Take Control of Your Life: 7 Steps to Self-Mastery (Part 3)

This is the last piece in my three-part series on self-mastery. In Part 1, we explored step 1 (Understand) and step 2 (Dream). Part 2 discussed step 3 (Filter), step 4 (Envision), and step 5 Choose). Now it’s on to step 6. . .

Self-mastery have the power to transform your life.
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Step 1: Understand - Article 1

Step 2: Dream - Article 1

Step 3: Filter - Article 2

Step 4: Envision - Article 2

Step 5: Choose - Article 2

Step 6: Overcome - Article 3

Step 7: Achieve - Article 3

Step 6: Overcome

Picture this . . .

You have this goal in your mind, a richly imagined dream, and you have your plan to achieve it. Your plan is laid out in detail, and you are ready to act. But then the alarm clock goes off for your first morning of training, and you’re so tired you can’t get out of bed. And you brought a healthy brown bag lunch, but all your coworkers are going out for pizza––and they invite you to come along. You go.

Self-mastery takes daily dedication, sincere desire, and tremendous grit.

I’d love to tell you that the steps in this process will take away every setback, remove every obstacle, and empower you to surge through every temptation that will come along your way. But the truth is that there will be ups and down, battles won and battles lost, every step of the way.

No one is a perfect master of themselves. Self-mastery takes daily dedication, sincere desire, and tremendous grit. You will fail at times, you will fall short––it will happen.

But true masters of self are prepared for the many roadblocks, setbacks, and letdowns they will encounter. Here are some of the most common setbacks you will need to overcome.

Negative Mindset

I’m too lazy. I’m too stupid. I’m not talented enough. I’m not good enough. Like a soundtrack playing in your head, the negative mindset takes many forms, but it will try to stop you dead in your tracks.

The negative mindset tells us that we are incapable of achieving our dreams. At every sign of stumble or failure, it whispers the story of failure into our hearts and minds.

Affirmation kills the negative mindset.

Will you stumble? Absolutely. You are human after all. Does that mean you will never succeed? No. Fight the negative mindset by filling the soundtrack in your mind with constant affirmation.

Tell yourself over and over that you are good enough, that you can do it. Tell yourself that you will achieve your dreams, until you have done it. When you fall, tell yourself you won’t fall again. When you fall again, tell yourself you will be ready next time.

Affirmation kills the negative mindset. Everyone and everything else in the world might say you can’t or you won’t, but no one can make you think it. When you slip or fail, don't let the negative voice kick in. Just press on. Only you can control the story you will tell yourself. Make sure it’s a success story.

Negative Influences

Truth be told, you probably have people, places, and activities in your life that impair your self-mastery. These negative influences discourage your dreams, discourage your progress, and derail your plans.

Maybe it’s a family member who has never believed in you or your dreams. Maybe it’s a friend who has a negative energy and defeatist attitude. Maybe it’s a place that drains your energy and makes you feel lethargic. Maybe it’s a temptation like the television or video games that lure you away from your plan.

The secret to overcoming negative influences is to acknowledge and minimize them.

These negative influences take a thousand different forms, and yours will be unique to you. No two people have the same negative influences in their life.

The secret to overcoming negative influences is to acknowledge and minimize them.

Because it’s so easy to view our negative influences as weaknesses, we tend to either ignore them or rationalize around them. But the quickest and most effective way to loosen the grip of a negative influence is to bring it out into the light.

For example, my friend John knows that when he has to travel for work, he is likely to eat too much, eat too unhealthy, and fail to workout. But for a long time, he didn’t pay any attention to the negative effects of his work travel on his life and his dreams. When he finally owned that truth, he began paying more attention to what he ate, when and where he ate, and how he spent his time.

Recognize it for what it is. Name it. Know that if you interact with this person, or go to that place, or encounter a certain temptation, you are likely to fall. This awareness brings the negative influence to light and makes it easier to overcome.

After acknowledging the negative influence, the best strategy to overcome it is to minimize it as much as possible. Going back to my friend John, he couldn’t eliminate all his work travel, but he could minimize its effect on his life. He researched healthy eating options and planned out his food well ahead of his trips. He set time aside every day to workout in the hotel fitness center.

Sure, some negative influences can’t be avoided, but others can. Take a different route to work. Give the power chord to the video game system to a friend. Avoid spending time with that person who has a negative hold on you.

The temptation will be to strong-arm the negative influence, but this is a battle best avoided altogether. The truth is, this enemy needs you to engage it in battle for it to have any hold on you. If you can avoid the battle, you’ve already won.

Bad Habits

Everyone has bad habits, and we all wish we didn’t. We all do things and think things, even though we know we shouldn’t. We just can’t help ourselves. From the simple, like biting your nails, to the sinister, like alcoholism, bad habits are a part of life.

Habits are a powerful thing. They are the blessing and the curse of self-mastery.

Good habits can be wielded as a powerful ally in your quest for self-mastery. But bad habits will make you relive the same downfall over and over again.

The good news is that with a little bit of forethought and planning, bad habits can be reprogrammed for your uses.

If you take some time to analyze and recognize the trigger that initiates your bad habit, and the reward you get for living out your bad habit, you can intentionally change the routine you carry out, thus reprogramming your bad habit.

This might take time, as the triggers and rewards of our habits aren’t always obvious. Examine what you are doing, thinking, or feeling right before you bite your nails, get that afternoon soda, or go for that cigarette break. Then examine what happens when you are finished, and look for the reward. Again, the reward might be physical, or it might be emotional or intellectual.

For example, let’s say every afternoon you stop what you are working on, go down to the cafeteria, grab a cup of coffee and chat with your coworkers on the way back. You’re having trouble winding down at night, but you find that if you don’t have that caffeine burst, you drag in the afternoon. Through examining the routine (drinking the coffee) you discover that the cue is your desire to take a break from your work in the afternoon––and the reward isn’t actually the coffee but the social interaction you get on the break.

You are thriving physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and financially thanks to the ability to say yes to the most important things . . .

Once you are clear on the trigger and the reward, you can reprogram the habit by inserting a new routine in between the trigger and reward. So next time, instead of grabbing a coffee, you grab a coworker and go for a ten minute walk outside. By identifying the trigger (you want a break from work) and the reward (socializing with a coworker) you have successfully changed the routine.

It takes time, but harnessing the power of habits for your dreams is a fundamental strategy to overcoming the obstacles in the way of your self-mastery.

Step 7: Achieve

Just imagine . . .

A year from now you are a shining example of self-mastery. Your professional life is thriving as you apply your discipline, grit, and determination to your work. Your relationships have never been better, as you act more intentionality with a greater awareness of not only yourself, but those around you. You are thriving physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and financially thanks to the ability to say yes to the most important things, and no to the fleeting impulses of daily life. You have accomplished more in the last twelve months than you have in the last twelve years, and you have some huge dreams you are working toward in the next one to three years.

You are thriving.

That’s the dream, but it’s not a fantasy. This is the real life of the self-master.

The self-master has something that everyone wants: control. Everyone wants control. It’s universal. You wish you could control yourself, and you wish you could control your circumstances. Of course, as we discussed in step 5, you will never be able to control anything so much as you can control yourself. But when you control yourself, you will be surprised at how much it seems like you can control everything else.

Most people feel totally out of control. They are victims of their circumstances, and they believe that there is nothing they can do to change themselves or their circumstances. They feel stuck. But when you develop self-mastery, you take control of your life once and for all—and that’s when your circumstances will start to change in your favor.

The entire world seems to align itself for people who are passionately pursuing their dreams. When you live with high levels of self-mastery, the success you experience because you are exhibiting your highest levels of self-control will make it appear as though you have greater control than you do.

The control of true self-mastery is achieved through repetition and confirmation.

When you act with self-mastery, does that mean you can control your boss or your company so that they give you the next promotion? Absolutely not. But because your boss and your company see the excellent work that you do, the way you possess diligence, grit, passion, commitment, and determination, because they see all the things you have accomplished and continue to accomplish, because it is clear to them that you have something that even they want and they wish every one of their employees had, you get the promotion. You didn’t control the circumstances, but because of how you are living, they changed in your favor.

This kind of control will not be established overnight. It’s not a light switch—self-mastery can’t be turned on and off with the flick of a button. And just because you exhibit a moment of self-mastery doesn’t mean you will have the control of self that we long for.

The control of true self-mastery is achieved through repetition and confirmation.

Repetition is simple to understand. You can’t exhibit a moment of self-mastery; you must exhibit self-mastery moment upon moment. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Will you fall? Yes. But one fall in the midst of a thousands successes will be nothing more than a stone that drops into a rushing river. In the end, it doesn’t change much.

Repeat this seven-step process over and over again. Put a self-mastery review meeting on your calendar for every month. At the meeting, re-examine yourself to understand more. Review and update your dream list. Filter those dreams to be sure you have a one-year, three-year, and long-term dream. Envision yourself achieving your dreams, and update your triggers. Check and update your plans to harness your power to choose. Examine the obstacles you have faced in the past month and where you have fallen so that you can overcome those more easily in the future. It is through this repetition that you will achieve the self-mastery that you aim for.

The second aspect of achieving true self-mastery is confirmation and affirmation. Through regular measurement of progress, celebrating achievements and milestones, and establishing accountability, you create a culture of confirmation and affirmation of your self-mastery.

As you progress toward achieving your dreams, celebrate the milestones.

Whatever your dream, make sure your plan is written out. And then measure and record your progress. You will find that this confirmation of your progress will make self-mastery easier and easier. You might also find that the journey to achieving your goal can be just as gratifying as actually achieving it.

As you progress toward achieving your dreams, celebrate the milestones. These are the moments that self-mastery is made for. Don’t forget the big moments. Don’t let them slip by. If you make a big deal over them, you will be propelled in your pursuit of your dreams, which will only strengthen your self-mastery.

And when you achieve your dreams, celebrate even more. Make the celebrations public. Let the whole world know. Nothing is more inspiring than seeing someone accomplish a dream, and few things are more affirming than the recognition of your achievements. That affirmation will confirm that self-mastery is worth it.

Lastly, confirmation is established through accountability. You will need someone to hold you accountable to your dreams. Maybe it’s a friend, a coworker, or a spouse. Maybe it’s someone you meet who is pursuing the same dream. Maybe it’s a trusted advisor or mentor. Whoever it is, find that person, and include them in your self-mastery journey.

Send them a report from your monthly self-mastery review meeting. Give them updates on each of the seven steps. Maybe it’s one person. Maybe it’s different people for different dreams. Maybe it’s a group of people. Let them in on your journey to self-mastery. They will help you when you are being too hard on yourself, and they will be hard on you when you are being too easy on yourself. They will congratulate you in your successes, and they will encourage you in your falls. This person or group of people are essential to the true self-master, because the truth is that no one can become a self-master on their own.

Through repetition, affirmation, and confirmation, you will achieve the control that comes from true self-mastery.


Everyone wants the ability to control your impulses and subject them to rational and intentional decision-making. We all want it, but few achieve it.

When you’ve got it, you know it. Life levels out, you don’t get these emotional highs and lows, and you feel more in control of yourself and your life.

Use this seven-step process to tap into the power you have to live the life of your dreams.

Self-mastery have the power to transform your life.
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