Making active use of role models opens up the opportunities to learn from others who you respect and admire, beyond having a more direct mentor relationship. They are an immensely useful addition to your growth.
At the heart of role modelling is mirroring. We mirror the people around us all the time, even though most of the time we are completely unaware that we are. It is a fundamental aspect to how we learn. You could even say that it’s the most effortless way of learning because it’s what our brain does unconsciously.
You can see this in its most simple form when someone else yawns and it makes you yawn. or when someone you’re talking to tilts their head and you realize that you’re doing the same thing. We also mirror more enduring behaviors: the way we talk may be influenced by our partner; the opinions we have echo those of a co-worker or someone we’ve heard on a podcast; our values reflect those of our parents. All day, every day, we are mirroring other people, so it makes sense to be proactive about how we make use of it, choosing role models, behaviors and attitudes that help us to grow and improve, to fulfil our potential and to take us where we want to go in life.
Often, role models are subconsciously chosen. However, by actively identifying them you can find those people who you can look to for the areas of yourself that you want to develop.
Start by looking at your strengths, values, passions, purpose, and areas for development and thinking about who:
- has particular strengths and what you could learn from them;
- has values that align with yours and what those values look like;
- pursues their passions effectively;
- already does the things that you’re working on and whose purpose aligns with your own.
It’s likely that different people fulfill different aspects of what you are looking for. That’s OK. No single person will have it all but you can piece together what you are looking for by watching various people. For example, you could be a good negotiator but there will be someone who is even better. They could become your role model for this. You could watch what they do in order to help you to develop that strength even more. Another person may fight for human rights which is a purpose that you share. What do they do and how do they do it? What can you learn from them? It’s almost like stitching together your ideal self by looking at people who carry out the various behaviors and approaches you aspire to brilliantly.
Extract from Defining You – How to Profile Yourself and Unlock Your Full Potential.