Designing the Mind

Self Mastery Quotes

The 35 Most Powerful Thoughts on Self Control and Self Discipline

Self Mastery Quotes

The 35 Most Powerful Thoughts on Self Control and Self Discipline

Conventional wisdom tells us that in order to be successful in life, we must build lucrative careers, impeccable social media presences, and houses full of expensive toys, smiling children, and appraisal value. Taken all together, it’s a tall order, bordering on impossible. But there is a larger problem with it. The people who achieve it are often just as unhappy as when they started out. In the process of becoming what cultural prescription wanted them to be, they failed to become what they wanted to be.

But there is an alternate line of thought, one that has been echoed by virtually all of the wisest thinkers who ever lived, along with the researchers studying human well-being today. We can strive toward a more resilient, more powerful kind of mastery. Instead of trying to build the perfect life in which to dwell, we can fortify and master the vehicle through which we traverse it. We can live for self mastery, cultivate self control, and develop self discipline.

The internet is full of fake quotes, but I have gone to significant lengths to ensure that all quotes on this site are accurately attributed. So feel free to save, share, and meditate on any of the quotes here that resonate with you with the knowledge that they are authentic. I hope you find as much value in them as I have

To compose our character is our duty, not to compose books, and to win, not battles and provinces, but order and tranquility in our conduct. Our great and glorious masterpiece is to live appropriately. All other things, ruling, hoarding, building, are only little appendages and props, at most.

—Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

The answer to the perennial question of what facilitates individual and cultural success might be found in the concept of self-regulation. The benefits of successful self-regulation are great and its costs can be dire. Failures of self-regulation are at the root of many personal and societal ills, such as interpersonal violence, self-defeating behaviors, substance abuse, poor health, underachievement, and obesity.

—Roy Baumeister, Willpower

Man is made or unmade by himself. In the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.

—James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

There are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river.

—Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Bad people… are in conflict with themselves; they desire one thing and will another, like the incontinent who choose harmful pleasures instead of what they themselves believe to be good.

—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

What constitutes the superior man? The cultivation of himself with reverential care… When one cultivates to the utmost the capabilities of his nature and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path.

—Confucius, Analects

The ideal individual bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of his circumstances, like a skillful general who marshals his limited forces with all the strategy of war… He is his own best friend, and takes delight in privacy, whereas the man of no virtue or ability is his own worst enemy, and is afraid of solitude.

—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

The most intelligent men, like the strongest, find their happiness where others would find only disaster: in the labyrinth… their delight is in self-mastery… They regard a difficult task as a privilege; it is to them a recreation to play with burdens that would crush all others.

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Antichrist

Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself.

—The Buddha, Dhammapada

There is no more reliable proof of greatness than to be in a state where nothing can happen to make you disturbed.

—Seneca, On Anger

1. Use reason for its highest purpose: to evaluate and judge the best possible course of action, as free as possible from passion and bias.


2. Have an unwavering will for executing whichever actions were judged to be the best.


3. Understand that beyond clear reasoning and a resolved will, everything is outside of one’s power, and should be no cause for stress or regret.

—René Descartes, Letter to Princess Elisabeth

The perfect law would bear to individuals the same relation which perfect reason bears to passions: it would be the coordination of conflicting forces to avoid the ruin and increase the power of the whole.

—Baruch Spinoza, Ethics

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

—Rudyard Kipling, Interview with Arthur Gordon

He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures.

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are better off almost any way you look at it. They are happier and healthier. Their relationships are more satisfying and last longer. They make more money and go further in their careers. They are better able to manage stress, deal with conflict, and overcome adversity. They even live longer… If we want to improve our lives, willpower is not a bad place to start.

—Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct

The greatest souls… reason in a way that is so strong and cogent that, although they also have passions, and indeed passions which are often more violent than those of ordinary people, their reason nevertheless always remains mistress, and even makes their afflictions serve them and contribute to the perfect happiness they enjoy in this life.

—René Descartes, Letter to Princess Elisabeth

You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft, that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.

—David Goggins, Can’t Hurt Me

Strong people alone know how to organize their suffering so as to bear only the most necessary pain.

—Emil Dorian, The Quality of Witness

You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You are born with a particular makeup and tendencies that mark you as a piece of fate. It is who you are to the core. Some people never become who they are; they stop trusting in themselves; they conform to the tastes of others, and they end up wearing a mask that hides their true nature. If you allow yourself to learn who you really are by paying attention to that voice and force within you, then you can become what you were fated to become— an individual, a Master.

—Robert Greene, Mastery

Our culture has become hooked on the quick-fix, the life hack, efficiency. Everyone is on the hunt for that simple action algorithm that nets maximum profit with the least amount of effort. There’s no denying this attitude may get you some of the trappings of success, if you’re lucky, but it will not lead to a calloused mind or self-mastery. If you want to master the mind and remove your governor, you’ll have to become addicted to hard work. Because passion and obsession, even talent, are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back them up.

—David Goggins, Can’t Hurt Me

On any given day, you may struggle with your habits because you’re too busy or too tired or too overwhelmed or hundreds of other reasons. Over the long run, however, the real reason you fail to stick with habits is that your self-image gets in the way. This is why you can’t get too attached to one version of your identity. Progress requires unlearning. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.

—James Clear, Atomic Habits

Be like a headland of rock on which the waves break incessantly; but it stands fast and around it the seething of the waters sink to rest.

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.

—Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry, nurture a deep caring and respect for troublemakers because by creating such trying circumstances they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.

—Dalai Lama XIV, How to Practice

The person who is developing freely and naturally arrives at a spiritual equilibrium in which he is master of his actions, just as one who has acquired physical poise can move freely. When he is master of himself he is also flexible in his attitude toward others, and capable of adaptation to the wishes and requirements of others… When the order is not imposed from without, but formed naturally from within, discipline and liberty are identical. As the soul of man advances in this inner discipline, so much the freer it is to develop and expand.

—Maria Montessori, Lecture at Central Hall, Westminster

Just as a solid rock is not shaken by the storm, even so the wise are not affected by praise or blame.

—The Buddha, Dhammapada

Autonomous persons become fine-tuned to their own psychological well-being and inner workings. They take responsibility for regulating their thoughts, feelings and behavior.

—Susanne Cook-Greuter, Nine Levels Of Increasing Embrace In Ego Development

The chief use of wisdom lies in its teaching us to be masters of our passions and to control them with such skill that the evils which they cause are quite bearable, and even become a source of joy.

—René Descartes, The Passions of the Soul

The modern fascination with neuroplasticity has led many to try to optimize their intelligence, memory, and concentration. People obsessively track and optimize their sleep, nutrition, and exercise regimens. But people who obsessively and directly optimize the structure of their minds for flourishing are less common.

—Ryan A Bush, Designing the Mind: The Principles of Psychitecture

Knowing others is intelligent.

Knowing yourself is enlightened.

Conquering others takes force.

Conquering yourself is true strength.

Knowing what is enough is wealth.

Forging ahead shows inner resolve.

Hold your ground and you will last long.

Die without perishing and your life will endure.

—Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Lack of power to moderate and restrain the affects I call Bondage. For the man who is subject to affects is under the control, not of himself, but of fortune, in whose power he so greatly is that often, though he sees the better for himself, he is still forced to follow the worse.

—Baruch Spinoza, Ethics

When we modify our minds, we make changes to the system at our core and change our personal trajectory. And when we make a persistent occupation of this endeavor, we become the architects of our own character.

—Ryan A Bush, Designing the Mind: The Principles of Psychitecture

The first condition for more than mediocre achievement in any field, including that of the art of living, is to will one thing. To will one thing presupposes having made a decision, having committed oneself to one goal. It means that the whole person is geared and devoted to the one thing he has decided on, that all his energies flow in the direction of this chosen goal. Where energies are split in different directions, an aim is not only striven for with diminished energy, but the split of energies has the effect of weakening them in both directions by the constant conflicts that are engendered.

—Erich Fromm, The Art of Being

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