Posted December 20, 2016 by Jessi Eaton 

Self-Mastery: What Does Your Report Card Look Like?

When I was in grade school, we used to get report cards that measured not just our proficiency at reading and math, but also our child development. Next to line items like “Maintains good hygiene,” “Follows directions,” and “Gets along with others,” our teachers would write our marks (in perfect cursive, of course): E for excellent, G for good, N for needs improvement.

For about two years straight, every quarter I brought home a report card full of A’s and E’s, with one exception: Next to “Uses self-control,” I would get a big, fat, frilly N. Now, in my defense, it was usually tied to some variation of needing to raise my hand before blurting out the answer. Anyone who’s been in a meeting with me lately knows I’d still get a big, fat, frilly N on that.

I was reminded of those report cards a couple weeks ago when I had the opportunity to attend the Women’s Leadership Institute in Dana Point, Calif. Our own Kim Harrington presented a workshop on conflict management, and one of the points that she raised in passing was about self-mastery. The term stuck with me, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

We are encouraged to be self-aware in our journeys as student union professionals. (Know your Strengths! What’s your DiSC type? Take the Leadership Challenge and learn more about yourself!) This awareness is important, no question, but what do we do with that knowledge? That’s where the self-mastery comes in.

Do you know someone who tends to treat others poorly, but when confronted says, “Sorry, that’s just who I am!” Someone who allows themselves to be treated poorly but insists they’re helpless to stop it? Those folks are easy to identify, aren’t they. How about this one: Do you know your own weaknesses, but are just too tired, afraid, or stubborn to do anything to change them? Those spots are where you’re earning an N. That’s where your self-mastery opportunities lie.

But what’s interesting about self-mastery is that it doesn’t just apply to your weaknesses. Take a look at the strengths in your character and those traits or talents that you’re proud of. Are you mastering the use of those skills as well to further increase your value to your institution, department, and most importantly your students? Are there ways to leverage your talents to optimize your productivity, grow your programs, or feed your passion?

There are still plenty of N’s on my report card. Patience, listening, excessive coffee consumption—all definitely need some work. What does your report card look like?


Jessi Eaton

Jessi Eaton is the Communications Manager at University of Minnesota–Duluth.

Jessi is responsible for communications strategy and management for the Kirby Student Center, and serves as an advisor for the student newspaper and a civic engagement student organization. She is a member of the ACUI Volunteer Development Team.


Great post, Jessi and great getting to know you better at WLI. I think my report card would have some N's in filing/managing paperwork; eating healthy snacks; and not over-scheduling myself.
Comment posted 12/21/2016 6:02 PM
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