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Hacking Netflix for Self-Leadership? Yes please!

I remember the days of arguing with my sister about who had to get up to turn the channel on the television - there was no remote, no streaming services and no flat screen. This makes me sound like I am from the dark ages - the TV was a big box that sat with ‘bunny ears’ on top - if we had a bad storm, forget about getting a signal, we just had to deal and go and do something else.


Saturdays were meticulously timed around waiting for our favourite shows (Saved by the Bell, anyone?) – If we missed it due to weekend sport then it was devastation – until the VCR came along! How times change, and the capacity for us to access the world – on demand no less - is at our fingertips.



While this can be very gratifying and definitely helpful, having so much to choose from (and immediately!) can make it harder to be intentional with our decisions – particularly if we are tired and overwhelmed. So here are 3 tips and 15 shows to keep self-leadership at the forefront of our mind when using Netflix, including self-knowledge, self-goal setting and self-regulation.


Self-Knowledge: Learn More About Yourself & Others


Knowing more about who you are and how your mind works gives you power. There are a multitude of documentaries on the human brain and body, as well as on people who are inspiring and living a life true to their values and beliefs - quite often out of alignment with the general ‘norms’ and expectations of society at large. Use this knowledge to reflect on your own self and inspire you to make decisions that align with your ideas of a life well-lived. Shows to explore:

  • Brene Brown’s Call to Courage examines what it means to be vulnerable, and to truly show up as yourself in life.

  • The Minimalists: Less is Now is a documentary about ‘stuff’, and how the material things we think will make us happy, don’t.

  • Michelle Obama’s Becoming, is a documentary about her life, and who she is and what she stands for as a person, beyond her role as former first lady of the USA.

  • Embrace, is a documentary by activist Taryn Brumfitt, about body image, body shaming and how to perceive our bodies in new and positive ways.

  • The Mind: Explained is a series covering topics such as personality, how to focus and creativity, helping you to learn more about yourself and implicit ways the brain responds.

Self-Goal Setting: Develop Positive Habits and Observe Competence


One way to use Netflix to your advantage before even turning it on, is to prime your brain to view it as a reward. James Clear talks about this in his book, Atomic Habits. Help yourself do something you don’t want to do (or ‘have’ to do), and link it with something you want to do (like the next episode of Squid Game that you’ve been hanging out to watch). Getting your ‘work’ done first and then having your ‘reward’ helps you to more consistently get those tasks finished that are essential before relaxing. Alternatively, you could stack these activities together so that washing the dishes or exercising is all the more enjoyable with entertainment on.

Surrounding yourself with people who are doing great things is a way to enhance your own performance – both encouraging you to extend yourself and stretch your limits, as well as by providing motivation and inspiration to live life on your own terms. This is not to say that watching a doco on a child chess prodigy will suddenly help you learn the rules, but it can be the spark that lights a fire in you to find and pursue your own passion, or to recognise the same traits of hard work, persistence and resilience that are necessary for success. Shows to explore:

  • The Dawn Wall is a visually stunning documentary that follows two free-climbers scaling El Campitan in Yosemite National Park, and the grit and perseverance needed to accomplish their goal.

  • The River Runner follows a kayaker whose aim is to be the first to paddle the four great rivers flowing from Tibet’s Mount Kailash, and the tremendous personal growth and transformation that happens in his life along the way.

  • My Octopus Teacher is centered around a South African filmmaker as he documents his relationship with the natural world, in particular an octopus, and how this healed him and changed his outlook on life.

  • Cheer may not be what comes to everyone’s mind immediately when you say ‘athleticism’, but let this docuseries prove that wrong, as it follows the complete dedication, perseverance and commitment of each athlete on Navarro’s team competing for the National Championships.

Self-Regulation: Embrace wonder and awe, and give your mind a break


There are so many things that can make us remember how small and insignificant we are – time, space, and the natural world are just a few of them. Pausing to reflect on our finite time and how spectacular and finely-tuned our universe is can give us perspective and help us to appreciate all we have. Embracing wonder and awe can fill us with gratitude and positivity for our chance to be part of this incredible world we live in.


Learning something new, like meditation, is now available to us on demand as well. Developing our capacity to be aware of our minds, thoughts and tendencies provides us great capacity to be more present and find more joy in our lives too, as well as help us to navigate the not-so-pleasant feelings.


Shows to explore:

  • Sir David Attenborough – someone who has dedicated his life to the natural world - has many documentaries that provide us with the opportunity to appreciate our place in the intricate ecosystem we are part of – and inspire us to do our best for ourselves and the planet.

  • Moving Art is a series showcasing spectacular imagery all over the world to just enjoy - no narration, just a visual feast of places that we could only dream of visiting (especially during these world-pandemic times).

  • Watch the Headspace video to learn more about focus, letting go of stress and how meditation can benefit you in life. There is a short, guided meditation at the end, to try it out. And don’t beat yourself up or give it away if it is hard or uncomfortable – as with any new skill, it takes practice.

  • There is an interactive version from Headspace, which asks you to check in with yourself and adjusts the content to suit what you need right now, like help with relaxing, meditating or getting to sleep.

  • Change your sensory atmosphere and help yourself relax with Crackling Fireplace, and see if this provides you a sense of comfort and warmth while you go about your business.

Looking back on my childhood, I am glad everything wasn’t on demand - it taught me about resilience, persistence, and coping with not getting what I wanted all the time. The rabbit hole of Netflix runs deep. And there will never be enough time to watch everything (or read every book, or listen to every song), so being intentional becomes essential with how you use your time.

We all need to rest sometimes and give ourselves permission to indulge in a healthy bit of escapism, if that is what we need. In fact, knowing when you need to ‘switch off’ and rest is important and part of healthy recharging.


However, knowing yourself and why you are turning to Netflix (are you tired, burnt out, feeling low, procrastinating or just want to be entertained?) is the difference between you controlling this urge, and the urge controlling you. Be honest with yourself and reflect on what it is you are after before pressing play (or ‘Next Episode’) to use this tool, like any other, to your advantage.

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