Chapter 18

The gym of life: Self-management

People are ready to live life when they are able to shape their own life. To do so, you have to develop both your mental skills and character traits and improve them conti­nuously. It’s similar to swimming: when you stop, you sink. Or you crash when riding a bike. People who lead their life as an ongoing question to achieve perfection will experience joy, inner peace, and serenity. They have found themselves.

Do you live your life based on what others tell you to do?

One of the most frequent causes for a lack of motivation to work includes a work environment that encou­rages heteronomy, that is blind obedience, as a management style.  Employees contribute to this kind of management style when they pay attention to their profes­sional quali­fi­ca­tions but otherwise think that they do not have to commit further to the company that employs them. Which approach to work do you think is correct, and which one do you think is wrong?

Your boss should tell you what to do.
That’s why the boss is the boss.

I form my own opinion about everything. I expect
my superior to ask me about my opinion.

I need to be independent
for my work.

You can’t discuss everything.
Someone has to have the final say.

Processes need to be organized both at work and in your personal life. What would
you say:

meals, cleaning, and so on have to be organized
to avoid total chaos.

There will be misun­derstan­dings and
fights with your partners and friends
if you don’t talk to each other
enough and make arrangements.

Relia­bility and
taking on responsibility
are essential
for lasting relationships.

If a minimum of organiz­ation is essential both in the workplace and at home, how do you parti­cipate in this organization?

I plan my housework and
coordinate it with the other
members of the household.

I admit­tedly only complete the tasks
I took on once they are impossible
to put off any longer.

I have a tough time admitting
to others my mistakes and oversights.

We have a strict division of labor
at home.
Everyone does their work
at a set time.

Do you need to improve something?

The profes­sional oppor­tu­nities you have in life mainly depend on your education and training. Many of us only notice as adults that they would have had career oppor­tu­nities that meet their expec­ta­tions if they had not dropped out of school or if they had continued their appren­ti­ceship or studies. If you do not have the job you would like to have because you lack the proper education and training, what reasons do you see for this? Go through the following state­ments and on the right of each statement, write whether they are “true” or “false”. Then add your own state­ments to the statements.

I was largely left to my own devices during
my childhood and youth. My parents
both worked.

Most of my teachers did not inspire
any passion for learning in me.

When I was an
apprentice or trainee, people only exploited me.

In my previous life, I was only
pushed around, neglected or
even rejected.

I unfor­tu­n­ately did not have any friends.

What experi­ences have you had with yourself?

In order to find your place in life, you need to know what you want. To make this happen, you need to know your abilities and skills. But who really knows that? Many people only know themselves based on the reactions on the part of other people. This may be important infor­mation that tells you how others experience you. But people who don’t want to be pushed around need to discover themselves and find out what potential they have. To get to know yourself as a young person, you should do well enough in school to have time to do the following:

  • do sports and/or
  • play a musical instrument and/or
  • go on trips you organize yourself and/or
  • make your own money with small jobs.

You should do this because you want to and not because your parents push you to do so. And you should leave home by the time you are 20 at the latest or you will end up being a long-term guest at Hotel Mom and Dad.

What experi­ences have you had with yourself?

  • I can be very ambitious when I am interested in something.
  • I am good at spending time on my own.
  • I only enjoy doing things that I can do with friends.
  • I love doing any kind of sports.
  • I look for a new challenge once I have figured out how things work.

Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?

An excellent method for getting to know yourself is keeping a diary. Just write down every evening what you experi­enced during the day, what you thought about, when you felt good, when you felt bad, what you succeeded in, and what you enjoyed. People who keep a diary will automa­ti­cally find out where their strengths and weaknesses lie, which skills they have and which diffi­culties, what they like to spend time on and what they cannot handle. Chapter 9 of this book: Dialogue with yourself: Keeping a diary.

Like many before you, when you graduate from school you do not know very much about which career oppor­tu­nities you have based on your abilities and skills. In fact, for most young people the direction they take with their education is often based on coinci­dence. Most of them stumble into the world more than deliber­ately embarking on a career path. This may result in people abandoning their training when they do not have the necessary requi­re­ments or they do not develop them in time.

It makes sense to take an aptitude test to avoid taking the wrong track if you are uncertain about your career oppor­tu­nities. Psycho­lo­gists have now developed tests that can be used to find out your aptitude for certain jobs. You should take this test, for example, before starting a course of studies that requires abstract thinking even though you are more of a practi­cally oriented type.

Are your reading and writing up to par? Really?

Many people who are dissa­tisfied with their life and are of the opinion to have gotten the short end of the stick compared to other people will remain dissa­tisfied their entire lives when they fail to realize that they have to change themselves before they can change their living circum­s­tances. You need to be able to read and write well to be able to change yourself. You need to constantly rely on these skills you acquired during your first few years in school.

Not all reading is alike. To get the most out of what you read, you need to be able to get to the bottom of the content of a text. You can read how this works under “Active reading”. Many of us forget how to write down things by hand when we left school. In order to give your actions a certain order, it is useful to reactivate this basic skill of expressing yourself perso­nally. You need your handwriting to manage yourself.

Self-management starts with time planning. In order to have the freedom you need to reach your goals, you have to be the master of the way you use your time. Becoming an adult means having control of your time independently. Being independent does not mean living from day to day, but rather making respon­sible decisions about how you use your time.

 How do you see yourself?

In the following list, underline in the pairs of opposites and state­ments the ones that you identify with and cross out the ones that do not apply to you.

  • unlucky or lucky
  • self-deter­­mined or deter­mined by others
  • complacent slave or free person
  • set work hours or working around the clock
  • not asking any questions or getting to the bottom of things
  • bad luck or should have prepared better
  • it will never work or piece of cake
  • dissa­tisfied complainer or fun-loving entrepreneur
  • daring or risk-averse

Put together the nine descrip­tions you under­lined as a list.

How many people are there for whom you would say: These people know me pretty well. Choose three of them. Note with “Yes” or “No” on the list which one of the three formu­la­tions you assigned to yourself applies or does not apply in your assumption. Go through the list for every one of the three. And where on the list would your boss write “Yes” or “No”? Also write that down. And most of your colleagues? If you are in a relati­onship, discuss your list with your partner and who marked what for which reason with “Yes” or “No” – in your opinion.

Are you a free person?

People who want to achieve the greatest possible self-deter­­mi­­nation must assess their develo­pment possi­bi­lities realisti­cally. When your career possi­bi­lities are limited due to a lack of quali­fi­ca­tions, you need to check which quali­fi­ca­tions you can make up for with which level of effort. There are careers that are acces­sible to anyone without requiring any quali­fi­ca­tions. Anyone can become a politician or entre­preneur, for instance. The only thing that counts is being successful with the voters or customers. And it is not about tests, diplomas, or certi­fi­cates. Take Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, for example.

You have to become your own entre­preneur to qualify yourself. As your own entre­preneur, you need to create your personal workspace at home. Do-it-yourselfers have their basement workshop, amateur artists have their studio in the attic, and hobby collectors at least have some dedicated space in the living room. Self-management develops from the conviction of being a free person that is able to take on respon­si­bility for yourself and your fate. Your capability for living, however, still needs to be proven constantly on markets. The most important market is the labor market.

Do you believe in politi­cians’ promise of justice? 

While markets might be fair, they are not necessarily just. This always calls politi­cians on the scene who want to establish justice using government power. Instead of creating condi­tions that offer oppor­tu­nities to anyone who makes an effort, policy-makers tend to overre­gulate, block market opera­tions or even eliminate the market entirely. This may favor those who saw themselves at a disad­vantage for a while, but over time the market processes will always prevail. Illegal markets and black markets are then created as a result.  Activities like innova­tions and invest­ments, in parti­cular, shift abroad. There are bottlenecks and symptoms of deficiency, for example, a lack of productive jobs at some point. This was all demons­trated in the socialism practiced in former East Bloc countries.

People who are confident and are able to live based on their own power are able to prove themselves on the markets and not live as a ward of politi­cians who always promise justice and inhibit liberty. Applying a market-capable approach to life means under­standing what is going on around you as market opera­tions. The company that employs you is your market in which you stand out with your perfor­mance! Your abilities and skills are needed. That’s why they hired you. Everything you do to more inten­sively use and further improve your abilities and skills improves your market position. But the market you have something to offer on should reach beyond your company.

Entre­pre­neurs know that they have to constantly invest in themselves and their business if they do not want to fall behind the compe­tition. This applies much the same way to you as your own entre­preneur. You need to conti­nuously boost your personal and profes­sional quali­fi­ca­tions if you do not want others on the labor market to be chosen over you. You need to invest time and money in yourself – just like an entrepreneur.

Do you want to be your own entrepreneur?

Your education is your starting capital. Even if you have completed a university degree, you can’t just kick back and relax and assume that you will stay a high-demand employee until you retire. You have to keep an eye on the job market for college graduates. While the unemployment rate for college graduates is below the general unemployment rate, you may still one day be unemployed if you do not take care of yourself or at least remain fit.

Just like in sports, markets deter­mined by the rules of fairness and perfor­mance compe­tition with the same starting condi­tions give every parti­cipant a fair chance. You will always encounter black sheep, wherever you go. There’s no way to get rid of them entirely. Attempts to solve this using the power of the state will not achieve a paradise-like society but instead will culminate in dicta­torship and bankruptcy, as the example of communism recently showed. What do you believe?

The government should set the prices. Nobody
can have an unfair advantage then.

When unions force wages and salaries
that are above produc­tivity, that’s okay.

The government should provide for simple and clear conditions
and ensure they are adhered to.

You are the master of your own destiny. I reject the welfare state.

I want to be my own entrepreneur.

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Are you competitive?

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Creativity allows you to constantly create opportunities

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Are you able to be alone?

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Shared values are essential for living together

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Are you living a healthy life?

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A now rare attitude towards life: serving others

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Joy of life

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