So you’re stressed out. You’ve found out that relationships don’t come easy to you. You’re sick of your job and you want to do “something else”. Congratulations! You’ve just taken the first step towards greater self-awareness.
Naturally, your sleepless nights aren’t over yet. Your relationship is still somnambulant. Your horrible job has not magically become fun overnight. But you know that things could be different. And that is step 1.
The first step on a path that leads to more self-awareness and that eventually deepens into the heartfelt wisdom that you are in complete control of your life: self-mastery.
To develop self-awareness, we can use the capacity that your mind has to know itself. This is sometimes called mindfulness and it combines three crucial skills.
Attention is the first skill. You can compare attention tot the two dials on an old-fashioned car stereo. You use the one dial to find the frequency of a radio channel, and the other to amplify the volume of whatever signal is being received. Attention does both at the same time. It is the “giant red button” that you can use to direct your mind to a subject of your choice.
The second crucial skill that is being developed through mindfulness practice is called presence. By directing your attention to something that is here right now, you create a pause in your mental processes. Realizing that you are stressed out, that relationships are hard or that you’re not happy at work – step 1 – those are good examples of such a pause. You climb out of the total immersion in your experience of stress, unhappiness or dissatisfaction to recognize what is going on.
Third crucial mindfulness skill is acceptance. Being mild or friendly towards your experience in this moment. Whatever you experience, it is already HERE, which makes resistance against it impractical, to say the least. By resisting, you’re creating new problems that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. That don’t HAVE to exist. Ending your resistance to whatever is presenting itself to your awareness – or at least tolerating the presence of resistance – creates space and allows the rough edges of your experience to smooth out.
Practicing mindfulness fosters the development and application of these skills, increasingly in the chaotic midst of every-day situations. This leads to the development of mini-oases of calm and acceptance from which your self-awareness keeps growing stronger.
A growing self-awareness can manifest itself in a series of “aha!”s. The more you train and apply your mindfulness in daily life, the stronger the clarity, resolution and vividness of your self-awareness will grow. Eventually, you will reach a point where you will find that you’re not easily surprised by your own “internal affairs”. You KNOW yourself. From this knowledge, a crucial property springs: self-confidence.
A growing self-confidence in turn makes it easier to work with the elements of your momentary experience. To turn negative experiences into positive ones, to experience emotions when they come up and to react to them with skill and calm. To know in each moment what’s going on, where your mind is, how strong your mindfulness is.
You stop being circumstance’s plaything. You don’t control the circumstances of your life, and you don’t have to. You control yourself, and that makes all the difference.
This is what we call self-mastery: your skillful relationship to your own inner life. Without pushing things away or hiding from anything. Without having to blow yourself up into something you’re not. Without telling yourself stories.
Self-mastery can be a solid point of departure for healthy self-leadership, effective interpersonal communication and inspired leadership.
Mindfulness is a wonderful tool to get from step 1 – the realization that your life can be better/different – to self-awareness, self-confidence and self-mastery.