The suggestion, "Be the change you want to see in the world", urges us to act to improve our surroundings. In another sense, though, it tells us to represent our values and what we consider progress. In this excerpt from my self-improvement book The Unused Path: Skills for Living an Authentic Life, I talk about the importance of being mindful of the example we set in the world.
Respect the power of example
While we shouldn't do things so that others will see them, we should still remember that people watch what we do.
We never know when our actions are being observed by someone who may be influenced by our behavior. Has anyone ever told you that you inspired them at some point in the past and you didn't know it at the time? Ever hear someone remark that a chance encounter with a stranger who demonstrated selflessness or kindness changed their attitude for the better? That's the power of good example.
One of the reasons good example is so effective is that it leaves no room for hypocrisy. You're not telling anyone how they should behave—your actions are inspiring them. Deeds not words.
It's important to remember the power of bad example too. We sometimes don't know who looks up to us, or who believes we have better answers than they do. If we do something wrong, or demonstrate selfishness or a lack of caring, we may be suggesting to that individual that our bad behavior is acceptable.
Setting the example
Have you ever been impressed by someone else's actions to the extent that you decided to imitate them?
Ever watched a stranger pick up some stray litter that was blowing around and toss it in a waste receptacle?
Been impressed by a coworker's meticulous attention to detail?
Heard a manager who was being praised for a great job say it was someone else's work, and that the author of that work should receive the accolades?
If you did, this was the power of good example in action. The people you observed all demonstrated a commitment to positive standards of behavior without saying a word about it. Setting the example might not have been their motivation, but they accomplished it just the same.
When we act in accordance with our values and standards, we can inspire others. There's a fine line between setting the example and doing something to attract attention, but if we do the same thing whether someone else is watching or not, it will be genuine.
The Unused Path is currently FREE as an ebook from Barnes & Noble and on sale for 99 cents on Amazon. It's also available in both spots in paperback for six dollars. I hope you like it.