Television viewers are fascinated by aggressive leaders. Popular shows include ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’, where chef Gordon Ramsay brings radical change to failing restaurants. The programme follows a pattern: Gordon arrives; he is shocked to discover how bad things are; he reads the riot act, ruffling feathers and offending people; some resist; the resistance is overcome; the restaurant gratefully moves into a bright new future.
One of the drivers for the show is the fact that it is hard for people and organisations to upgrade themselves from the inside. It often takes an outside influence to bring change. Why should we need an outside influence to effect change?
- We blame others. When things seem wrong, most humans find it easier to demonise other people than themselves. Holding oneself responsible is a fearful thing. Even when humans do hold themselves responsible, they often crumble in a mess of regret, forgetting to do the most important thing – to correct their own future behaviour.
- We procrastinate. Humans are masters of delay. Without an outside force pressurising us, we tend to go easy on ourselves.
- We choose the easiest options. Humans also have a tendency to fall into the easiest habits. We find it hard to force ourselves into new patterns of living, preferring to default to our usual ways.
Our fascination with aggressive leaders is, in part, an attempt to escape these faults. If the leader holds us accountable, then we cannot blame others so easily. If the leader makes us do something now, then we cannot procrastinate. And if the leader insists on a new pattern of living, then we cannot default to the old pattern.
One of the hardest aspects of recovering your own mental health, is overcoming the above three human habits. We do not all have the luxury of a leader or coach cajoling performance from us. We have to do it ourselves. We have to be our own leader, our own boss.
Here are three helpful principles, if you are engaged in a course of self-improvement, and want to be your own boss in the process:
- Be accountable. Try excluding any negative talk about others. Try focusing only on what you yourself would like to do next. Hold yourself, and only yourself, accountable.
- Be organised. Use timetables to be crystal clear with yourself about what changes you will make, and when.
- Be brave. Dare to go a little beyond your comfort zone, and notice how you don’t die when you push a bit. Teach yourself to have courage, to be brave.
USING A THIRD PARTY
You can, of course, use the temporary assistance of a third party for self-improvement. You can find someone or something outside yourself to support you in your quest. Options include a coach, a counsellor, a group or class, or even an app. Others can certainly bring expertise and ideas.
Using a third party makes things easier, because you are following instructions, allowing you to bypass the need to be accountable, orderly and brave yourself. Schools, businesses and religions all take advantage of this fact. When you enlist as pupil, employee or follower, they know you need temporary assistance to bring the focus back to your own actions, to bring organisation to your life, and to help provide confidence and identity.
But, eventually, you can take the strain yourself, once you learn these three key skills:
- Be accountable (don’t blame)
- Be organised (don’t procrastinate)
- Be brave (don’t be lazy)
Without these skills, you may always be dependent on others to help you get through.