Often overlooked, self-management is one of the most fundamental pillars of personal development, self-care, and personal transformation. One that, once mastered, has the power to significantly impact our lives.
Self-management is the art of controlling and directing one’s own actions, emotions, and time. It is a proactive approach to life that involves making conscious choices, setting priorities, and developing (healthy) habits that contribute to our overall well-being.
As an outcome, self-management represents mastery over ourselves, and the ability to regulate and be in command of our own behaviors, thoughts, and emotions.
In this post, I will explore what self-management is, why it matters, its role in self-improvement and personal development, and why it is the best philosophy for personal transformation.
What is Self-Management?
Self-management is a concept that’s been used across different fields such as health care, education, psychology, computer science, business, etc.
So, naturally, I identify most with the psychology/business/healthcare definition of self-management:
“Methods, skills, and strategies by which individuals can effectively direct their own activities toward the achievement of objectives, and includes goal setting, decision making, focusing, planning, scheduling, task tracking, self-evaluation, self-development (…). Self-management [also] refers to the individual’s ability to manage the symptoms, treatment, physical and psychological consequences, and the lifestyle changes inherent in living with a chronic condition” (source: Omisakin et. al., 2011).
The goal of self-management (and self-mastery) is to find balance in our lives by fostering responsibility and domination over ourselves.
What does It Take to Manage Ourselves?
The following dimensions are the bedrock of self-management.
Developing a growth mindset is essential for embracing self-management.
“Understanding that the “self” is both stable and mutable is necessary to self-care, self-management and self-improvement” (source: Omisakin et. al., 2011).
Personal transformation is possible only once we first acknowledge our potential for change through conscious effort and continuous improvement.
At its core, self-management is about being mindful of our thoughts and behaviors, and consciously directing them towards positive outcomes.
Self-management is closely tied to emotional intelligence, i.e., our ability to recognize and (eventually) regulate our emotions. Emotional intelligence and some levels of self-awareness really are key for personal growth.
Self-management involves taking responsibility for our actions.
It does not mean that what is happening (or has happened) to you is “our fault”. It means that it’s our responsibility to change ourselves to get to where we want to be.
Self-management is a profoundly liberating concept as it frees us from the need to (and the impossible task of) change(ing) others all the while giving us the tools to achieve results more powerful than we ever thought possible. And these results are self-improvement and personal transformation.
Routines, Discipline and Structure
Self-management both requires (and results in) more discipline, routines, and structure in our daily lives. We only start to effectively manage our time, tasks, behaviors, or emotions, once we build (and stick to) consistent habits, processes, and frameworks that fit our needs.
Why Self-Management Matters and Why It’s the Best Philosophy for Personal Transformation?
There are numerous benefits associated with self-management. I’ve witnessed so many times in my own life how much self-management as a guiding philosophy can change even our destiny.
Here are a few of the benefits and changes I experienced in the past few years (and even within just 6 to 12 months of adopting this philosophy).
Improved Mental and Physical Well-being
I was able to completely transform my life almost entirely on my own, and it still baffles me. Imagine: I went from being severely depressed, and a literal mess emotionally, physically, and financially, to feeling like a completely different person. How crazy is that?
Empowerment and Autonomy
For most of my adult life, I was a victim of my circumstances. I was waiting for my doctors to find out what was wrong with me and tell me how to heal, waiting for my managers to notice how good I was at my job and give me challenges that were up to my abilities, waiting for my family to finally give me the love and attention I deserved…
I was constantly waiting for external validation.
And when that validation didn’t come, the result of that was more pain, more illness, more depression, more loneliness, more misery.
Self-management empowers us to take charge, even in the face of illness. It forces us to identify our needs, values, and goals and make decisions aligned with these needs, values, and goals. It also frees us from the need for others to make us happy.
With self-management, you don’t passively wait for your destiny to maybe happen or not. You actively shape and create that destiny.
Related post: I Tried the Wahls Diet and Here’s What Happened
One of the most important changes I experienced since adopting a self-management philosophy has been a lot less stress and anxiety, and a lot more peace.
When you learn to manage yourself, control your behavior, and regulate your emotions instead of focusing on what others do, you are dramatically less vulnerable to external changes.
Instead of letting yourself react to the outside world every time something happens, you learn to become a lot more centered and in control.
I cannot tell you how incredible that feels!
And here I thought I was “just too sensitive” and that things would always be this way. But let me tell you, emotional resilience is a thing, and you can learn it even if you are a highly sensitive person like me.
You also learn to balance your time, priorities, workloads, and deadlines a lot better which also contributes to a lot less stress in your life.
Also, when you start to take action and do everything that is in your power to change your circumstances, harmful and useless feelings such as guilt and shame kind of fade away naturally.
Goal Setting and Achievement
Self-management and goal-setting go hand in hand.
Only once we establish clear, achievable objectives can we effectively move toward a better version of ourselves.
Self-management offered the holistic approach I was desperately looking for (and not finding) with my doctors.
It encourages us to consider various dimensions to our well-being, such as emotional and physical health, relationships, or finances. This helps to ensure a complete and balanced approach to personal transformation.
When we are in control of our emotions and behaviors, it allows us to better communicate with and understand other people, thus creating healthier relationships with others.
I believe that we must build a better relationship with ourselves first before we can build better relationships with others.
Endurance, Consistency, and Enhanced Productivity
Effective self-management skills involve learning how to set priorities, create realistic goals, and develop effective work habits.
All this, coupled with other healthy habits such as running outside, mindfulness, or meditation, have made me a lot more productive than I was in previous years.
Self-management emphasizes gradual, sustainable change by recognizing the importance of consistency and patience on the road to self-improvement and transformation.
In figuring out how to change your life or cope with depression and chronic illness, I invite you to consider self-management. It truly is a powerful, life-altering philosophy for deep, lasting change.