164). "Worry, believe it or not," Ellis continues, "has no magical quality of staving off bad luck. On the contrary, it increases your chances of disease or accident by unnerving you" (Ellis, 1997, p. 164). Thus, worrying about and subsequently avoiding fearful situations really accomplishes nothing but perpetuating the fearful situation and the worry; the situation will continue to exist if it isn't addressed. If the situation causes one distress, it follows that one will continue to feel distress unless the situation somehow, magically, disappears. Indeed, Elko & Ostrow (1991) point out that those with anxiety are prone to 'worry about worry,' worry about the outcome itself, and even perform worse than those that do not worry. Moreover, in situations where one is the leader, such as in Lincoln's case, fearful situations almost never disappear, because leaders are precisely the individuals that are expected to spearhead fearful situations.
Lincoln further fueled his adeptness as a great leader by following what Janke (2010) termed "The Ingredients of Self-Discipline:" (1) self-control: acting in control of one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, (2) motivation: the innate incentive inside a person that energizes her efforts, (3) persistence: the ability to endure adverse situations and carry on one's tasks unaffectedly, and (4) goals: striving to achieve the attainment of a situation that symbolizes to oneself "success."
After all, consider Lincoln's failures at the beginning of his career; they weren't just two or three minor setbacks over the course of a couple months. His string of 'defeats' were consistent events that spanned the course of over 27 years (Janke, 2010). Had Lincoln not had self-control, he might have gone, literally, crazy, and thus, obviously, never have become the President of the United States. Had he not been motivated, he would have quit after his first business went bankrupt, or his second, or after he was defeated three times in four years in bids for the U.S. Congress. Indeed, Lincoln's motivation did seem "Super-Human," as Janke seemed to enjoy referring to him as (2010). Had the former President not been persistent, how could he have endured the loss of a fiancee, the trials of leadership of the Civil War, the string of defeats, and the constant push and pull of the Congress and his Cabinet members on his Presidency? Indeed, he must have had goals, for else what would he have worked so hard?
The purpose of this essay has been to relate a number of the assigned readings, both in the texts and online, to the way in which former President Abraham Lincoln led the United States during his presidency. I hoped to use the President's time in office as a sort of analogy -- striving to show an understanding of emotional destiny, how Lincoln's strategies for leadership were directly applicable to 'normal' people today, and how his strategies, which closely aligned with the philosophies of Ellis, Epictetus, and a number of the authors of the assigned readings, as well as other various Internet resources, can serve as a modern guide for efficient problem solving, a healthy, stable view of the world, and a rational approach to thought and behavior.
Selected points significant to leadership in a Guide to Rational Living by Ellis, a. And Harper, R.A. (1997).
Chapter 14, "Controlling Your Own Emotional Destiny"
"Irrational Belief No. 5: The idea you must be miserable when you have pressures and difficult experiences; and that you have little ability to control, and cannot change, your disturbed feelings" (p. 155). Pressures and difficult experiences are often characteristics of positions of leadership. Thus it is important to understand that this belief is indeed irrational.
"When faced with an actual...deprivation...you can accept it philosophically and try, as best you can, to ignore or distract yourself from it" (p. 161). This passage relates to leadership strategies to overcoming group problems. If something goes wrong, a capable leader should accept it philosophically; recognize its existence and move on by taking steps to work around it with the resources available.
If you're criticized, first judge the validity of the criticism. If it is totally or in part valid, take steps to modify your behavior to accept your own 'failings' and others' disapproval.
Chapter 15, "Conquering Anxiety and Panic"
"Irrational Belief No. 6: The idea that if something is dangerous or fearsome, you must obsess about it and frantically try to escape from it" (p. 163). Leadership requires accepting dangerous or fearsome situations. Such an attitude allows careful assessment of alternatives and priorities. "The more you upset yourself, the less you will be able to wisely cope with real danger" (p. 164).
"As noted above, Skinner was opposed by the majority of psychologists for his views, defined his own conclusions as 'good' and 'reinforcing,' and chose to see their opposition (social disapproval) as not particularly penalizing" (p. 172). To act with resolve and innovation, one must often see opposition as a positive development -- as a sign that an innovative strategy is being pursued.
Leadership can result in disapproval. "Disapproval may be advantageous -- but is only a self-defined 'horror'" (p. 174).
Chapter 16, "Acquiring Self-Discipline"
Irrational Belief No. 7: The idea that you can easily avoid facing many difficulties and self-responsibilities and still lead a highly fulfilling existence" (p. 177). Leadership is rife with tough decisions. Avoiding them reinforces future avoidant behavior. Leaders are not effective when they avoid tough decisions. Leaders that take on difficult decisions with gusto are the ones held in the highest regard.
"We achieve few outstanding gratifications without risk-taking" (p. 178).
It is difficult for one to begin a task in which he understands that the benefits of said tasks will not be reaped for some amount of time. The 'trick' is to understand that avoiding beginning a necessary task will only reinforce the belief that one is not capable of doing the task, making it more difficult in the long-run.
Bullets -- Chapter 17, "Rewriting Your Personal History"
Irrational Belief No. 8: The idea that your past remains all-important and that because something once strongly influenced your life, it has to keep determining your feelings and behavior today" (p. 187). In other words, potential leaders may prevent themselves from becoming leaders because they've never done anything of the sort in the past.
It is important for leaders to keep an open mind when facing difficulties; they must not think that, because they were 'defeated' in one type of situation, they will always be 'defeated' by other situations of a similar type.
Understand that your present is your past of tomorrow (p. 194).
Online Reading Response
At first glance, "The Seven Faces of Destiny" by George a. Boyd, on his website, "Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies," appears to lie in direct contradiction to the chapters assigned that regarded controlling one's emotional destiny, for this section of the website initially makes the claim that a "karmic template is handed down to you at the time of your birth and includes the blessings and adversities of your fate." At first, I took this to mean that Boyd was asserting that one didn't have control over one's emotional destiny. However, the author soon goes on to qualify his writing: certain facts regarding one's existence are inalienable; "traits of destiny" can exist as physical characteristics, particular talents (or lack thereof) and more.
Some people, Boyd says (as does Ellis), blame themselves harshly for these "predestined" factors of their lives because they cannot control them. However, Boyd suggests that the wiser way of being is to work with your predetermined destiny; to recognize your weaknesses and building upon your strengths, because trying to change situations over which you have no control is a waste of energy, an exercise in frustration, and is best accepted and dealt with as a 'normal' part of life.
Much of this particular reading is focused on karma, on karmic destiny, and things like "karmic accretions," which don't necessarily appeal to me. Still, what remains easily recognizable is the value to be taken from Boyd's thoughts on situations of which we have little to no control.
"The School of Self-Discipline," a website created by Michael Janke, containing excerpts of a book by Michael Janke, deals with self-discipline and how it can make humans into "Super-Humans." What Janke seems to be attempting to signify with this term are, simply, highly influential people, and specifically, famous historical figures (as per his examples).
Self-discipline has four key ingredients -- self-control, motivation, persistence, and goals. If we are to achieve self-discipline, all four of these characteristics must be in place and enforced on a daily basis. Janke also writes that, to ensure "success," one must understand how to strengthen the ingredients of self-discipline while eliminating self-destructive behaviors.