Just as water moulds it way into rock, the people we encounter leave their mark on the bedrock of our world too.
As you think of areas in your life that have been influenced or shaped by others, it can seem as if the enriching encounters happen more by luck and good fortune.
When luck is an attitude, you control the influences entering your life. It becomes our responsibility to minimise exposure to the corrosive ones and become able to cherry pick just the right kind of positive influence on your experiences, actions and thoughts.
As you do this, you gain strength and confidence in your ability to manage the stresses life throws up at you.
Role Models encourage:
Viktor Frankl survived Auschwitz. Surrounded by evil, death and fear, he found a way to continue his life’s work. Terry Fator’s dedication to his art went unappreciated for many years before he finally won America’s Got Talent and became internationally reknowned. Nobody would have thought any less of Frankl or Fator if they had given up. In fact, many would have expected it. But thankfully, Frankl and Fator were not driven by what was expected, they were driven by their own aspirations and beliefs.
As role models, they teach us that it’s okay to trust ourselves and to work towards what we want despite circumstances.
2) Faith in your ability
Milton Erickson was paralyzed through polio aged 17. Watching his baby sister learn how to crawl helped him become aware of his own muscles again. Stroke victims have also found role models in babies when re-learning how to walk.
Until 1954, nobody had run a mile under 4 minutes. Then Roger Bannister did it. Just 46 days later, his record was broken. Records continue to be broken because of the role model effect. If one person can do something, someone else can learn to do it too.
Watching a master at work is a graceful experience. Your hungry student eyes will let you pick up the nuances that marks the person out as a master.
When problems and obstacles seem a hassle or even unsurmountable, it can be easy to remain at best in a comfortable everyday rut and at worst, a victim. Limiting your exposure to negative people, and having people around you with the type of energy that moves you, provides a helping hand that complements your own efforts. With resistance being what it is, it’s up to you to let their positive influence in.
A role model inspires you to step beyond wishful thinking and into a place of action.
4) Self awareness
Sometimes, a kick in the butt comes from the unlikeliest sources. I once worked with a guy who would snack on an apple every afternoon. At precisely 3pm, he’d polish his apple diligently for 5 straight minutes with a white cotton hanky while my ears waited for their miserable exposure to the inevitable juice-sodden crunch that would resound in his mouth for an eternity. Then he’d recline his chair and stare into space for a while before pulling another bite from the poor apple, sucking it dry before finally putting it out of its misery. Every day I would sit and seethe at this disgusting ritual.
It was a rude awakening when I realised that boredom and frustration in my own job were resenting him for having the job I deserved. This was even though I knew his job would take my career in a direction I didn’t want to go. That spurred me to face my fears about doing what I wanted to do and ultimately taught me to understand the stress signals in my body before they impacted my behaviour.
When you take an unreasonable dislike to someone, there’s a good chance you are seeing something about yourself being reflected back at you.
5) New perspectives
In everyday life, we follow patterns that we have created. You may have noticed that in your personal relationships you tend to favour a particular sense. You may lose yourself in the closeness of touch, the musical sound of voice, the comfort of words or the delightful vision before you. This pattern tends to hold true in the various aspects of your life although the favoured sense may change according to context.
A role model encourages us to step out of these patterns and experience things using more of our senses. As children, we used all our senses all the time. We loved getting dirty, feeling the paint, seeing the colour and making a lot of noise. Role models can give us a similar sense of freedom and opportunity. Because we’re out of our usual pattern for the moment, we’re using more of the lesser used senses in that particular context and so process the information in a different way.
6) Your intrinsic value
Here’s a quote from “The Waltons”, a childhood favourite.
“[narration as John 'John Boy' Walton, Jr. reading from his journal] Whenever I look back to those days when I was growing up in the Great Depression, I’m always convinced that I came from a remarkable family. It wasn’t that my brothers and sisters and I were sheltered from the realities of those difficult times. It was simply that our mother and father had a way of making more of what we had and less of what we didn’t have.”
Role models help us to make more of what we hold inside us. As you fulfil your potential with integrity, in a way that meets your values, your self-esteem flourishes.
7) Independent thought
You will never be your role model. And that’s a good thing. You will infuse what they teach you with your own qualities and produce something fresh and unique as you grow into your dreams.
That’s when you realise that your individuality isn’t something you display by simply being quirky. Your individuality is your gift to the lives you touch – once you lose the fear to use it.
If life is a game of Snakes & Ladders, role models bring more ladders onto your board.
How have you been inspired or helped by a role model?