“The first and best victory is to conquer self. To be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile” – Plato
“What I am looking for is not out THERE, it is within me” – Helen Keller
So, firstly, “Self” has conquered me so many times I can’t even count them, so I feel a little dirty writing this per Plato above. Some questions I keep asking are:
How do I master self?
What do I stand for?
If what I am looking for is not out THERE, but within me, how do I tap into it?
Identify the Problem
The biggest problem is I feel like I have lived a great portion of my life as a chameleon… shape shifting and changing masks as needed to fit the world’s needs rather than doing the much harder work of doing a deep dive to figure out who I really am (I can’t blame it all on life as a salesman and marketer, can I?). This keeps those that I should be closest with at arm’s length, never able to really know me. Instead of being authentic, I have created a world of surface level interactions and relationships. Time for something better…
I have heard it said that one of the greatest regrets of the dying is that they let others determine how they lived their life. Socrates stated that a truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery… those who will not govern themselves are content to find masters to govern over them…yikes!!
How to be Better
Where to begin…maybe I start with what are my beliefs, values, and ideals? Are there traits I don’t possess that I would like to and how do I go about it? Everybody has superpowers, right… what are mine? How do I identify them, harness, focus, and magnify them? More importantly, how do I become more authentic, admitting that which scares or bothers me. Should I rely on my own feelings and thoughts or ask friends and family for honest feedback as they probably know better than I anyway. How you see yourself and what others perceive you to be may be two completely different things. I really like this quote from Chris Ryan, “you’re always digging into your own authenticity through your own b***s***!”…nasty indeed, but way true.
Some say the best way to master self is to start by serving others as the meaning of life is in who or what you love. Some say you can condition yourself to change your beliefs and ideals. Some say life’s experiences shape who you are and others say no matter what you experience you have the freedom to visualize those experiences as you choose. Some say self-mastery is a moving target that you must continually adjust for. Most everyone agrees that the idea of self-mastery will be different for each person. I like the way this is stated…” everyone has his own specific vocation in life… therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated” -Victor Frankl. But, lastly and most frustratingly, some say you may not know if you have mastered self until your death bed, if ever… it is like a nasty circle in that you have to live life to give it meaning but that meaning may not reveal itself until the very end…no freakin’ way, really?!?
Could this be it…
So maybe the best approach is to write down my hierarchy of values, ideals, and beliefs, and decide who and what I love, how that differs from what I want, and to look at life from my death bed to see if that which I crave in the moment gives me the end meaning I truly want (decide what I want in life and create my world around it…not really finding myself, but instead recreating myself!). Then ask myself every day thereafter, who am I and try to go a little deeper every single day… eventually along this path I should reach enlightenment, right? Maybe it won’t be until my death bed, but that would sure be a peaceful way to go.
”It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique” -Conan O’Brien
An amazing book on the subject:
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl