Why having a role model can change your life

role model

Do you sometimes wish you had someone to answer all your questions and tell you how to run your life?

Tell you which path to take when you’re at a cross-roads?

I’ve wished for that many times.

When life seems confusing and hard, it would be so nice to have someone we respect just say, “Here, why not take this path. This is what you should do.”

Well, the fact is, we all do have people like that in our lives. They’re called role models.

Why we all need role models

Role models are people who can impact our lives in a positive way.

Most of us have heard the phrase, “What would Jesus do?”

But perhaps we don’t even ask the question, because it seems too high a standard for us to relate to.

Tony Robbins addresses this in this simple quote: “Perfection is the lowest possible measure – it keeps you from trying.”

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to ask it, or other people to model our behavior after.

At times when I’ve been faced with difficult situations, I found my way through by asking, “What would Bear Heart do?”

Bear Heart was my Native American spiritual teacher and co-author of The Wind is My Mother. He was also my friend and adopted father in the Native American tradition.

In trying times, I would go to him for counsel. When he wasn’t around, and particularly after his death, I’d ask, what would he do in such a situation? How might he handle it?

Hopefully we all have someone like that we can hold up as a role model. Someone who has made more progress than we have as far as having good character, an open heart, forgiveness, kindness, etc. Someone we can aspire to be more like.

I have also asked other questions when trying to make a decision:

What would prosperity do? If money were no object, what would I do in this situation?

You have to be careful with this one, and not spend money irresponsibly. But when it comes to sharing, that question is a very good way to open the floodgates of generosity.

What would love do? 

What would Mother Theresa do?

What would the Buddha do?

For the socially responsible, “What would George Clooney do?”

Hopefully we all aspire to be better than we are today. I know I do.

That’s what makes life an exciting adventure: growth and improvement.

What is a role model?

Role models are people who have qualities we would like to have and who inspire us to be better.

The qualities of a role model might include:

  • The ability to inspire others.
  • Having a clear set of values.
  • Being non-judgmental.
  • The ability to overcome obstacles.
  • Creativity in problem-solving.
  • Kindness

Years ago I got the following assignment from a career counselor: find people doing what you want to be doing and interview them to find out how they got there. I did that and it definitely helped move my career in a new direction.


Here’s an example of how a role model might help

Years ago, I was owed $500 by a friend. The debt had gone on for over a year, and he wasn’t responding to my emails and phone calls.

Now, the truth is, I had gotten rather angry about this debt, and I’m sure this anger spilled over into my communications.

But anger only makes the recipient dig deeper into their hole of resentment and denial. So you end up at a stand-off.

Then I remembered a story Bear Heart told me, and it solved my problem: the debt was repaid quite quickly. It might solve a problem for you, too, some day:

My grandson, Bobby, was six foot two and weighed 180 pounds at thirteen years old. One day he was standing in line to pay for lunch at school and his friend standing next to him took his money out. Playfully, Bobby took the money, just to tease him and then someone behind him took the money from him.

It went on down the lunch line and by the time it got back to his friend, part of that money was missing. The principal got involved and called Bobby’s mother at work because he wouldn’t tell who actually got the money. 

His mother grounded Bobby –“no more Nintendo, no more bringing home friends, no more overnights with friends until you resolve this with the school.” 

My grandson wants to follow in my footsteps for whatever reasons. I haven’t told him he ought to do this, he wants to do it, to learn some of my ways, and I’ve had long talks with him about dealing with various situations. 

He was grounded and deprived of certain privileges, but he didn’t say anything. He wanted to be true to his friend, but he didn’t want to snitch on the others either, so he was caught in the middle. 

The next day he went to school and came back as if nothing happened. His mother said, “Well, how did it go?”


“What do you mean, ‘o.k.’?”

“Two boys admitted to the principal that they took the money.”  

“How is it that they admitted they’re the ones who took it?”  

He just nonchalantly said, “I told them to.”

That’s all it took for him to settle the situation. At thirteen years old he was beginning to use a little wisdom.

In remembering this story, I decided to use Bobby as my role model. I wrote a gentle letter to my friend, expressing as kindly as I could the reasons he should pay me back. And, keeping in mind the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, I tried to reflect back to my friend his best persona.

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I received a check for $500 within the week.

Find your role models with this question

Role models don’t have to be limited to people you know, or that are even still alive.

Ask yourself, “Who are the ten people, living or dead, I most admire and why?”

When I came across this question in a self-help book many decades ago, I found it most enlightening.

At this point in time, I remember just two people on my list:

Jane Fonda because she was willing to make huge mistakes [such as visiting Hanoi during the Vietnam War], face harsh criticism, pick herself up and move on with her life.

Joan of Arc because she stayed true to her vision, followed her Divine Guidance and became a great military leader while just a teenager.

The great thing about this question and answer is that the qualities you admire in these people are the qualities that are dormant in yourself. So go ahead and develop them!

So, you see, you can even be your own role model.





Molly Larkin

Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller "The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman”  and other books on health. She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes, healing practice and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com

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