Episode 97: Self-mastery – breaking through habits to realise your true potential

Human progress have often been mapped by our struggle to dominate our environment.  Science. Engineering. Technology. So many fields that have investigated our world and used that knowledge to attain control over it.  But what of our internal world? Have we worked as hard to attain mastery of our inner selves? Do we consciously control our life, or are we controlled by our habits?  And what does this mean for our efforts to realise our true potential?

This week Clay and Sarah discuss the concept of self-mastery.

In this episode:

  • what do we mean by is ‘self-mastery’
  • Why would we want to embark on this journey?
  • Are we ruled by Ourselves or our Habits?
  • The Craft of the Warrior by Robert L. Spencer – how the warrior ethos illustrates the journey of self-mastery
  • Personal power and ‘power sinks’
  • Nietzsche’s ‘Gymnastics of Will’
  • The importance of discipline and ‘positive habits’ in the journey of self-mastery

“In ordinary life, planned actions are very rare,” writes Robert L. Spencer in The Craft of the Warrior.  This line struck me as unusual, since I consider my life to be a constant stream of plans.  Our busy-ness, our ‘plans’ can seem to dominate our life.  And yet, what Spencer is referring to is actually how often we allow our habits — our habitual responses and ways of seeing things — to guide our behaviour and decisions.

The question we might pose initially is this — who is driving the boat?  Who is steering this ship we call our Self?

Are we as ‘in control’ as we think we are?

The path of self-mastery would suggestion not.  “Most people have a staggering profusion of habits,” claims Spencer.  “Habits of behaving, habits of perceiving, habits of feeling, habits of thinking.”  And because these habits function on a subconscious level, they are also more influential than we realise.

The path to reclaiming our Selves, to stepping into the driver’s seat and taking full responsibility for our lives is not an easy one.  It involves a warrior-like approach.  One that aims to increase personal power and the ability to act according to conscious decisions.  One that uses discipline to change our habits that otherwise bind us into predictable patterns of living.

Nietzsche called this path of self-mastery a ‘gymnastics of will’.  Getting rid of habits that drain our energy, Nietzsche instead sought to increase his own strength through discipline and life-affirming habits (rather than energy-draining ones).

This is a kind of “freedom through discipline”.  A way of training ourselves out of our unconscious, reactive patterns and into a life of full awareness, conscious decision-making and a courage to act accordingly.

We both had a great discussion about why the path of self-mastery appeals to us personally, what habits are holding us back at the moment and what kinds of ‘training’ we are considering for ourselves as we each strive for Self-Mastery.