Blog 2019 05 01 Be severe only with yourself

Be severe only with yourself

I’m a strict person with a relatively high level of self-discipline. I’m strict with myself and with most of the others. Especially with those who I respect, with those who I consider more capable. I’ve recently realized that this might be a big mistake.

A truly important person to me has complained a lot to me that I’m very strict and critical of her whereas from others I accept the same, behaviour not to mention certain mistakes. I’ve kept telling her that it’s because I truly appreciate her more, I think she is way better than those who I don’t criticise. I hold her to different standards. In fact, I hold her to the same standards as myself.

On the one hand, this could be very flattering to her, but at the same time, it gives unnecessary pressure and made her feel bad.

Reading about the Stoic philosophy, I’ve begun to understand that it is also unfair. I’ve made, I’ve adopted my standards for myself. I chose them, not someone else - well, maybe my environment did have an effect… People around me or my colleagues didn’t choose those standards. Treating them by the same norms is unfair, and most probably often counterproductive. “It burns people out, and it sets you up for disappointment. Or worse, disillusionment.”

According to the teachings of Marcus Aurelius, your standards are for you and only for you. Your rules should be about self-improvement. You should be strict with yourself and forgiving with other people.

This leads to another question. If you are not strict with others, how can you transform people? How can you transform a team of developers to be better, to care more?

Maybe the will to transform people is the problem itself. You might say that there are many people whose main task is to help people getting the best of themselves. Coaches in business life or in sports are set to do that, they want you to change, to get better. For them it’s fine because they are actually asked to do that, that’s how they earn their money. The mentioned businessmen and athletes do actively seek someone to tell them how they should become a better version of themselves.

On the contrary, the people around you most probably haven’t asked for that. They just want to continue the same things they used to do. If you try to force them, it won’t work, worse yet, they will not even like you and obviously, they will not do what you expect. You will be upset. You will be disappointed all the time.

Instead, just do your job. Do your job and do it well. Virtue always has neighbours.

Some will recognize that you are doing the things right, some will start following good practices and at least some of them will eventually follow your way, a few will adopt your standards. But the same few will not follow you if you try to enforce your rules. They will be your followers because what you do is appealing. For that, you have to keep doing the same things over and over again. You have to be persistent and strict with yourself. Don’t forget; strict with yourself and forgiving with the others.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.