self-care and implement what you can from that. Seek mental health counseling or call the national suicide hotline if you are having thoughts of death or suicide.
- IF you DO NOT Have a powerful vision for your life THEN follow these instructions – First, don’t panic. Breathe. If you don’t have a vision for your life you can either put that on your list to think about and create, or you can start working on one or more areas of your life knowing that it will come to you eventually. Your vision for your life could be as simple as making a difference in the world by volunteering. Those of us who volunteer regularly know that the world needs volunteers – and many more than we have now. You could alternatively make up a vision for your life and change it later. Whatever you do, don’t worry about this. Look at how you can improve your life starting right now and get to work on that. A happy life is waiting for you. A happy life is calling your name. And it takes you and your actions to make it happen.
- IF you DO have a powerful vision for your life THEN- simply assess what you could do to improve your coping skills, self-motivation, or self-care strategies. Pick one or two things that you could add or change in your life and start doing them.
- IF you have poor coping skills and lack motivation THEN -focus your efforts on self-care because that will help you feel better, in theory, sooner rather than later. Secondarily, I would suggest that you take on learning or working on your coping skills. Improvements in self-care and coping skills will help you start to get motivated.