–by Dan Millman (Jul 2, 2015)
Self-mastery involves recognizing what we are not responsible for — the thoughts that enter our mind and flow out, and the emotions that pass like the weather — and what we are responsible for, which is our behavior. My view of self-mastery focuses on acting with kindness whether or not we’re in the mood, based on three principles: Accept your emotions; know your purpose; and then do what needs to be done — whether or not you happen to feel like it at the time.
You see, we humans are filled with tendencies. We tend to be lazy or to overwork. We tend to let our emotions drive our behavior. We tend to indulge or to deny ourselves. We tend to be passive or aggressive, lackadaisical or obsessive, to act without thinking or to think without acting. We tend to deny or avoid dealing with problems until the eleventh hour or a crisis. We tend to be self-centered, defensive and resentful.
Daily life — spiritual life — tests us, teaches us, challenges us to transcend our tendencies by observing the consequences of our actions; it’s a natural, evolutionary process of living and learning. And self-mastery occurs in those moments when we subordinate our little will — our personal tendencies and preferences — to the dominion of our higher will, higher self, higher integrity or higher ideals. It’s a conscious movement from “What’s in it for me?” to “What will serve the highest good of all involved?” George Bernard Shaw put it well when he said:
“Forget about likes and dislikes. They are of no consequence. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness. […]
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the World will not devote itself to making you happy. […]
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
— Dan Millman