12 Self-Mastery Development Guidelines

Mandala image was posted by the Deli Lama to his G+ account in July 2014. Not only is it beautiful, but it contains symbols illustrating hidden aspects of the mind

In the 21st Century, a great deal depends on developing 12 essential self-mastery skills. This habits will make the other skills more easily learnable.

“Making 40 thousand wishes won’t fill your stomach with fishes.” — Italian Proverb

Written by Murray Johannsen. I welcome connections via LinkedIn or directly on this website. And DON’T MISS OUT on insightful content on our Linkedin feeds. Themes include: 21st Century Skills: What’s Needed and What’s Not; AI Savvy: Essential Skills For AI at Work; and Bootstrapping Your Dreams: Growing  Digital Business Skills.


Self-development never ends until one reaches self-mastery. This is a long process, one taking much longer than getting a Ph. D. Typically, the little things of life conspire to keep you in an unhappy state of complacency. You know that there must be something more than work and making endless payments on the mortgage. This is to help you understand what could be. And you can join others at The Legacee Academy who also. have decided to the development of self into Self.

Self-Improvement Tactic 1: Overcome Your Ignorance

“Seventy-five percent of the high school students who will enter the workforce have no idea what the term ‘inflation’ means. Sixty-six percent can’t tell you what profits are. And 55% of our young people have no understanding of what a ‘government budget deficit’ is.”Paul C. O’Brien, president and CEO of New England Telephone

“True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.” — Karl Popper, 

Personal self-development is essentially impossible if one is not willing to devote time to understanding the nature of the mind. For example, if you are in the habit of spending 30 minutes a day reading how the mind works, this supports self-growth and personal success.

If you never read on psychology or the philosophy of mind known as Buddhism, your ignorance acts as an immovable barrier impossible to overcome.

Personal development is essentially impossible if you don’t continue to read about the mind, day after day, month after month, year after year. There is so much to know and more is discovered every day.  And it is not just the new stuff, the old stuff matters if you are to develop yourself.

For example, did you know of the following?

Myrko Thum: 10 Wise Confucius Quotes. These are good to read and the author makes it easy to Tweet.

Fortunately, ignorance can be overcome if one stays at it and one knows how to go about it. While many philosophers create their own fantasy worlds, Socrates had many thoughts worth acting upon. One of his more famous quotes is, “The unexamined life is not work living.”

See Jamie’s article on Socrates on the SelfMadeScholar site.

Self-Development Tip 2: Beware of Habituation and Habit Formation

“Men like the opinions to which they have become accustomed from youth; this prevents them from finding the truth, for they cling to the opinions of habit.” — Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204, Egyptian physician and philosopher, Guide for the Perplexed

Habituated thinking patterns develop like certain streets in Boston. In the older parts of the city, the streets follow the paths used by long-dead cows to get between barn and pasture. The issue here is that we tend to get “stuck” in set behaviors and patterns of thought that do not support our pursuit of worldly success or personal self-development. For example, you still see adults throwing temper tantrums like they did when they were four years old.

Self-Improvement Tip 3: Beware of Destructive Personality Traits

It’s beauty that captures your attention and personality which captures your heart. — Anonymous

Personality can open doors, but only character can keep them open.” Elmer G. Letterman

Personality traits are fixed at a young age. Since most organizational leaders aren’t on a rigorous program of self-improvement, they exhibit these same traits personally throughout their life. If one is strong on self-esteem and self-development, these traits would support the drive toward personal growth. But other traits such as self-destruction, self-indulgence, and self-pity would have the opposite effect.

The Fourth Self-Development Tip 4: Become Aware of the Ego Defense Mechanisms

“The nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people.” — Lucille S. Harper

The Ego is subject to a number of self-deceptions preventing self-mastery. Sigmund Freud many years ago observed that the Ego is a fragile entity requiring protection from anxiety. Typically it manifests as some type of stressful emotional state such as fear, guilt, embarrassment, anger, frustration, etc. Anxiety prevention takes many forms. Even the little things in life can activate an Ego defense mechanism. A frown from a superior, criticism from the spouse, getting angry at the person who bumped into you are a few examples. Sadly, once these mechanisms are engaged, the mind does not properly process the information it receives. For example, the defensive mechanism of repression can keep cigarette smokers from thinking about heart disease and lung cancer. Denial keeps the executives from working a problem affecting the entire organization. Rationalization makes our frailties acceptable. In all, there are over 20 of these mechanisms, most of them operating beyond conscious self-awareness.

Self-Improvement Method 5: Lower the Amount of Negative Self-Talk

“Those who have emotional problems engage in negative self-talk about 50 percent of the time.” — Schwartz, R. M. (1986). The “internal dialogue:” On the asymmetry between positive and negative coping thoughts. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 10, 591-605.

Thoughts have a great impact on the emotions, feelings, or states of mind that are operating at any given moment. For example, the person who thinks, “I’m not happy,” typically feels that way. For example, in the morning, do you think about the upcoming day in positive or negative terms? Do you have negative thoughts such as “I know I’m going to have a bad day; I’m sure I’m going to screw something up; I know I’m going to get yelled at?” Or do you tend to think about the positive? For some reason, few people admit that they talk to themselves or understand the critical nature of this internal dialogue.

Rarely do we run across someone who has really had to struggle hard to get control of their mind. Sounds easy, but sometimes it is not. What we think can betray us. In this video, Ms. Longdon describes what happened when she started hearing voices and how psychiatrists failed her. Still, it’s a story with a happy ending.

Eleanor Longden: Learning from the Voices in my Head

Self-Development Tip 6: Overcome Homeostasis

The mind acts like a rubber band that when stretched, tends to snap back to the way it was. ” — M. Johannsen

It’s hard to build new mental or behavioral habitations extremely difficult to stop an old habit and substitute a new one. This means that one-time bursts of motivation tend to produce a little lasting effect. It’s safe to assume that new changes will be resisted by the motivational forces supporting the status quo (homeostasis).

 Self-Development Principle 7: Arrested Development

Few who exercise power are wise.— Said many over the years.

While this observation will generate controversy, many powerful leaders have immature Egos. Arrested development essentially means that Ego growth has stopped prematurely. There are many symptoms one can experience. One symptom of this immaturity is the leader who cannot control their emotions. Another is a boss who blames others while failing to look at their own personal contribution to the problem. A third symptom is someone with a high IQ but low emotional intelligence, etc., etc., etc.

Self-Improvement Method 8: Be Aware Of Cognitive Dissonance

For half a century, social psychologists have been trying to figure out the human gift for rationalizing irrational behavior. Why did we evolve with brains that salute our shrewdness for buying the neon yellow car with bad gas mileage? —John Tierney, International Herald Tribune

Cognitive dissonance commonly operates as an unconscious mechanism and so is difficult to detect. It is associated with buyer’s remorse and purchaser’s regret when it comes to making important purchases. More importantly, it provides insight into why we take pride in our stupid decisions.

Self-Development Tactic 9: Understand The Language Of The Unconscious

“Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.” —Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

The Ego sits in an isolation bubble of its own creation. It acts like a king or queen in a throne room, blissfully unaware of what’s happening outside the castle. The reason the ruler has no new clothes is that the Ego never learned the symbolic, metaphoric language of the unconscious and how to access unconscious insights and resources.

Self-Improvement Method Ten: Master Negative Emotions And States

The study found that 26% of new hires fail because they can’t accept feedback, 23% because they’re unable to understand and manage emotions, 17% because they lack the necessary motivation to excel, 15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job, and only 11% because they lack the necessary technical skills. — Why New Hires Fail. Leadership IQ Press Release, 2005

It’s amazing so many individuals give others the ability to control their emotions. How many times have your heard someone say, “You made me angry!”Of course, it’s normally not another person’s fault that we lack emotional control. I remember a friend saying once, “I’m in perfect control of my emotions. If I get angry, I only stay angry for three days.”

Self-Development Tip 11: Poor Attention Leads To Low Self-Awareness

If you don’t get the reader’s attention in the first paragraph, the rest of your message is lost. — Public relations maxim

One must properly focus attention to process any type of information. It is a common complaint among the managers that their manager, “Doesn’t listen to me.” In some respects, listening is a terribly difficult thing to do since it requires a great deal of mental energy. Plus, attention is in short supply so we often miss key facts, concepts and principles.

Self-Development Method 12: Determine To Understand Dreams And Myths

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” — John Barrymore

While there are a few neurophysiologists who believe that dreams are the result of random neuronal firings, the mainstream psychologists believe that dreams have important messages—hidden meaning the Ego typically ignores. Similarly, one should understand that myths and fairy tales also contain hidden meanings—meanings helpful in understanding the true nature of a nation’s culture.


The good news if one knows what one is doing, barriers can be overcome. I remember a saying by Bror Carlson who said, “A problem that is located and identified is already half solved.” By understanding the nature of the problem, we are well on the way to greater self-mastery and personal success.

Feel the Future is Uncertain? Want to Nail Down a Path Through the Fog of Confusion?

Crystal ball held in a hand
Skills Mapping Is Process of That Matches Expertise and Skills to Dreams and Vision for a Better Future Image by Drew Beamer

The world changed in December of 2022 with the launch of ChatGPT. Whether you like it or not, businesses are employing AI in every industry and just about all jobs performed by those who went to college. 

Hundreds of millions of employees will find the way they do their work drastically changed. The same goes for entrepreneurs and business owners. 

There is a way to map a course into the future — it’s called SKILL MAPPING.

TAKE ACTION: Get Started by taking  a Crash Course Or by Developing Your Vision.

“A competitive world has two possibilities for you. You can lose. Or, if you want to win, you can change.”  — Lester Thoreau, Dean, Sloan School of Management, M.I.T., 60 Minutes, February 7, 1988 

Craft Your Vision: Get Future Ready


Don’t be a bit player. Get future ready and map our the roles you need to play on the stage of business. 

A SHORT COURSE is a self-contained, low cost, self-paced, online class available to you 24/7. It contains all the content you need, the work sheets to fill out, exercise to compete. Plus you also get email support. 

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