I teach a class in my real estate company called Six Personal Perspectives. It was written by Gary Keller, and is fundamentally the most influential content that I have ever had the great blessing to be exposed to.
The first of the six perspectives is: Commit to Self-Mastery.
When I first read this statement in the workbook as a new student of the concepts, I felt a weight in my stomach. Self-mastery. Oh My God. The temperature of the room seemed to increase as I imagined how committing to self-mastery would mean facing all the things I found to be wrong with myself. All my flaws and weaknesses, ruthlessly examined and trampled in the steady march toward perfection. Squirm.
And then I learned more.
Specifically, the steps to self-mastery include:
- Knowing your goals.
- Knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
- Knowing how to work with both to seek and master the necessary knowledge, skills and habits to reach your goals.
It’s not about being perfect.
Self-mastery is defined in the course as “possession of great knowledge, skills and habits that make you the master of YOU.”
So mastery, on its own, is the possession of great knowledge, skills and habits that make you the master of a subject. In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about his 10,000 hour rule – generally people who we consider to be masters of a thing will have 10,000 or more hours of practice into their craft. Think musicians, athletes, artists.
Great knowledge, skills and habits.
Knowledge comes from study. Skills come from study + deliberate practice. And habits come from strategic thinking (what habit will help me reach my goal?) to combine and compound our knowledge + our skills.
So how do you apply these to yourself?
Let’s take a look at each one:
Do you have great knowledge of yourself? Do you know who you are at your core? Are you acquainted with the deepest desires of your heart? And the deepest fears?
Have you inventoried your strengths? And your weaknesses? Are you being honest about both?
I’ll give you an example:
I know that I am naturally fast. Like, at everything. Eat fast, drink fast, read fast, do chores fast. I’m always looking for the faster way to do things. I’m not naturally organized per se, yet I DELIGHT in finding systems and strategies to do all the things more efficiently, because at my core, I’m a driver and want to go EVERYWHERE FAST.
This is both a strength and a weakness. And for years I resisted categorizing myself this way, choosing instead to will myself to be different in situations where speed didn’t get me the results I wanted. (As if I could simply will myself to be different!)
Self-mastery in this case is knowing, accepting and embracing this part of who I am.
So the question is: who are YOU?
If someone asked you to list three of your strengths and three of your weaknesses, could you do it easily?
I have conducted dozens of job interviews over the course of the last five years where I ask this of people and the majority of candidates are not prepared with answers. They pause to think, and often struggle to answer. Many give vague or meaningless replies.
Do you possess great knowledge of yourself?
What would it take to answer yes?
How do we apply “great skills” to be the masters of ourselves?
Here are two examples:
This is a skill that most of us need to practice in order to execute smoothly. And it’s critical for self-mastery because if we say yes to other peoples’ priorities we are by extension saying no to our own.
Asking Great Questions
Another skill for self-mastery is asking great questions. Perspective-opening questions. Questions that get to the heart of what it’s important to us and how we might achieve it.
Are you skilled at that which will lead you to self-mastery?
In the book The One Thing, Gary Keller wrote that the four thieves of productivity are:
- The inability to say No
- Fear of chaos
- Poor health habits
- Environment doesn’t support your goals
All four of these categories can be looked at through the lens of a habit. Saying no can become a habit. Meditating to channel fear can become a habit. Good health practices can be made habitual. Environmental selection or review can become habitual. (Who are you spending your time with? Is your environment conducive to achieving that which you desire?) Asking questions about where we are with all of these things can become habitual.
How can we do this?
The first step might be to systematize our self-reflection. What if every Friday (or every Sunday, or every Monday) there was a time-block in your calendar for reflecting upon the following questions:
What goal of mine am I inadvertently saying no to by virtue of the other things I’m doing?
What am I scared of right now? What am I pretending not to be scared of? What scares me about that?
What are my current health habits? Where do I choose to improve? What will that do for me?
Is my environment supporting my goals right now? If not, what can do to change that? What am I committed to doing and by when?
Self-mastery is the first of the Six Personal Perspectives for a reason. Subsequent perspectives build upon its foundation. The goal is not perfection. We will ALWAYS be on the journey with respect to self-mastery. And the more we grow to know and master our own selves, the more empowered we will be to adopt the other perspectives and reach our highest potential in life.