Who's in Charge Around Here? Mastering the Most Effective You.
What could building personal mastery mean to you as a change agent?
- Have you gotten close to burnout and felt like finding an easier career?
- Do you find yourself questioning why you are working so hard to change the world?
- Have you lost sense of your mission and passion?
- Are you experiencing unexplained physical symptoms?
- Do you feel overwhelm and despair at the pain created by so much social injustice or indifference to other species and the environment? Do you know what to do with these feelings?
- Do you struggle with your leadership style?
- Does your ego ever get the upper hand?
- Have you ever participated in a coalition destroyed by personalities that got out of hand?
- Do you not know what to do with your anger towards other people?
- Do you feel isolated and alone even though you are in good company?
Building Personal Mastery can help, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s an opportunity to take a solid measure on how and why you react in challenging situations. And it’s an opportunity to gain greater clarity on your deepest values. It involves a lot of learning about yourself, some of which is fun and some of which isn't.
Like social change work, inner work takes courage!
There are many aspects to building personal mastery. For instance, it's useful to understand how your ego works - what you are "trying to prove" and "what you are being defensive about". If you are spending your energy protecting your self-image, you are not focused on connecting with others, building collaborations and staying on track with your most profound ideals. If you run your life according to your ego - being relentlessly task oriented, driving yourself and others and being emotionally shut down - you risk alienating people, burnout and/or disease.
I know about this. In 2007 after years of working too hard I wound up with diagnoses of two kinds of cancer and a perpetual sense of exhaustion. Before I really understood what was happening I found myself blowing up at colleagues and threatening our collaboration. My message to the world? Don't follow me down this road.
Most of us don't have much of a sense of how our ego impacts our lives or our work.
But we can see it in other people. Our own is virtually invisible and painful to expose, yet it’s a great relief to do so. When a room full of people do it together as in our Inner Activist program, the honesty and sense of connection with each other is awesome. And when they go home and put into practice what they have learned, they get big results!
Personal mastery is also getting in touch with what’s going on in your body. In part it's increasing awareness of what you are actually feeling so you can respond to it. I mean if you are exhausted, your body will tell you and you might need to get some rest. If you are like me, you might have a tendency to override those messages. But you might also be holding back feelings - a sure route to burnout - and need to learn to express them. It's a real relief to do so. It's common to avoid exploring pain and despair, yet it’s likely that once they are expressed in the company of others, a feeling of gratitude will emerge, or other feelings like joy or passion for the world.
Being aware of our feelings is a way of understanding that we belong to life.
It's often through feelings that we make our most profound connections with others and realize we are not alone in our struggles. We all share human frailty.
Does your schedule run you or are you really in charge of it? Are you good at setting limits for yourself?
Personal mastery also means learning to guide your life so you get enough refreshment so you have energy to give to intense campaigns. It is recognizing what to do when you are triggered by an event that didn’t go your way or a remark that isn’t what you want to hear. It is knowing the difference in your mind and body between authentic and violent anger. It is the ability to hear and express anger and to access your curiosity when polarized perspectives are threatening to wreck a relationship. Building Personal Mastery is the ability to continually refine and draw upon all of your cognitive and emotional intelligence in a relational manner that invites people into your circle to work together for a better world.
Building Personal Mastery isn't an achievement. It’s a consistent learning experience over a lifetime. I still find it very challenging to remain truly compassionate as I have strong habits of task orientation. I continually find I need to work at seeing what the underlying positive values are in comments and actions of others, especially when I don't like them or my task-oriented brain decides they are not on my page. While being compassionate takes time, not being compassionate takes much longer and runs the risk of destroying relationships, collaborations or coalitions.
Some people get caught in an endless cycle of personal development which to me is pointless self-involvement. Our brand of Personal Mastery is about becoming a more effective social change agent as you keep removing obstacles to the expression of your deepest values and energies. There's always more to learn as you build on your strengths. That's why the Inner Activist program includes courses in Building Strong and Respectful Relationships, Building Conscious Use of Power, Building Common Ground and Capacity for Social Change, and keeping yourself and your social change initiatives Building Sustainability.
Sustainable personal mastery takes time, compassion and support. By understanding what this takes, it will bring you a greater appreciation of the challenges of social change, a term we use for individuals collectively gaining personal mastery for a better world.