Strategies for Attaining Self-Mastery

Ray Williams
5 min readApr 1, 2024

Here are some ways anyone can enhance and develop their self-awareness and self-reflection, excerpted from my new book, The Journey to Self-Mastery: Unlocking the Secrets to Personal Transformation.

Set aside regular and structured time for self-reflection (daily or weekly). “Calendarize” it just as you would a meeting or appointment. Some self-aware executives I know do this on a Monday morning or Sunday evening to set up a positive mindset for the week.

Become the observer of your mind through mindfulness meditation. Keep your attention focused on your breath. If you notice your mind wandering to other thoughts, gently return your attention to your breath.

Learn to recognize “cognitive distortions” and biases. These are inaccurate thoughts and beliefs that warp how we see things, including ourselves, and biases that affect our beliefs. Examples are confirmation bias, catastrophizing, and blaming. Catch yourself when you notice you’ve lapsed into that kind of thinking.

Keep a journal. The more you journal, the more aware you become of your behaviors and thought patterns, and subsequently, the more able you become to change and grow. Writing helps us process our thoughts and makes us feel connected and at peace with ourselves. Research shows that recording things we are grateful for or our challenges helps increase happiness and satisfaction.

Travel and learn about other cultures to gain different perspectives. Spending all your time with your “tribe,” geographic location or cultural influences can increasingly narrow your perspective. Find out how other people see things so you can reflect on your perceptions.

Conduct a cognitive reappraisal. This psychological strategy can be understood in the question, Is the glass half empty or half full? Cognitive reappraisal is reinterpreting or reframing a negative event to reduce the negative response or completely replace it with a positive one.

Turn off your autopilot. Identify one of your automatic behaviors or habits that you are unhappy about or would like to change and commit to changing them.

State or reaffirm your values. Write down your most important values and ideals associated with your personal life and work, and imagine ways to ensure they align with your behaviors.

State, clarify and reaffirm your core beliefs and how they relate to your identity. What we believe about ourselves, others, and the world helps to shape our identity and how we present that identity to the world.

Recognize and deal with your inner conflicts. Resolve any beliefs, values, or emotions that you may have that conflict with each other.

Read high-quality fiction. The very best writers are expert observers of human nature. It’s their job to notice the tiny details of thought, emotion, desire, and action that most of us miss amid the frantic business of daily life. And even though most of us probably aren’t called to be authors and astute observers of human nature professionally, we can all learn a thing or two about ourselves by learning to pay attention like an author. By describing people carefully, good fiction teaches us to think about people carefully and compassionately. And the better we get at observing others, the more likely we are to look at ourselves the same way.

Complete a self-awareness assessment. Completing an assessment allows you to reflect on and review the degree to which you may be self-aware and consider steps to expand that awareness.

Ask yourself some self-awareness questions and write your answers in a journal. Periodically review them.

Work with a formal mentor, coach, or counsellor. They can provide skillful feedback and issues for self-examination that will greatly assist you in achieving self-mastery.

Draw a timeline of your life. Spend 20 minutes drawing a timeline starting with your birth and marking the major events in your life along the timeline. Specifically, note events that impacted you — big or small, positive or negative. This helps you understand or get a new perspective on an especially distressing or difficult time by seeing that specific period “in context.”

Ask for feedback from others (and take it well), independent of any formal assessment. Most people don’t deliberately seek feedback about themselves from others unless it’s because of a process at work. While many aspects of ourselves need improvement, it’s the parts of ourselves we can’t see — our blind spots — that are the real problem. Other people are uniquely positioned to notice these and help us see them.

Be a better listener and observer. Practice being a better listener for others by consistently practicing your active listening skills. This can include restraining your impulse to think about your response while they are speaking. Good listening should involve your cognitive processes and something called “empathetic listening,” which is noticing the speaker’s feelings and emotions (and yours while you listen). Finally, spend less time speaking and more time listening (30–70 is good), which facilitates your ability to notice more about what’s going on.

Allocate “do nothing” time in your schedule. Research has shown that regular periods without engaging in “doing” or tasks enhance productivity, well-being, and creativity.

Be rigorous about screening distractions in your life. Constantly being interrupted by a cell phone, email, TV, or meetings has been shown to negatively impact our cognitive performance and increase stress. Also, most of these distractions are in the “external” world and have no connection to our inner state, and therefore can mask, not enhance, our self-awareness.

Regularly seek out time for solitude, silence, and stillness. This will engage your mind in a different, creative, and productive way, allowing you to reflect without interruptions or engage in activities. It has also been proven to enhance physical well-being.

Learn and regularly practice mindfulness meditation. This activity has aided cognitive focus and attention and enhanced non-judgment, acceptance, and compassion.

Recognize your “inner parents.” How are you a reflection of your parents? Our parents’ influence is pervasive. Beliefs, values, behaviors, and personal paradigms are all heavily influenced by our parents. How are you carrying your parental influence?

Reflect and act on how you may engage in self-sabotage. Getting in your way or creating your obstacles can prevent you from fully engaging in self-awareness. Do you know how you sabotage your efforts or behaviors? Are you blaming others instead of looking inwards? What actions can you take to correct this?

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Ray Williams

Author/ Executive Coach-Helping People Live Better Lives and Serve Others