3 Reasons Self-Mastery Helps You Pursue Your Goals
Self-knowledge gives you clarity and harnessing your individual power sets you up for success.
What came first, the chicken or the egg? It's a question I love asking my kids, but it's also a question that can easily apply for the business world — what came first: self-discipline or external discipline?
To be clear, they're not the same thing. As Brett and Kate McKay write in The Art of Manliness, we tend to conflate one with the other. But there's apparently a world of difference between the two. "The end for self-discipline is personal improvement [waking up early, writing in your journal, meditating, exercising, etc]; the end for discipline lies beyond the self," they explain.
"This distinction helps explain why individuals can be incredibly self-disciplined and yet see very little external achievement as a result." There are others, however, who are the complete opposite; showing remarkable results even when lacking in personal-growth.
The McKays offer an example from history in Winston Churchill: "He was a bit of a glutton, something of a lush, and certainly a spendthrift," they write. "He lost his temper, kicked over wastebaskets, [and even] yelled at his staff."
Yet, despite all his shortcomings, Churchill was incredibly externally disciplined — working tirelessly for years as a wartime leader, with a clear, unflagging objective — to win the war.
I've been an entrepreneur for the past 16 years, and I can say without a doubt that I've known these kinds of hard-core leaders — purpose-driven and highly committed to succeeding at all costs. They are indeed disciplined.
I also won't hesitate to say that I don't aspire to be like them.
Not because I don't believe in the relentless pursuit of a mission, but because for me, making a real impact isn't about being overly militant. It's a balancing act; one where intrinsic discipline is combined with the grit and determination for achieving our external goals.
Why you should strive for self-mastery
My road to starting my company, Jotform, was a slow burn. As a bootstrapped founder, I never secured a massive round of VC funding or reached tremendous milestones in a short period of time. This, however, didn't make me any less disciplined than my counterparts who were always being featured on TechCrunch.
I believe there's a lot to be said for patience and focus. And the trouble with fixating on external discipline alone is that it leaves you open to self-doubt and defining success by comparing yourself to others.
For many, Churchill remains an inspirational figure who led his country to victory, but his private life was also in shambles.
Entrepreneur contributor Srivatsa KR argues that success in public often goes hand-in-hand with success in your personal life. He writes:
"Inner mastery helps you develop habits, attitudes, and beliefs that will enable you to live your life to the fullest. It allows you to develop the ability to fully control yourself in any situation without giving in to your whims. You become more disciplined and persistent when it comes to achieving your goals." Here are three ways self-mastery can catapult you forward:
1. It empowers you to evolve
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey sums up self-mastery this way: "The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person."
In its essence, harnessing our individual power sets us up for success.
In writing for Harvard Business Review, five researchers found that at work, "leaders with higher levels of self-control display more effective leadership styles – they are more likely to inspire and intellectually challenge their followers, instead of being abusive or micromanaging."
Read More: Why Inner-Mastery is key to Self-Growth
2. It increases your inner strength
My company has grown to 15-plus million users in the past decade-and-a-half. I share this story because although it might sound impressive, I had a lot of inner work to do in order to get to this point in my business.
Throughout those initial years, I struggled with procrastination and perfectionism that often hindered my growth. Sure, I could have focused on my motivation (or external discipline) and trudged along, but combating those tendencies required me to dig deeper.
As Entrepreneur contributor Srivatsa KR puts it:
Achieving self-mastery is only for those who are willing to face themselves and do things that may occasionally be painful for the betterment of their future. For instance, something may sound good in the short-term but not be helpful in your long-term goals. Someone who has mastered their inner self will know that they have to let the short-term pleasure go for the sake of their long-term plans.
Read More: 9 Practices for Achieving Emotional Maturity
3. It gives you the clarity to pursue your goals
Every November, I leave the world of technology behind to go olive-picking in Turkey. I've done this for years — clearing my mind by using my hands rather than checking my email or scrolling through my Twitter feed.
You see, I'm a firm believer in discipline — in striving towards a long-held passion or goal. But I'm not willing to give up the personal values I live my life by. I believe in the power of rest, and sometimes doing nothing at all. These are the habits and attitudes I wish to build my business around — one where self-discipline doesn't subtract from external progress — it enhances it.
Read More: Why Mindset Mastery Is Vital to Your Success
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