The Keys To Self-Mastery


 Access  the .pdf version of the image above

By Murray Johannsen, First published in October 1, 2008.  Feel free to connect with the author by  Linkedin,  Google+  or by  email

Success in all fields is ultimately based on how well we use our mind. But few people have figured out how to grow an immature Ego or to access resources lying within the Unconscious. It’s like having a powerful eight cylinder engine, but only using two of them—and those two frequently misfire.

Self-Development Tools

“Greatness comes from doing many small things well. Individually, they are not very dramatic transactions. Together though, they add up.” — Edward S. Finkelstein

By tool we mean it is something you can learn and practice to evolve into a skill. This cannot be done by reading textbooks or going to university classes. To give you an example, at a university you can take a course on memory, but never take the actions that make your memory work better. This is a fundamental problem with many (but not all) degree programs.

The Tool-Set for Continuous Self-Development

“I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” — Abraham Lincoln

Image by: Monica Yañez
Image by: Monica Yañez. This watercolor represents a Buddhist mandala as a symbol of the Self.


This is by no means a complete list. It includes tools that we use in our programs.

Examine The Nature of Wisdom. Perhaps the most important and yet most difficult of mental functions to develop. You must start with:

      • Understanding what it is,
      • Where it’s likely to can be found and not found,
      • Knowing a method to cultivate it, and
      • Having a clear understanding of other abilities to develop.

Preview Powerful Thoughts. Clearly the vast majority  don’t know how to use their mind. To learn how to think and to control your thinking, you must control your self-talk.

Learn Meditation.  At one level, it is simply a way to reduce your stressors. At another level, it is one of the most powerful tools for self-development that you can master.

Build Resilience.  Being mentally tough helps in to deal with both the inner and the outer worlds.

12 Guidelines. This article lists a number of guidelines for self-development.

Self-Development Assumptions

 “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” 
— Abraham Lincoln

Access The .pdf Version

1-Sheet-For a Change_Weaknesses

I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.”— Vincent van Gogh

Working your way up in management, getting to the executive level in government, advancing to the c-level in a multinational corporation, or growing an entrepreneurial start-up is like climbing a tall mountain. It can be done; but you are going to have to learn how or you will surely die on the mountain.

Your strengths push you forward, but your weaknesses hold you back. It’s like going through life with one your foot on the gas and the other on the brake. So you don’t go very far, very fast. Throughout life, we have been taught in our schools that we should build strengths. But building strengths is necessary but not sufficient. At some point, we need to step out on a new path and take a hard look at ourselves, be proud of our strengths and pivot and focus on vision and vulnerabilities.

Principles For Self-Development

It was the great Harvard psychologist William James who estimated the average person uses only 10% of our mental potential. 
Mankind’s greatest untapped resource does not lie under the oceans or hidden in the ground, it’s what should be accessed and cultivated between the ears.

Principle 1: Understand How Your Mind Works 

The brain is not the mind, something doctors don’t seem to understand.

The mind is like a car, it don’t’ go if you don’t know how to run it.

     If you ask the average person, “What the major components of mind are, few could tell you.”

     If you ask them, “How to change a belief,” they won’t know.

     It you pointed out that they are acting defensively, they would get defensive; and still wouldn’t know what you are talking about.

     They might agree to change, but they don’t know how. 

All of these problems have as a root cause — a lack of understanding of how the mind really works. 

 Self-Development Guideline 2: Develop The Ego

It's clear, the vast majority of people in life have forgotten these basic words, words said by Pythagoras, Plutarch, Socrates, and Thales. Also the words found at the entrance of the most famous of the ancient Greek temples:The Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
It’s clear, the vast majority of people in life have forgotten these basic words, words said by Pythagoras, Plutarch, Socrates, and Thales. Also the words found at the entrance of the most famous of the ancient Greek temples:The Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
“Be All The You Can Be” Advertising Slogan, U.S. Army

“When I was a young boy I saw something beautiful near the farms’ tool shed. Asking my mom what it was, she said. “That’s a spider web.” How beautiful it was glistening in the sun. Then I saw something a fly; stuck, struggling, trapped — it could not escape.”       Morale of the Story: I am are that fly caught in web of delusions and limiting beliefs.  — M. Johannsen

Many suffer from a little understood condition known as arrested development. For some, this condition strikes after high school graduation, for others, it begins after college. Just because someone has a Ph. D. doesn’t mean their Ego is mature.
There are many PhD’s who are operate at a low level of emotional intelligence. Maturity is very hard to define. It’s something that would eventually lead to self-development according to Maslow or Eastern self-improvement.

I remember a few years ago doing a training program for a three partners who grow their business from the original three to 133. When it started, one person did the accounting, one did the engineering and the other did the accounting. Twenty-five years later is was still this way. The President was still functioning as an engineer, the CFO was thinking like a book keeper and the Director of Manufacturing was still most at home running a CNC machine.

Self-Improvement Guideline 3: Purify the Unconscious

“We need to know what we don’t know.” Unknown

 Within the unconscious lies many answers and many problems. As Freud and Jung and many other psychologists have pointed out, we have to deal with unconscious forces if we are to continue to grow the immature Ego. 

Purify the Bad Programs

Life installs some bad programs into the unconscious, often when we are very young. For example, a mother speaking to a child in a moment of anger, “You will never amount to anything!” can contribute to insecurity that lasts through life. A father who cannot show love to the daughter, produces a woman who cannot find it in her relationships. Unfortunately, many of these programs are not easily changed.

Unify the Parts

There are parts of the mind that run almost as independent programs. This is not all bad, but sometimes is in not all good. Sometimes these complexes can run bad habits.

For example, many smokers find the decision to buy cigarettes largely unconscious — made without really thinking about it. The same phenomenon applies to drinking, overeating and other habituated behaviors.


The mind is not as unified as one might think. There are boundaries between its different parts. It’s like there are two shores separated by water. On one shore there is the Ego, on the other shore there is the Unconscious. And for most people, there is no bridge between the two. To bridge the two, you have to set-up linkages.

Leadership Skill Development