Self-mastery Is the Ultimate Goal: Get Started with 5 Steps of Critical Self-reflection

“I could never have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”

—Charles Dickens

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What do you believe is keeping you from reaching the level of success you desire, enjoying great relationships, getting new clients, or seeing your abs for the first time? Is the problem that you don’t know enough? Is there too much competition? It’s none of these. 

The primary obstacle is a lack of mastery over yourself. And mastery over yourself begins with critical self-reflection.

Don’t believe it? Read further and perhaps you will. Let’s start with a simple exercise of critical self-reflection which, by the way, requires you to be absolutely honest with yourself. 

Are you in great shape?

Do you only eat healthy foods? Why not? Is it because you’re confused about which foods are healthy and which are not? Are you confused about whether it’s better to exercise by running down the block or by sitting on the couch? Can you make yourself go to the gym or eat an apple instead of a piece of apple pie? Remember, to be honest with yourself.

The truth is you know enough to make significant changes in your life. Knowledge isn’t the challenge. The challenge is managing yourself and your behaviors.

Haven’t had a new client in a year? Are you confused about how to get new clients? The key to getting new clients is identifying potential connections, nurturing the relationship, follow-up, and accountability. How many new people have you spoken to in the last week? How many people have you connected with in the last week?

Are you able to say the things that need to be said? Are you able to be silent when you know you should? Do you know when to WAIT—that is, do you know when to ask yourself, Why am I talking?

Mastering yourself is the primary goal you need to achieve.

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Use these strategies to become the master of yourself and your behaviors. From there, you can achieve all your other goals!

1. Make a list of the things you should do each day, but do not. Grab a sheet of paper and fold it in half and start writing. This list might include things like exercising, playing the piano for 20 minutes a day, writing morning pages, reading scripture, meditation, drinking eight glasses of water per day, paying your bills, flossing, or making social connections. Make it a thorough list!

2. Make a list of the things you should not do each day, but do. Turn the paper over and start with a clean slate. Maybe you stay up too late, watch too much TV, waste time playing video games, smoke, show up late to work, eat too much, or spend too much time on social media. Think about all the things you do that sacrifice your health, career, finances, and social life, stealing your joy and happiness.

3. Begin by addressing one item from each list. Slowly eliminate one of the negative items and add one of the positive items. Habits are challenging to change, but honestly, you’ve developed bad habits without even trying. Imagine what you can accomplish if you intentionally cultivate fruitful habits that align with your dreams, aspirations, or purpose. The idea is to concentrate on yourself, one habit at a time.

4. Take a long-term view. The truth is negative behaviors usually have short-term rewards. Eating ice cream or watching TV are rewarding immediately. They pay off in the here and now but become harmful in the long-term. Adopting a long-term focus will empower you to realize the long-term implications of your behavior before indulging in it. What is the potential cost down the road if you need to change but don’t?

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5. Realize that your body can be your enemy. Why does a person eat a bag of potato chips instead of an orange? Perhaps they begin by imagining themselves eating chips. Then they imagine themselves eating an orange. Then they choose the one that feels better.

Their body may deceive them into the indulging the chips over the orange. If it only happens every now and again, not so bad. But what happens if becomes a daily habit of choosing snacks over health? 

Your body cares little for your longevity or your long-term prospects. Both humans and animals seek pleasure. However, the advantage humans have is the ability to make decisions and not simply follow instinct. The disadvantage humans have is the ability to create pleasurable foods and activities that can be detrimental to long-term success and survival.


Critical self-reflection leads to self-mastery. 

It’s easy to get ahead at work, be healthy, save money, and maintain relationships. If you can master yourself and your behaviors. Can you turn your attention toward the long-term impact of behaviors and avoid short-term pleasures that lead to long-term challenges? Therein lies the key to reaching the level of success you desire, enjoying great relationships, attracting new clients, or seeing your abs for the first time.

Self-reflection is a humbling process. It’s essential to find out why you think, say, and do certain things – then better yourself.”

—Sonya Teclai