On Being a Role Model - Are You a Shining Example or Glaring Warning?
Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating. That applies to all of us!
Role Models Through Life
From an early age, people come into our lives influencing our beliefs and values, ultimately leading us to a life of joy and success, or one of pain and despair. Whether we know it or not, we are role models as parents, educators, coaches, clergy, civic leaders, peers and the myriad of other people we encounter in life. We influence others every moment of every day.
Every experience, relationship, lesson, opinion and word we utter or hear throughout life leaves an imprint in our psychology. These imprints alter the entire course of our lives.
Having positive role models is key to living in a world of good and inspiring our next generation to do the same. Teaching our children to navigate life with optimism, initiative, strength, and courage is crucial to being role models for healthy and happy lives.
Shining Examples & Glaring Warnings
As we form beliefs about what is right and wrong, good or bad, or joyful or sad, we gravitate toward people who we see as shining examples on how to live life and reach our dreams. The opposite is also true. We repel people who seem to be glaring warnings of what not to do, what to avoid, and what is truly wrong in life.
Who in your life is a shining example of how to be in life?
Who is a glaring warning of what to not to do?
Making a Living Instead of a Life
Basketball Hall of Famer John Wooden once said, “Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating...too often people neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life.”
Many of us are often caught up in our hectic fast paced world where we were taught that to be happy, we have to do more, be more, and have more. In the whirlwind of making a living, we neglect living a life as a model to teach our children what is really important.
Default Role Models
When no role model appears at home, our children will look elsewhere – to the other people, to peers, to other adults and to the media. Scary isn’t it?
Imagine the role models and heroes in their video games, on television, at the movies, in politics. Who would you want as a role model for your child?
Take a moment and consider the role models in your own life.
Who inspires you?
What qualities about them are key for you?
Which of those qualities would you like to embody?
Have you ever shared that with your children?
Now take a moment and consider the people who would never be a role model for you.
What qualities about them repel you?
What lessons can you take from their life to help you avoid the life they lead?
Have you shared this with your children?
Qualities identified by teens in choosing a role model
Recent research conducted by Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell studied how teens and college students develop the skills, abilities, and inspiration to become motivated and engaged citizens. The study found that being an effective role model to these young adults had little to do with material wealth or famous status fame. Instead their role models had more to do with certain qualities that inspired them to achieve their full potential in life.
The top five qualities described by these young adults in the study are listed below. A similar sampling of adults described these qualities in their own role models. In addition to these five qualities, the adults also included compassion, listening and fearlessness while not ranking commitment to the greater good and community as high as the young adults.
The one overwhelming common quality between the adults and the students in the research study was the “ability to inspire others.”
Inspiring role models are passionate about their work. That passion is magnetic and inspires those around them. Many students talked about their teachers who loved and were passionate about teaching. This infectious passion was truly meaningful to these students and inspired them to do more. Students recognized that their efforts to do more and genuinely impart wisdom to their students opened possibility and the desire to work harder.
It’s also one of the greatest joys as a teacher. My husband is a passionate historian and a has taught world history for over 22 years. One of his greatest joys has been having students come back year after year to tell him they pursued history in college and beyond because of his inspiration. Passion in your work fuels itself and sustains a cycle leading to inspiration and more passion in others.
2. Walk Their Talk
True role models live act with a clear set of values.
We all know talk is easy. When life is going well, it’s easy to live with integrity, do the right thing and act for the greater good. When it really counts is when people are challenged, angry or things are going the way you want. Are they still able to walk their talk then? Students in this study truly admire people who act in alignment with their values. It helps them learn about their own values and model how to live those values as an adult.
I personally believe that everything you do or say in life is signed with your “psychic imprint.” There is no taking back an action. It’s key for our children to understand that their actions do matter and they impact our world.
Having positive role models to teach them to “walk their talk” is key to creating a better world for all of us. We know it and based on this study, young adults know it too.
3. Commitment to the Greater Good
Role Models focus on other people rather than being self-centered. Students are inspired by people who generously give their time and energy to care for others. They notice when people give back to their communities, help neighbors and friends in need, vote and were active in organizations serving the greater good. These actions demonstrate how to be a selfless giver in life and inspire others to do the same.
4. Acceptance & Nonjudgment
Students appreciated and respected people who were able to accept and serve others that were different from them.
This concept of nonjudgment is critical for true leaders and role models.
When you judge someone it says more about your values and beliefs than it does about the other person. Also, when you judge someone, you narrow the scope within which you can influence them. Being open and accepting creates a wide open space to understand differences and be together in any situation, community and the world at large.
5. Grit & Overcoming Obstacles
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which one has overcome.” ~ Booker T. Washington
Many students shared how they developed real life skills by overcoming challenges and obstacles in their lives. They truly respected and were inspired by people who showed them that success is possible despite all odds. These are the heroes we all admire and cheer on in life.
These heroes with grit and perseverance are the people that inspire movies, books and some of our greatest stories passed from generation to generation.
Additional research shows that there is a direct correlation between positive role models and self-efficacy (the mindset and belief in yourself). Students in the studies shared that they needed the ability to believe in themselves to know they could make a difference in the world. Having positive role models inspired that possibility.
Our world needs more role models and leaders now more than ever.
Take a few moments right now and take an inventory of these qualities.
Where are we providing the best role models for our children and ourselves?
Most importantly, ask yourself, “Am I am shining example or a glaring warning to people in my life?”
Be Well, Be Joyful, Be Inspired…
Have a Beautiful Day…