Children learn a lot in their early years by observing and mimicking their parents. My husband, daughter and I still chuckle about the time we were at the dinner table, with Kaitlin in her youth chair. Suddenly she started making weird movements with her arms, obviously trying to do something. My husband and I gave one another puzzled looks, then watched. She finally figured it out and happily started eating with her elbow on the table, just the way her father did. We didn’t have the heart to tell her that wasn’t really a skill worth developing. To this day she has to remind herself not to do it when she’s at a social affair.
Years later, when we dropped her off at college for her freshman year, I was feeling sad until my husband gave me a big smile and said, “So, we no longer have to be a good example for our child. Where shall we go and what shall we do?” It was just what I needed. She was an adult now, free to re-evaluate what she had learned from us and to choose new role models if they worked better for her. We were still a safety net, but we, too, were free to expand the non-parent parts of our lives.
So the question today is, “What new role models have you found or created for yourself?” I’ve been having a heart-warming time the past few days thinking of mine. I take scenes from movies, books or my life and use them as visual metaphors for qualities I want to develop/maintain in myself. There are too many to discuss in detail here, but they’re vivid and inspirational…and they make my life rich. I’ve discussed one of them, the one I used most from the ages of 15 to 35, over at Cheerful Monk.
Another image is of an anthropology professor I had at Stanford. When some of us students were discussing the academic pressure and the need to do well for our futures, he gave us a sympathetic, “you-poor-clueless-things” look. He hadn’t gone to a fancy college, but he was interested in anthropology and did good solid work. He did it because he loved it and wound up teaching at a prestigious university. I’ve been thinking of that brief, life-altering scene a lot lately…when I read blogs about setting goals for success. I’ve gone to workshops where we were supposed to do that. My vision was always of me working on something I loved for its own sake, not the for rewards at the end. The workshop leaders would always say that doesn’t work, it’s not specific enough…you can’t visualize the end result and you can’t measure your progress. But I’m with Steve Jobs and Jim Buckmaster…you might have to do a bit of searching, but don’t settle for anything less.
I had trouble finding a good role model for handling stress, so I compiled the list of stress-hardy, resilient people and created a mental image to represent it in my mind. Whenever I’m in a stressful situation I go over the list and imagine how the ideal person would handle it. The mental rehearsal firmly plants the desired behavior/attitude in my subconscious. As time goes by the traits are becoming internalized…I just have to remember the image and don’t have to look at the list.
And that, of course, is what role models are all about…to internalize attitudes and behaviors so they’re automatic, there for you when you need them. What about you? Do you use role models? How do you internalize desired behaviors and attitudes? Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments section.
Duck picture by SAReed via Flickr. Used with permission. All rights reserved by owner.
Related posts: April Groves has started a meme on visualizing your future self.
Thanks to bikehikebabe and Shirley for commenting last week.