One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself. ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Don’t you just hate the feeling?

Like you have absolutely no control or mastery over your life?

And you feel worse because you’ve been told by all the self-help gurus that it shouldn’t be this way.

You’ve been consuming the positive messages for years that say things like, “You’re the master of your own universe, the captain of your own ship.”

While this message is inspirational on the surface, if you happen to be one of many people who just doesn’t have it altogether yet, the message can be a stinging indictment of you.

You hear the voices of judgement in your head:

“You’re just not doing it right” or

“You not thinking positively enough” or

“I’m just not emotionally intelligent enough to apply this advice to my life.”

You feel hopeless. You feel lost. You feel alone.

But you are not.

Have you ever wondered why, with all the good and amazing advice out there about how to live your best life, so many people continue to be absolutely miserable with theirs?

It all comes down to expectations.

The allure of the quick win

You see, what all the gurus fail to tell you is that overcoming the destructive habits that prevent you from mastering your own universe is really hard and takes a long time to realize.

And I’m not talking 30 or 60 days. I’m talking years of hard work, brutal setbacks, and many failures before getting the life you desire.

Of course, if they told you that, you’d likely not buy whatever they were selling, me included.

We humans are not naturally patient. That’s why we create and love technology. They allows us to get what we want, when we want it.

The problem is that for our most thorny problems (i.e. relationships and well-being, satisfying work, finances), there are no quick wins.

They all take time, lots of it.

So, while the advice of many self-help gurus is attractive, even sound, most of us won’t accomplish the self-mastery we so desire because we’re not giving ourselves enough time to grow and integrate the changes into our lives.

If you wish to master your emotions rather than have them master you, if you would like to feel like life works for you rather than against you, when reading popular self-help advice, keep the following in mind:

1. Don’t underestimate what it takes to achieve self-mastery

I know that it might be unpopular to say this, but if you want to quit smoking, make more money, or be more compassionate, tell yourself that making such personal paradigm shifts is just as challenging as climbing Mt. Everest or going to the moon.

If when you were a kid, you wanted to be an astronaut, you probably knew instinctively that achieving that goal would take a lot of hard work over a long period of time.

It may feel like the desire to experience greater well-being and other intangibles don’t compare in difficulty to doing hard things like going to the moon or building a skyscraper—but it is, maybe even harder.

If you keep this perspective, you’ll automatically reset your expectations and learn to play the long-game.

2. Decide ahead of time how you’ll deal with setbacks

Part of what makes the journey to mastery long is that you will inevitably encounter setbacks.

But it’s not enough to just keep this truth in mind. You must decide ahead of time how you will deal with them when they come.

For instance, if you’re working on becoming less reactive to criticism, what will you do when you react for the 10th time despite your best efforts to not let personal remarks get the better of you?

Will you quit?

Will you stay the course?

Will you tweak your strategy?

Decide ahead of time and stick to it, no matter what.

3. Don’t lose sight of the progress you’re making

Even if it’s incremental, don’t discount the progress you’re making towards personal mastery. Celebrate every small step toward your goals. Celebrate your willingness to stick with it despite the setbacks.

Find others on a similar path to celebrate with.

This will give you much needed fuel to keep going, even when you feel like quitting.

If you want self-mastery, you’ve got to fight for it

In the end, it’s not enough to want self-mastery.

You’ve got to fight for it.

If you want to change your life, stop dipping your toe in the water and then wondering why you’re not experiencing the results you want.

If you want it badly enough, don’t be afraid to go all in and give it all you’ve got.

Don’t be afraid to get up each time you fall. And don’t be ashamed of having to go back to the basics time and time again. Fight for as long as it takes to achieve your desired state.

Fight like you’re fighting for your life.

Because, in many ways, that’s exactly what’s at stake.


Cylon is a spiritual chaplain, musician, devoted husband, and busy dad of seven. He blogs about practical spiritual tips for living well at Spiritual Living For Busy People - sign up and get his free guide 20 Little Tricks To Instantly Improve Your Mood Even If You Feel Like Punching Something (or Someone) You can also purchase his book Self-Love: How to Love Yourself Unconditionally

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