The Incredibly Elusive And Decidedly Difficult Skill Of Self-Care

By: Jim Murphy

 The Incredibly Elusive and Decidedly Difficult Skill of Self-Care

The most extraordinary people who ever lived had very strict boundaries in their lives… boundaries around their thoughts and words, what they looked at and listened to, who they spent time with, and especially, their daily habits of thought and action. 

Those boundaries helped them stay clear of the great distraction: self-concern (pre-occupation with self). 

Self-concern is the opposite of self-awareness. It’s concern for self that leads to self-consciousness, comparison, anxiety and fear. Self-care, however, taking best care of self, starts with self-awareness… to know who you are, what your deepest needs are, what you lack most, and what it would look and feel like to function at full capacity.

There’s 7 rings (concentric circles) of self-awareness:

1. Heart (spirit)
2. Subconscious mind (beliefs and mental patterns)
3. Conscious mind (choices)
4. Thoughts
5. Feelings
6. Actions
7. Results (and circumstances)

This model shows that your life circumstances and results are really the 7th reflection of what’s happening in your heart. 

Most people obsess about rings 6 and 7, ignoring the center. Everything starts with the heart and subconscious mind. Like a stone dropped in a pond, your current results and circumstances are the waves that have reached your feet. They’ve rippled out from the center of who you are. 

Get the heart right and everything will follow. 
Let’s do this!

Note: This article is dedicated to the people of Ukraine. Please take a moment and pray for their safety.

Before we begin, let’s get a few things straight with some definitions:

  • Self-care: thoughts, choices and actions that lead toward maximizing your full potential, towards being wholehearted, developing into your true self, so you can live the best possible life. 
  • Best possible life: to live with absolute fullness of life; a meaningful, fulfilling life filled with vitality and passion, a life with amazing experiences and deep, meaningful relationships, learning and growing in love, wisdom and courage. 
  • Self-concern: pre-occupation with self that limits growth and leads to self-consciousness, comparison, anxiety and fear. 
  • Self-conscious: wondering what others think of you, your actions or your results/circumstances; leads to extremely limited vision, self-doubt and indecisiveness; comes from self-concern.
  • Self-control: having non-judgmental awareness such that your actions come from a disciplined and selfless heart.
  • Self-mastery: the continuous pursuit of selflessness that leads to fearlessness. 

The first step in self-care is to slow down.Simplify your life. Set strict boundaries. The greatest performers and those who changed the world had strict boundaries around their time, energy and focus. Boundaries are directly correlated to what you believe about yourself. If you believe that with hard work and a selfless, fearless heart, you can change the world (or become world #1), then you’ll be very strict with your habits of thought and action. You’ll be clear about your purpose and set strict boundaries around it. Belief is so important because it sets strict boundaries that limit distractions. Strong beliefs = strict boundaries. 

Of course it’s very hard to slow down and rid ourselves of what’s not us (simplify our lives), because who knows, maybe this person or the latest trend can help us get what we want. It’s the continuous quest for more. 

The question is, what are you chasing? What is it you’re really pursuing? What good does it do to gain the whole world if you lose your soul? What I’ve learned over the years (decades now? yikes!) is that most people spend their lives chasing temporary things (success or money, trophies or trips to Europe), all because they lack the vision and self-care necessary to see beyond external circumstances. What they’re REALLY doing is seeking better feelings (5th ring) and better actions (6th ring), so they can get better results (7th ring). In other words, they ‘re ignoring the source of fullness of life by skipping right to feeling better, working backwards from the outside in (7, 6, 5…). 

We don’t feel better, however, because we’re caught up in comparison and self-concern. It becomes circular, where self-concern creates fearful feelings, so to feel better, we go for temporary external things for immediate relief. 

If you truly want to live a meaningful fulfilling life with amazing experiences and deep, enriching relationships, you need to slow down and simplify your life so you transform the root of who you are, starting with an examination of your heart and the beliefs within. Then you can affirm and dream about what’s possible in your life. 

Slow down. Simplify your life. Set strict boundaries. It’s the necessary foundation to see far enough and be aware enough to fully experience amazing moments.

The 7 Rings Model
The results and circumstances in your life have an order to them (see summary above). That is, your results and circumstances come from your actions, your actions come from your feelings, your feelings come from your thoughts, your thoughts come from your conscious mind, your conscious mind (and your repeated thoughts) come from your subconscious mind, and finally your subconscious is a reflection of your heart. (*See note at bottom.)

Your heart is the control center of your life, where your greatest hopes and dreams await, as well as the place your greatest fears reside. We don’t just do things off the cuff, we do things that follow the mental patterns and beliefs that we’ve created. 

Deep within each of us is a heart and subconscious mind, like left and right ventricles, that carry our life force in everything we do. It’s these two central parts of who we are that determine everything else about us. 

One time i was driving in heavy traffic and someone cut me off. I allowed my vehicle to get much closer to them than I should have, and that driver didn’t like it. He hit the brakes and I didn’t like it. I went from being in the flow of resonance, peaceful and grateful, to being judgmental and a bit agitated. I thought, “Wow, what’s in my heart that allowed me to go from what I thought was perfect peace to stress and judgment in a split-second?” I realized, even though my results and circumstances were good, my inner world desperately needed help. 

As I’ve shared before, if your inner world is filled with peace and confidence, you go out into the world in strength, even if your outer world is in shambles. But if your outer world is filled with success, money and material things people admire, but your inner world is unstable, you go out to the world in weakness.

We need to examine the core of who we are, what we need and what we lack, so we can increase self-care  and live the best possible life. 

Most people, most of the time, let circumstances (and people, often strangers) dictate, and often take them out of, their flow. They allow the need to be right or successful override their purpose, goals and dreams. If someone cuts us off, blames us, or wrongs us, we drop everything and react emotionally. Rather than guard our hearts (by guarding our thoughts from judgment and negativity), we so often make being right the #1 thing in our lives at that moment.

The best self-care is based on a heart that is always seeking to learn and grow, especially in love, wisdom and courage. Love, the sacrificial, unconditional kind, is fearless. It leads to joy. Joy is a pillar of the extraordinary life; it’s the foundation for self-control. Wisdom is to have an understanding heart, one that knows how to walk in love, not fear… how to live a meaningful, fulfilling life. Courage is the skill of being fully present under pressure so you can make good decisions and be decisive in the face of fear.  

The life-long pursuit of love, wisdom, and courage leads to the kind of self-awareness, which enhances self-care, that develops self-mastery. 

3 things you can do to start:

  1. Start by getting all those thoughts out of your head onto paper, without judging them. A great way to do this is with Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages (see resources). Each morning before you start your day, write three handwritten pages of your flow of consciousness. This in itself can increase clarity, creativity and awareness.
  2. Examine your TRUE motives. 
    1. Why did you say that, to that person, in that moment? Was it to advance yourself in any way? If so, was that self-protection (coming from self-concern and self-consciousness)? 
  3. Try this exercise from Chapter 2 of Inner Excellence: Me, Myself and I.
    1. Next time you go to a dinner party or social event where there will be some people you don’t know, see if you can go the entire night without saying anything that will put you in a favorable light.
    2. Try to have engaging conversations while avoiding talking about yourself (except to answer direct questions), and don’t use the words me, myself, or I.
  • Note: the purpose of this exercise is to develop awareness of your ego and how hard it is to not be self-occupied and acceptance-driven.

Let me know how it’s going for you! The 7 rings is a new concept I’m sharing for the first time. Please let me know if you have questions. 

Love Jim
A lot of exciting things coming in 2022! I’m going to be offering direct sales on my website (… books, journals, and online courses. Everything will be announced here first (this VIP newsletter), and you all will get advance notice for new books and products (as well as discounts!). 
Speaking of new products… I’d love to hear what you’d like more of in 2022. If I were to create a workbook on the topic you want the most help with, what would it be? Thanks for sharing! (Just reply to this email). 

Note from 7 Rings model: In some ways the 7 Rings Model is an oversimplification of the exact nature and order of how we’ve come to be where we are in life and the results we’ve gotten. Sometimes, hopefully often, we aren’t acting on our feelings, but in general, if I’m feeling tired, hungry and perhaps lonely, the chocolate brownie is more likely to end in my belly than the broccoli. Thoughts don’t always lead to feelings, but in general, that’s where they come from. Your circumstances don’t always come from your actions, but generally there’s a direct correlation. Make sense?

Resources and further reading
Julia Cameron’s Morning pages. “How to” video. 2:37

The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God through Prayer, Wisdom and Silence. Nouwen, Henri. Dec. 2, 2003.

Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World. Nouwen, Henri. Oct. 1, 2002.

PREVIOUS POST What Mikaela Shiffrin Can Teach Us About Love
NEXT POST The Step-By-Step Process To Develop Poise Under Pressure

Be first in line – the VIP list

When you sign up for the VIP list, you’ll be the first to receive new articles, interviews, techniques and tools—straight to your inbox.

    Join the VIP list to get tips on how to train your mind and heart.