There are some universal truths that apply to everyone; they exist in all cultures and function independently of politics, religion or business. These truths are akin to natural laws and like Newton’s law of action and reaction; they govern the consequences of ones actions.
Everyone is, of course, free to choose their actions but rest assured that everyone does make choices whether consciously or unconsciously every day. The consequences of those choices have a ripple effect across ones personal and professional life. Therefore, before one can find any path to external mastery, the road to internal mastery must first be paved. Here are ten principles for cultivating internal mastery.
These principles are meant to be a guidepost, something to aspire to, a personal and professional code that anyone can strive towards. How one lives up to these principles is always in flux, it’s not meant to be a tool for value judgment nor is it an application for sainthood. It is simply a starting point to what is called the inner circle of self-mastery.
Principle: Get treated, as you treat others.
It is the “Golden Rule” that every grade school child in the United States was once taught; “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” It’s how you treat those around you, when you are not ‘required’ to be kind or patient that speaks the most about your character. It is also as much about respect and follow-through as it is about kindness. Do you respond to those emails, voice mails and text messages in a timely manner? Or do you make people wait, repeat themselves over and over or chase you down? Do you treat what’s important to the people around you that matter most, as just as important?
“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”
Principle: Reap what you sow
At the end of the day…at the end of your life for that matter, the only thing that you truly own and take with you is your character. It’s not the character that others see but the one only you see in the mirror. Integrity often gets directly associated with honesty, which is true, but there are other important traits in the mix that makes the blend that is your character. Do you speak with sincerity? Or are you always trying to manipulate others? Do you show loyalty to those that are loyal to you? Do you make sacrifices for that loyalty? Do you pay the price, daily, to get better at what you do and improve your competency?
“Character is like a tree and reputation like the shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Principle: Those who keep taking action with purpose, get results. Those who don’t, get nothing.
A mentor once said; “Never quit” but the meaning goes deeper than simply to keep going. Action yes, but with focus on a direction and a relentless discipline towards mastery. It also involves courage to act in the face of adversity and tackle the biggest obstacles without hesitation. Perseverance can be related to motivation, it’s intrinsic, and it’s about taking action under the toughest conditions and when others won’t.
“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake somebody.”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Principle: Manage yourself or others will come in and manage for you.
A healthy definition for the principle of self-control involves balance. Humans are creatures ruled by emotion so to simply say ‘hold them back’ or ‘contain’ them like pulling on the leash of a collared animal is not realistic or sustainable. Science and medicine now suggest that this kind of repression can lead to both physical and/or mental ailments. Even the Mr. Spock of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek found that emotions were not something to simply tame. At the same time, your emotions should not be in control of you. Look at it as, “making friends with your emotions”. Practice self-awareness, cultivate the ability to direct and redirect both the positive and the negative emotions. They can be a great source of passion, enthusiasm and courage to aid you through solutions and leadership. With some reason, logic and left -brain thinking you can redirect the negative emotions.
“Remember to not only say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at a tempting moment.”
Principle: All things either grow, adapt to their environment and evolve or they wither, stagnate and become extinct.
Stay the course…mastery is a pursuit, a lifestyle and a mindset; It will not always be easy, in fact it’s more often very difficult as is with most things worth having. There will be constant temptations for the ‘next best thing’ or the ‘flavor of the month’, etc. Just remember that there is no replacing solid fundamentals, in anything: business, sports, art, and life. The fundamentals are the real meal that nourishes you, the rest are side dishes and desserts. Part of mastery is adapting those fundamentals to the changing environment.
There will also be many plateaus, the extended break in the action where you feel like you are just spinning your wheels, not moving forward. That’s a natural part of the process; mastery is never a straight performance line pointing up at a 45-degree angle. Those times of ‘plateau’ may be happening for a reason. They are meant to reflect, re-balance and reevaluate so try to enjoy them.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will.”
Principle: Get over your business card or no one will want it.
There will always be someone smarter, tougher, richer, better looking or more powerful than you. The minute you start thinking that you are bigger than it all, you will run into trouble. That’s about the time the ‘rug’ that is your life gets pulled out from under you. Be open to the opinions and knowledge of those you perceive as less experienced than you, even the youngest student can be a teacher. It doesn’t mean that you have to always agree, but listen for understanding, not just to respond. You may gain some insight; at the very least you will earn some respect.
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts.”
Principle: Gratitude creates gravity.
How often do you give thanks for what you have? To those around you? Do you subscribe to what is called abundance mentality? Some call it the law of attraction, others refer to it as gravity but by any name it is a force that draws things to other things through motion. The motion you create through your actions, your mind and your heart will determine what gravity brings towards you. Having that attitude of gratitude creates a gravity that simply brings more abundance into your life. Try starting your day with two or three things that you have to be grateful for, everyday. You’d be surprised what the day brings.
“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”
Principle: Believe in something, otherwise you will fall for anything.
Principles are a belief system, so is self-confidence or logic or even love. What do you stand for? Your country? Nationalism is a belief system as well. The word belief often gets relegated to discussions about religion or codes of conduct that govern people’s actions. There are other places though to start thinking about your belief systems and what you stand for. The point is to start somewhere and elevate your awareness. Principles are a good place to start because they are natural laws that apply to anyone and everyone. Either way you make a choice though, you decide what to believe in and stand for or your environment will start doing it for you. There is very little room in between.
“Principles are natural laws that govern the consequences of our actions.”
-Dr. Stephen Covey
Principle: Everyone has unique gifts, use them or lose them.
Do you know your purpose or are you wandering aimlessly? Getting rich for example is not in and of itself a purpose. It’s a means to an end but what end is the real question? How many people have you seen become wealthy or famous only to lose it all just as quickly or throw it away on drugs or some other form of self-destruction? Wealth can be a great thing but how you acquire it and what you do with it must be wed to a compelling purpose. If you had to write a statement at the end of your life that would be put on your tombstone, what would it say? Or a mission statement that defines your life, how would you define your own purpose? Does that statement energize you? Give you a sense of significance?
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”
-John F Kennedy
Principle: Nothing great is ever achieved without passion.
Webster’s dictionary defines passion as: “intense, driving or overmastering feeling of conviction. A strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object or concept.” Passion often gets confused with motivation or inspiration. Motivation is an intrinsic quality; it is making the choice to act when you don’t feel like it or when it isn’t easy or convenient. It is you, lighting the fire within you. Inspiration is something external that can fuel that fire or cause it to burn brighter or just a bit longer. Passion is whether or not that fire exists within you in the first place. Is the fire within you burning? Smoldering? Or has it gone out? Do you even know?
“There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life less than the one you are capable of living.”