Self-Government: Guidelines for Self-Assessment

Self Management – The Right Attitude to Work and Life Discover how a self – appraisal could be the surest way towards growth and master.

Nothing can be managed without first managing our own self. In modern management self-management means mainly management of the outer work-environment of the individual like for example time-management. In the Indian thought self-management means managing of our inner self. However, recent trends in management thought is veering towards this Indian concept of self-management. In an integral perspective both may be included in the ideal of self-management. But management of the inner self is or has to be the foundation for managing the outer environment. For, someone who cannot manage himself cannot manage others or the outer environment. Considering the crucial importance of this subject, we have started a regular section, which provides practical guidance on self-management. By the word “practical” we mean not only methods and practices but also a clear understanding of the basic principles of self-management and taking the right inner attitudes to life, work and action.

We have said in our editorial of this issue that self-government is the basis of governing the outer world. But how to know to what extent we are self-governed. This article provides some guidelines for self-assessment.

In a psychological approach to governance government of the outer life or “Corporate Governance” has to be based on self-governance of the individual especially by the leaders of the organization. This brings us to the question how to assess self-governance. The traditional method of self-assessment used in modern research methodology is “Questionnaire”. The first question we have to ask is what is the purpose of the questionnaire? If it is to assess the degree of self-governance achieved by an individual, then the traditional method of questionnaire with Yes/No answers, is not only ineffective but can also be misleading. For a psychological and subjective phenomenon like self-government, the right approach would be to provide some broad guidelines or signpost for self-assessment.

Self-Government Index

Effective self-governance requires three factors: first is consciousness, alertness, vigilance, awareness; second is inner detachment or stepping back; third is firmness and sincerity in the Will. Every individual can assess his “self-government index” in terms of these three factors.

Consciousness and Vigilance

Lack of consciousness and an alert mind is one of the major factors behind loss of control. An external stimuli like a temptation or an insult, produces an inner reaction like anger. If we are not sufficiently conscious and alert there is no gap for reflection between inner reaction and outer behaviour. The inner reaction is instantly converted into behaviour. On the other hand, if we are conscious and alert, and able to become aware of the inner reaction the moment it raises, then it provides the needed gap for reflection and ask the question: “Is this the right reaction? What will be the consequences if I act out over this impulse?” In fact, the very awareness of the inner reaction, if it is sufficiently clear, full, detached, will dissolve the reaction or give the insight for right action. So the first question is “How conscious and alert am I of my inner reactions?”

Detachment and Stepping back

Our human mind has the ability to stand back and watch its own movements as a detached witness. This is one of the main levers for effective self-governance. If the first step towards self-government is to become aware, the second step is to step back from the reaction or what we are aware of and disidentify from it, telling, “This movement is happening in me. But I am not in it.” So the next question is “How much or to what extent I am able to step back and detach myself from my inner reactions and movement.”

Firmness and Sincerity in the Will

However if the inner reactions or negativities or outer temptations are overwhelming or strong and obstinate with the force of past habits, consciousness and detachment are not enough. Here comes the importance of Will. There must be firm and sincere will for self-governance. Firmness means strength and determination in the resolve and also persistence and endurance in the effort, not to become discouraged or despondent by repeated failures, difficulty or struggle. Sincerity has two facets. The first one is to constantly strive for harmony between our thought, feeling, will and actions and organize them harmoniously around our highest ideal. The second is to resolutely reject all that is contrary to this harmony or our ideals, especially not to justify or rationalize negative attitudes or feelings or weaknesses or temptations. So the third question is “How much firm and sincere am I in my will.”

The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.

M.S. Srinivasan

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