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(Principle Five – Self-Mastery)

By Kelvin Sondifu

“He who gains a victory over other men is strong; but he who gains a victory over himself is all powerful." – Anonymous

In the second part of the fourth principles in this series, we learnt that self-mastery is one of the tools to control our behaviours, lifestyle and ultimately, our destiny. The first three tools mentioned in that piece were integrity, awareness of the comfort zone concept, and goal-setting.

However, self-mastery is not just a tool, or a mere strategic instrument, it is a complete principle – the fifth principle that governs the creation of success. It is the power-packed arsenal of strength that helps to conquer the real enemies of all men – lethargy, atrophy and entropy.

When the consistent and stringent practice of disciplined activities has become an instinctive habit, a way of life; then, only then, can one profess to be a free man. If anyone attains this height in life, which so few people do, there is no goal on earth he can not achieve. The people that climbed to the uppermost rungs of the ladder of self-mastery are the Mahatma Ghandis, the Mother Theresas, the Oprah Wimphreys, the Marcus Garveys, the Malcolm Xs, the Albert Einsteins, and the Bill Gates of this world.

Self-mastery, the monumental task of calming the storm of raging human emotions, of silencing the whirling impulses of indulgence and the pounding surfs of entropy, is what separates Bill Gates and that beggar in the street corner.

If there is a panacea, a cure-all, for the countless challenges which every man must go through in life; that miracle solution must definitely be self-possession – self mastery.

A man can conquer the whole world and still lack the strength, the mental toughness and dexterity to subdue the untamed urges that orders him around like a child.
So what does all these means to you? It simply means that you must acknowledge the monumental effort required to achieve self mastery. And you must now decide if your desire for success is worth the effort that you must exert to control yourself enough to succeed in life. In this planet, there is a prize tag for everything. The more benefit you seek, the more price you are required to pay.

The gains that accrue for the person who is committed to a strict regimen of self-imposed discipline, makes the price required for self-mastery negligible. On the other hand, the fleeting instant gratification of those that chose the ‘easy’ life of going with the flow is laughable compared to the pains of disappointing future awaiting them.

Step by step, let’s examine the characteristics of self-mastery. What is the modus operandi of this principle? People that exude the trait of self control and those that doesn’t are quite different. Actually, humans can be classified into three groups. There are those that focus on controlling the world. They are concerned about global warming; they worry about Armageddon and nuclear war. They cry helplessly over the possible extinction of dolphins or crocodiles. And because of the massive scale of the problems out there, most of the people in this group feel powerless, are always anxious and frustrated.

The second group consists of people that are focused on a circle of people that they can actually influence, like family members, friends, and co-workers.

Most of them spend all their time and energy trying to ‘straighten’ others up. This can sometimes lead to frustration, when their family and friends don’t want to be straightened.
Then all kinds of manipulation, backbiting and backstabbing usually set in.

The third group is made up of people that are focused on themselves. They are concerned about their personal development. They work on themselves when things are not going right. They are concerned about the outside world.

They think about global warming, the possible extinction of dolphins, and those big issues; but they never spend too much time and energy there. They try to influence those around them, but that does not become an obsessive-compulsive behaviour. They are not consumed by it. Their number one priority is self actualisation; thereby, they become valuable to the world, their family, friends, and most importantly, to themselves.

What are the differences between these groups of people? Most people in the first group are reactive. They feel victimized. They complain a lot. They believe the problems of the world – their problem – are caused by leaders and institutions that are out of reach. The people in this group can never attain self mastery. They are focusing on the wrong place. They think the problem is out there; and that very thought is the – their – problem.

In the second group, most of the people there are also reactive. They react constantly to what their friends or family members are doing wrong. These are the kind of people that say to their children, “you embarrass me”. There is only so much time. After expending all their energy and time trying to “fix” others, they become very exhausted. It is no wonder that they don’t have time for personal development. There is no energy left to pursue self mastery.

The third group is where anyone that is aspiring to become successful should be or aim to be. The people in this group are self motivated and internally guided.

This is where the concept of locus of control comes in. Locus of control is simply a term for qualifying where a person’s motivation and directives come from. For the majority, their locus of control is located externally. They are controlled by the social mirror. Their actions are reactions or pre-emptive reactions – do it unto them, before they do it unto you – to the behaviours or thoughts of others. They are literary slaves to what people say, will say, or might say about them.

Those that have their locus of control located inside them are few. They are proactive. All their actions are well thought of and stem from their belief system and clarified values. They don’t go about trying to be everything to everybody, as a result becoming nothing to anyone including themselves.

They are not people pleaser. They don’t crave for approval. They are self directed. They impose discipline on themselves.

How can you achieve self mastery? First, you must realise that no one can achieve self mastery for another. You should also know that the battle to gain self mastery is a lifetime struggle. So, the earlier you start on this journey, the more advantaged you are.

To achieve self mastery, you only have to do one simple thing. You make the commitment to do all it takes to achieve it. And I assure you that it will take a lot. It will take putting forth a lot of effort, energy and will power. It will take you to face fear, pains and hard blows at every turn of the struggle. And finally, it will take you to practice self-discipline full time.

The pains and discomforts involved in the pursuit of mastering self, is the price tag of all great success. You and you alone must decide if it is worth paying.  From my observations and experience, I know the price is fair and worth the benefits.


1. Make a formal written contract – an agreement – with yourself, to commit to a life-    long struggle to achieve self-mastery.

2. Write the above contract clearly out in your workbook, and revise it once every week to strengthen your resolve.

Meditate on this quote from Thomas Bennett till next month when we go into the nature of success, the sixth principle: Sowing & Reaping. “Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labour is immense”

*To reach Kelvin Sondifu or react to the above, send an e-mail to:

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