The Foundation of Self-Leadership: Choices and Decision-Making

Jonathan Doyle International Motivational Speaker, Author, Executive Coach and Mentor

Welcome back to the final day of our three-day journey on self-leadership with Jonathan Doyle. If you’re just joining us now, don’t worry; you can catch up by revisiting the previous two episodes where Jonathan delves into the fundamental aspects of self-leadership. Today, we’re diving deep into the mechanics of self-leadership and the crucial role of choices in shaping our character. As Jonathan emphasizes, self-leadership isn’t just for those in formal leadership roles but is essential for every individual’s journey toward personal growth and influence. Join us as we explore the power of choice in molding our character and shaping the trajectory of our lives.

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    Welcome Aboard

    Today is day three of the three-day journey. If you had just heard this and you’re going to hang on day three, I didn’t hear day one, or day two. The good news is that you only have two days to go back. So whenever you are hearing this, go back two episodes. Where I’m starting to talk about self-leadership. I am on a three-day journey around self-leadership, and today’s day three. 

    Today’s good because we’re going to go into the mechanics today. We’re going to go into the mechanics of self-leadership. The single thing that  I’m going to argue determines everything.

    Three-day Journey Overview: Understanding Self-Leadership

    Bedrock Climb - Leadership effectiveness hinges on the bedrock of self-leadership
    Leadership effectiveness hinges on the bedrock of self-leadership

    Quick summary. I don’t want to torture this too much for my listeners who have been on the three-day journey. But my essential principle is that I am teaching that before we worry about leadership in a big context, we want to talk about leadership at the personal level, self-leadership. I argue that we are all leading ourselves somewhere at all times. There’s no homeostasis. We are either going forward or we are going backward.

    So we’ve got to get back into the self-leadership piece. It doesn’t matter whether you’re leading a thousand people or you’re just leading in the home or classroom, or whether you’ve got two people under you or nobody under you. If you don’t have children and you’re completely single, you are just as much as anyone my friend, you are in the task and the journey of self-leadership. You want to do the self-leadership part first, because if we do the self-leadership piece, let me get it right. Then we are safe to lead others.

    I would argue that in our political context, there are so many unsafe people who haven’t done the real work of self-leadership. The pursuit of virtue, so we end up with a very fractured potentially or actually dangerous political reality that we live under. So let’s fix that by fixing ourselves.

    Fundamentals of Self-Leadership

    On day one, we worked under the definition of leadership, which is influence. What’s influence, influence is change. Then, how do you know leadership is happening? Change is happening. What determines the kind of change, that’s part two, leadership is influence, influence is character—the kind of influence that we create in the world in leadership roles. Even if we’re just leading ourselves based on our character. Character is this internal part, this indelible mark, this essence of who we are.

    Character Development Through Choices

    Man Thinking - Every choice we make defines who we are
    Every choice we make defines who we are

    Here is day three. If leadership is influence, and influence is character, What determines our character? Remember, as we said yesterday, personality is relatively fixed. Our core personalities do not change greatly throughout our lives.  But the good news is that our character can, and it does. How do we do it? Leadership is influence,  influence is character. Character equals, I won’t do a drum roll, character equals choices.

    Today, we’re going to talk about choices, decision-making. Your character, who you are right now in many ways, is the sum total of all the choices that you’ve made up to this point. That’s a standard in personal development literature, absolute standards. It’s not entirely true because your circumstances can definitely be impacted externally.

    In the Second World War, if you’re in a concentration camp, that’s not because of your character; there were external forces that impacted you in very significant ways. So I want to give a nod at least to the role of environment and circumstance. But I think that we have culturally forgotten and have all lost the incredible power of decision-making and choices. So you are with me, self-leadership, any form of leadership is influence. Influence is character, and our characters are determined by our choices.

    Aristotle's Insight: Consistent Choices Define Character

    Aristotle Statue - Aristotle's wisdom reminds us that courage, like excellence, is cultivated through repeated action and choice
    Aristotle teaches us that courage, akin to excellence, grows through consistent action and choice

    Now, two things on this. Number one:  I always teach this in seminars. I talk about how Aristotle was asked the famous question, a Greek philosopher and was asked the famous question. How does a courageous person become courageous? And Aristotle said, and the reason they asked that question, of course, was because this is still what you technically call a second-world culture. It’s a culture that’s wrestling between fate and personal gods. They’re just born a particular way, but it’s made away the way we are, or can we change it? Hence, they asked the question to the great philosopher. How does a courageous person become courageous?

    What do they want to know? They wanted to know what we would eat as born courageous. You’ve got a higher courageousness score. How does it happen? And Aristotle said something so important. He simply says, the courageous person does courageous things. That’s simple.

    So what Aristotle, one of the greatest minds in human history, was getting at was not fate, not determinism, but you become what you consistently choose. If you choose to make honest decisions, you become honest. If you choose to constantly encourage and affirm people, you become an encourager.

    For the Greeks two and a half thousand years ago, there was this powerful idea. We become what we repeatedly do. Of course, Aristotle famously said,  excellence therefore is a habit. It’s something that we do regularly. We practice it, we become it.

    Dostoyevsky's Illustration: Action Shapes Character

    I always also talk about Dostoyevsky’s famous novel Crime and Punishment, where early in that famous novel, which Freud said was the greatest novel ever written,  You’ve got this protagonist, this young man, and he’s thinking about murder. He’s full of resentment, bitterness, and anger, and he’s poor and hungry. And he hates his landlord, and he resents his landlord. He harbors this bitterness and resentment, and he’s constantly thinking about murdering his landlord. And then, early in the book, he eventually carries out the murder.

    The point is, as he’s making it really clearly, and that opening sequence is: all the time that young man is thinking about murder. His character is the character of a person thinking about murder.  But he makes a very clear point that once he commits the action, he moves from being someone who is thinking about murder to instantly become a murderer. You might say that’s not all he is. I agree, that’s not all he is. But he has created a change in his nature by the action that he undertook.

    Embracing Consciousness in Decision-Making

    Man in Crossroad - Leadership is about the choices we make and the character we build
    Leadership is about the choices we make and the character we build

    Leadership is influence, influence is character, character is choices. So this is the mechanism for change. If we want to have a great influence on ourselves, if we want to have a greater influence on the world. Then it’s going to be dependent on our character. Our character, unlike our personalities, is something that we do get a chance to impact. Can you feel the weight of that? Because, as I’ve been saying for a long time, my friends were living in an incredibly unconscious culture, through addictions and technology, busyness, and stress. Many of us have sucked into the vortex of unconsciousness. To become conscious means that we begin to think deeply about our lives.

    "Your entire life up to this point has been mostly determined by your choices. If you want to change the future then pay attention to your decision-making."

    I was at a church service yesterday at the cathedral. The archbishop, in his homily, just said something that really stayed with me. He said, You need to ponder your life. He said to go home after this service. Don’t put the TV on; just sit quietly and ponder your life. And of course, Aristotle famously said the unexamined life is not worth living.

    He was trying to tell us that we needed to think deeply about how we are living. I’m really on this journey at the moment. I’m just like, constantly thinking about my behaviors and my choices.

    Power of Intentional Choices: Importance of Mindful Consumption

    Intentional choices shape every aspect of life, from nutrition to reading habits, defining our journey
    Intentional choices shape every aspect of life, from nutrition to reading habits, defining our journey

    You all know, I do a lot of training,  the way that I eat, the way that I train. I’m really making granular choices. It’s not obsessive like that. I don’t hear it that way. But I take it seriously. I look at my sleep. My stress levels, my nutrition, and my exercise. I look at these parts of my life, and I try to keep them optimized and in balance because I think deeply, like I don’t just mindlessly eat the wrong things. I don’t mindlessly consume content that’s just pointless. I’m just really trying to dial it in. Because I know that my choices have power.

    Even at the moment, I’ve been saying for two weeks that I’m powering through this 1000-page biography of Ulysses S. Grant, who was the Supreme Commander of Union Forces in the American Civil War. It’s just such a great book, and it’s such a fascinating study; I’m not telling you to read it. I’m just saying that. I made a choice to read things about the great men and women of history, the great experiences, conflicts, and issues of the world, history, and people, because I want to learn and grow. These are decisions—choices that shape who I become.

    Empowering Self-Leadership: Emphasizing the Power of Choices

    Own your path with self-leadership. Shape your journey through choices and character
    Own your path with self-leadership. Shape your journey through choices and character

    So at the end of this three-day series, I’m trying to put the power back in your hands. I’m trying to help you see that self-leadership is a thing and self-leadership is influencing yourself. The influence you have over yourself is conditioned by your character, and your character is conditioned by your choices. This is gold. If we can start to really conceptualize this and live it. Very powerful stuff.

    All right. That’s it from me. That’s our three-day sequence. Leadership is influence, influence is character, character is choices. Let’s get dialed in on our choices. My friends, God has given you this incredible gift of life. This incredible gift of free will. We get to choose. You get to choose who you are becoming. I said on my last speaking tour that we are not just human beings, we are humans. becomings.

    Conclusion: Call to Action and Connect

    Jonathan Doyle International Motivational Speaker, Author, Executive Coach and Mentor .
    Jonathan Doyle: International motivational speaker, author, executive coach and mentor

    All right. Go check out the website, Instagram: @jdoylespeaks and on YouTube. It’s all there. Let me know what you think. Share this with some people; please make sure you’re subscribed.

    My name’s Jonathan Doyle. This has been the Daily Podcast. You and I are going to talk again tomorrow.

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    Jonathan Doyle


    I’m on a mission to liberate the potential of the incredible people that make up your organisation, school, or business.

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