The Art of Self Mastery: Overcoming Self-Imposed Limitations

The greatest battle you will ever fight is against your ‘self’. It’s a fight for self-control, self-masterly.

There is a war raging inside you. It’s the most ferocious battle you will ever have to contend with. It’s also the most unconventional war the world has ever seen.

The enemy within is very cunning. He pretends to be your friend by telling you to take it easy; that you don’t have to exert yourself; and that pain and hard work are an evil pair of twins that should be shunned.

By default, your ‘self’ is configured to preserve itself. You have an inbuilt mechanism that abhors pain and seeks to do everything it can to avoid it.

The problem with the system that is you is that, by default, it is set to fail. And this is ironic because the same ‘self’ wants a better life; to enjoy the best that life has to offer.

But to be successful, you will have to confront your self-preserving self because the reality of life is that to live the good life, to be successful, hard work and pain are integral parts of the process.

It is said that nothing comes easy. To achieve anything of significance in life, you will have to overcome insurmountable obstacles that usually line up the path to success.

This is a pursuit that you don’t seek alone. There are many others that are competing for the same success space as you are. To overcome everyone else and get the prize, you will have to be swifter, smarter and more strategic. And even after you have done all these, you will have to outwork and outlast everyone else.

Since you are wired to avoid pain and exertion, you will have to ‘force’ your ‘self’ to accept the inevitability of pain and exertion. As you do this, the self will kick up a storm, screaming at you to stop.

But you must not stop. It is at this point that you will have to convince your ‘self’ that to attain the success you so desperately crave for, you must keep pushing forward.

Once you break through the resistance of your ‘self’, you will start seeing progress in your life.

The self is your own greatest ally or foe. Once you convince it that the pain and exertion are necessary for a breakthrough, it will stop resisting and instead come to your aid. And the only way to convince self is to push until you break its resistance.

To break through self-resistance, which I also call self-sabotage, you will need to overcome a number of perceptions and mental barriers.

Let us first look at a couple of perceptions that you will have to overcome.

First in line is the perception that you need to be motivated or inspired to work.

The reality of life is that you will not always be motivated to work. If everyone reported working whenever they felt motivated to do so, a majority of people would be unemployed.

Let’s face it. For you to make progress, there are certain things you will ‘have to’ do. And in most cases, these undesirable tasks that constitute the daily grind that we call work are the ones that will propel you to success.

Second, the perception that you can fake it until you make it is severely flawed. The only result that you will get out of ‘faking it’ is a fake one. If that is good enough for you, go ahead and fake it!

However, if you model success, the likely outcome will definitely be success. But in modelling, you will have to factor your own individual strengths and peculiarities, and the environment within which you are operating.

Another perception that you need to surmount is the belief that you will need a lucky break to make it. Waiting for a lucky break while doing little or nothing to move forward is a fallacy that you would be better advised to avoid.

Lucky breaks are actually a culmination of small steps taken consistently and accurately over a period of time. As long as you keep at it, somewhere down the line an opportunity will present itself to you that will change your fortunes for the better. Rather than wait for a lucky break, why not work your way towards it!

Let us now look at some of the barriers you will have to destroy in order to make your ‘self’ work for, instead of against, you.

The majority of success barriers you will encounter are etched in your mind. Your mindset will ultimately determine whether or not you will take appropriate action towards your success journey.

A positive mental attitude is a must if you are to have any chance at success. If you believe you can, you will. If you believe you can’t, you won’t.

The mental barriers you will encounter emanate from a negative mental attitude. When you start out with a positive mental attitude, you program your mind to see success as the only inevitable outcome. Conversely, when you set out with a negative attitude, your brain decodes this to mean that failure is the desired outcome.

So, what are some of the mental barriers that emanate from a negative mental attitude?

Beliefs (or internal perceptions) are at the core of success or failure. A negative belief system is a sure recipe for failure. When you set out with a failure belief system, you will fail.

Another mental barrier to success is negative personal affirmations. Constantly affirming to your ‘self’ that you can’t or that you don’t have, etc, programs your mind for a negative outcome.

No matter how difficult you perceive a certain task to be, it does not help to keep hammering to your ‘self’ how difficult the task is. As long as you see your ‘self’ unable to perform a certain task, you will fail even before you try.

Negative thought patterns are another mental barrier you will have to contend with. Victory is first won or lost, in the mind.

As one thinketh in his heart so is he, the Bible says. Until your thoughts align with your actions, success will be hard to come by.

To succeed in life, you will have to master your ‘self’ and bring it under your control and direction. Although this is not as easy as it may sound, the benefits of living a ‘self’ controlled life are enormous. In fact, self-control is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

PS: This article is part of an ongoing book project on The Art of Self Masterly that I am working on. Kindly comment below with your insights on this topic, or email me at

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