One of the most important exercises I recommend in self improvement is to create a “role models” list and describe what you admire about each person and why.
Learning from other people can often be a much bigger resource for improving our lives than any book or class.
When you find someone who has real world experience in an area of life you want to improve, they can become an endless resource of education and motivation to fuel your own self improvement.
In this article, I describe things you can do to make the most of your role models. This is assuming you already have some role models to choose from and learn from.
The main goal with any role model is to get inside their head and try to understand their inner thoughts, feelings, and attitude as best as you can. Here are effective ways to start doing that.
Create a collection of quotes, images, articles, and videos
One of the best ways to learn the mindset of your role models is to keep a collection of their work – including any quotes, images, articles, videos, and whatever else you can find that reveals their personality.
If your role model is a musician, you’re going to want to consume as much of their music as possible. If they’re a director, you’re going to want to watch as many movies they did as possible. And if they’re an athlete, you’re going to want to watch a lot of the games they play in.
Basically, the more you consume of your role model’s work, the more you’re going to learn from them.
I find it particularly helpful to keep track of any interviews you find too. This often gives you a great idea of how your role models have overcome past struggles – and how they manage their failures, success, and growth.
For example, one of my role models for acting and comedy is Robin Williams, so I have a collection of links from YouTube of a lot of the interviews he has done over the years – one of my favorites is his “Inside the Actor’s Studio” interview with James Lipton.
Ultimately, what you collect for each role model is going to depend on what exactly you admire about them. For example, if you admire someone’s physical appearance or fashion sense, then you’d expect to have a lot of pictures in your collection.
Imagine a situation in your life from their perspective
The main goal of having role models is to take something you learn from their lives and find out how to apply it to your own life.
This is why I find it very helpful to imagine a situation in my life from the perspective of one of my role models. I ask myself, “What would _____ do?” and that often opens my mind to different ways of responding to a situation outside of my normal patterns.
- Identify a situation in your life you’re currently struggling in.
- Think of 2-3 people who you know would be able to handle that situation better than you.
- Take 5 minutes to close your eyes and imagine yourself in that situation.
- First imagine how you normally respond to the situation.
- Second imagine how your role model would respond to the situation.
- Compare the similarities and differences. Ask yourself, “What could I learn from this?”
It’s very useful to have the ability to put yourself in someone’s perspective and be able to learn something valuable from that experience.
Perspective-taking is often described as a useful tool in building stronger relationships and resolving conflict, but it’s also just as useful for our own learning and self improvement.
Often times you need to start thinking of yourself in a new way before you can make a positive change in your life.
Tweet → “Often times you need to start thinking of yourself in a new way before you can make a positive change in your life.”
Connect with them and ask questions
Of course, if your role models are people in your daily life – or people you can make direct contact with – then an ideal situation is to be given the opportunity to meet them, speak with them, and ask them questions.
Just one meaningful interaction with a role model can have a profound effect on you. For example, in the first episode of the new Cosmos, Neil Degrasse Tyson shares the story of the one and only time he met his idol Carl Sagan back when he was only 17:
“I already knew I wanted to become a scientist, but that afternoon I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become. He reached out to me and to countless others. Inspiring so many of us to study, teach, and do science. Science is a cooperative enterprise, spanning the generations.”
For many of us, our “role models” aren’t famous people or celebrities, but also our parents, teachers, friends, bosses, coworkers, loved ones, etc.
These types of role models are the most easily accessible resources we have to learn from. We see them on a daily basis, so why not ask them a simple question, “Can you help me with this? What kind of advice do you have for me here?”
I personally find many role models throughout my life are more than happy to give me advice or share their opinion on something. I’ve reached out to countless professors, scientists, philosophers, musicians, athletes and other role models through e-mail or social media, and you’d be surprised how many of them will get back to you.
I owe much of my own success to the many people who have given me valuable advice for no other reason than I simply asked them for a little help.
Write a 500-750 word essay about them
Writing is often a powerful way to reinforce what we’ve learned and put it in our own words. One good exercise is to write your own 500-750 word essay about one of your role models.
Try to answer key questions about the person, such as:
- “What are the things I most admire in this person?”
- “What type of obstacles and struggles did this person have to face throughout their life?”
- “How did this person overcome their obstacles and achieve their success?”
- “What is their overall attitude about life?”
- “What is the single most important piece of advice this person would give me?”
When you write about these things, it gets your mind thinking in new and different directions – which is what you ultimately want when you seek to achieve similar goals in your own life.
If you’re dedicated to making the most of your role models, these are great ways to improve your learning, motivation, and inspiration. Have you been paying attention to the role models in your life lately?
Discover more tools to daily growth in the digital guide The Science of Self Improvement