One of my favorite things to do when I find myself in a rut is to find a great book to read. Without fail my creativity ignites as my brain spotlights areas where I can apply the knowledge and ideas. I am always energized and ready to tackle new projects as I read a great book. Here are a few of the books that have helped me stay fresh:
Leadership and Self Deception
This book is written as a parable, in story format, which makes it simple and fun to read. In life, we have moments of selfishness and unselfishness. Throughout the day we may have noble thoughts of unselfishly helping a specific person. If you are religious you might sometimes call this thought a prompting. For instance, if you are married with children, you may have been awaken by a child crying in the night. Your first thought may have been to get up and rock the child to sleep before they woke your spouse up. This is a noble and unselfish thought, you are viewing your spouse as an important person that you care about. But you are tired, and rightly so, you were already up late working on a project that is due tomorrow. You have to present in the morning so you need your sleep. These, thoughts may be true but they are selfish thoughts because you are focusing on yourself and not others. To make ourselves feel better about our selfish thoughts we tend to dehumanize the person we were going to help. For some reason our brain needs to make them unworthy of the unselfish act and the person quickly becomes an object. It is their job to take care of the kids. They have it easy, they don’t have the pressure that you do. Why aren’t they waking up? Why are they being so irresponsible? Suddenly we have taken a situation and skewed it so it benefits our selfish desires.
When we do this, we are being dishonest to ourselves and demonizing the person. What exasperates the problem is that we then need the other person to be selfish or lazy so we can justify our thoughts. We tend to look for things that are wrong with the person, or even to pick fights to prove that we were right. In reality, while we are demonizing them, we are becoming the monster. This attitude and behavior is destructive to the relationship and is a self-reinforcing cycle.
What’s worse is that we are often blind to the fact that we are even engaging in the self-destructive behavior. It is easy to spot in others, but more difficult to spot in ourselves. When you betray yourself you begin to see the world in a way that justifies your self-betrayal. You focus on the other person’s faults and at the same time inflate your virtues. Your view of reality becomes distorted. When I have done this, I have noticed that I feel isolated and alone. I often feel angry and my relationships go down hill. No one wants a selfish friend or spouse. We want to be around caring considerate people. If I continue in this cycle and treat people poorly to justify my behavior it begins to become part of my character.
To free yourself from the box, or paradigm you have created, you need to focus on being unselfish and honoring the person as a person. As you begin to consider why you are feeling the way you do, and as you begin to think of external factors that may have caused the person’s behavior you begin to see the world correctly. Other books have suggested that we ask “Why would a reasonable, rational person do this?” Do I really think that they acted that way to purposefully harm me? Are they really lazy, stupid, or incompetent? Think of examples when they haven’t displayed these characteristics. Even if the person is to blame, does blaming them and treating them poorly ever help the person get better? Does it ever improve your relationships?
As you think about people you have followed as leaders, you may come to the same conclusion that the book points out. The leaders people choose to follow are the leaders who are out of the box, because those leaders are servant leaders that treat people with dignity and respect. They love, and serve, and inspire instead of blaming and ripping down. People follow them because they know the leader has their best interest in mind. I highly recommend this book, it is a good read with great principles! They also have a lot of good examples in the book that may help you realize when you are “in the box”.