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Self-Management - Life Skill

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We all have limitations but we can't let them hold us back.

The three key tools for managing one's life -  tools that everyone can control -  are the 1) thoughts that you think, 2) actions that you decide to take, and 3)  environment in which you choose to live.   These three tools are discussed in each of the three links shown above. 

The purpose of any life form to fulfill its purpose. A purpose is not fulfilled unless that life of is managed properly. Life must be managed. All life must be managed.   Some life forms are managed by genetic programming, but random effects of the environment will determine if that potential is realized.  An acorn seed is destined to be an oak tree, but only if the seed reaches fertile soil and is nourished with sunshine and water. All living species rely on either precisely programmed, genetic instructions or animal instincts to prompt their behavior towards their purpose.   Humans have wider latitude.  We too have animal instincts.   But relying on them will only lead to lower level carnal  purposes: survival and perpetuation of the species.    To rise above our animal instincts, we must  rely on wise choices to evolve towards the unique potential that God has installed within us.    I call making these wise choices self-management, because we are rising about genetics and instincts.   To capitalize on the upward potential of the human species,  everyone must either manage their own life, or hire someone to do it for them.

Thus, self-management is a like other self-directed terms used to describe "an action directed by oneself" such as these examples of self-activation: self-control (controlling oneself), self-esteem (esteeming oneself), self-discipline (remaining resolute), and self-motivation (motivating oneself). All these terms refer to some aspect of self-management. Simply stated, self-management means to actively manage your life. The practice of self-management lies at the top of the hierarchical pyramid of everything one must do to live a satisfying, high-potential life. You may never become the CEO of a business, but you are now and always will be the CEO of YOU, Inc.

The two extremes of life management are "managing a life" on one hand and "living a life on the other". Managing a life is self-management, which is an active approach that applies basic management principles in a disciplined, systematic way. The results of a self-management are significantly more predictable. Living a life is a passive approach wherein an individual lives a generally undirected life; they drift, settle, go with the flow, and act in spur of the moment. The results of an undirected life is random and unpredictable. Life tends to reward action and penalizes inaction. Your life success depends on taking the right actions, at the right place, and at the right time.
A successful life is one that is managed successfully.

As an analogy, consider the model of management in any organization such as business. The role of business management is to maximize long-term shareholder value. Likewise, the role of life management is to maximize long-term personal values, which will likely be different between individuals.

Another analogy is the consider each human life an asset that needs to be managed to get the most benefit from it. An asset is something of intrinsic value that if properly nourished and nurtured, will blossom into its peak form. A race car is an asset, and if properly applied, can win competitive races. If left to the elements and in the wrong hands, the same assets will rust and languish from misuse.

There are two separate and distinct entities being described in these analogies. The first entity is the organization or asset, that possesses inherent value but must be managed to bring it forth. The second entity is management whose job is to manage the potential of the asset and ensure that it realizes its full potential. Success in achieving full potential in any organization or asset depends on the skill applied by management.

Suppose that I was your life manager. How would you measure my performance to see if you were getting your moneys worth? The simple answer is performance is measured by results. If your life manager is earning an asset return of 2% while other asset managers are getting 10%, 15% or even 20%, then wouldn’t you think you are being short- changed? You need to fire your life manager, and replace me with someone who is getting better results.

How many of you have a life manager? Most people don't have one. . This means that each of you has taken on this responsibility for managing your life by yourself. How are you going? Are you getting results? Are you demanding enough of yourself? Or where you even aware that your life needs to be managed? Are you actively managing your life? Remember, there are no second chances in life. So, you’d better get all you can out if this one, because you are only issued one life. Managing your life is a serious business, and so, you should take the job seriously.

As a life manager, you have to make choices on how to use your assets: your time, energy, and talents. Managing your life is a 24-hours a day task and requires continuous, judicious choices. Your life manager is doing their job if they are doing these five basics tasks:

Why before How
For every goal, there is an answer to the question, "Why to I want it?"   If the "why" or motivation or compelling reason is important enough, the question, "How will I achieve this goal?" will answer itself.  If the motive if strong enough, you will either "find a way or make one" (as Hannibal said before he crossed the Alps to attack Rome). The answer to the "why" question generates passion and resolve to achieve the object of one's desires. The "how" only provides the means, not the motivation to accept the sacrifice of the quest.

Before you start any venture that requires inordinate effort, start by answering the "why" question before you launch into action. Armed with powerful motives, the action will not be stopped by hard work or early failures. Know what you want from the inside out. Always start by answering the why question, and the how will follow. Probe deep within yourself and repeated ask "why" you want whatever it is you answered to the first and subsequent "why" questions. When you can't answer the "why" question anymore, you have found your real "why".

In summary, managing a life is a full-time job and just be taken seriously. Managing a life is like steering a ship. The ship is an asset - YOU - and the captain in the life manager. The captain’s job is to navigate the ship to its destination, a safe harbor. Is there anyone on the bridge/wheel guiding your ship? Or is the captain drunk and asleep in his cabin? Voyages are perilous journeys. There are ice bergs out there and rocky shores that send your ship to the bottom of the ocean. If no one is at the helm of your ship, you are doomed. Your life is like a ship that needs to be steered and your life needs to be managed.

Is Life a Journey or a Destination?
Some people say their life is a journey, and to others, life is a destination. Which is it? Life does not limit humans as much as we limit themselves. Given only two choice, as I have just posed, should make the average red-blooded person want to seek a third choice. Why can't life be both a destination and a journey, or many destinations and many journeys? I can't imagine a life without a destination or a journey, because a journey must lead somewhere and to arrive at a destination requires a journey.

Which comes first, the journey or the destination? If you journey, you are bound to end up somewhere. To get anywhere, you must journey. Either could come first. But does is really matter how we got where we are. We are all on a journey and we are all going somewhere.

The really issue is whether we have chosen either our destination and/or our journey. I suspect that most people have not chosen either. I would even be willing to bet that most people aren't even aware of either their destination or their journey. And herein lies the problem, or more precisely, the loss of opportunity. Most people are on a journey leading to some destination, and they know neither where they are nor where they are going. They don't know that they don't know. It's as if someone higher power just put them where they are, and they are comfortable with it.

If each of us was given a choice as to both our destination and our journey, would we have picked the one we're on now? Given unlimited options for our destination and our journey to get there, I would also bet that most people would choose differently. If only people were aware that they can choose their destination and their journey, oh how different their life might be.

Control is Overrated
Granted, life is better when you can control your destiny, but not everyone can control everything all the time in every circumstance. People who demand and strive for control are disappointed more frequently than those who do not.

The answer to life's problems is not more control. Since you cannot control everything, there will always be something you can't control. Our power extends to the point of our control. Some people have a longer control reach then others but everyone has limits to what they control.

Life gets interesting when you reach the end of your control. At this point, more control is not the solution. More control is not always the answer to our problems in life. So, what is better than control?

At the end of control, when we run our of our options to influence events, we have faith. We have faith in our own innate abilities, and we can have even more faith in the benevolent goodness of the higher powers that have more power than we do in guiding worldly events. We live balanced and joyful lives to the extent that we can rely on our faith to guide us when our control comes to a sharp end. Since faith is easier to come by than control, faith should be our first line of defense in coping in the world.


* The concept of Self-Management in these sections was significantly inspired by the book "Life Strategies, Doing What Works, Doing What Matters" by Phillip C. McGraw, Ph.D.


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Website last updated on 9/6/16
Copyright ©2005 Charles W. Sooter.  All rights reserved.