“People learn from what we do, not from what we say,” is the motto. We cannot all be a Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa, but we can try to set a good example. As Gandhi said, we can try to make our lives our message. Here is a much told story about his belief in being a positive model.
Be The Change You Want To See In This World
During 1930’s, a young boy had become obsessed with eating sugar. His mother was very upset with this. But no matter how much she scolded him and tried to break his habit, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his idol – Mahatma Gandhi; perhaps her son would listen to him.
She walked miles, for hours under scorching sun to finally reach Gandhi’s ashram. There, she shared with Gandhi her predicament.
“Bapu, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”
Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, thought for a while and replied:
“Please come back after two weeks. I will talk to your son.”
The woman looked perplexed and wondered why had he not asked the boy to stop eating sugar right away. She took the boy by the hand and went home.
Two weeks later they revisited Gandhi. Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said:
“Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”
The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer. The boy’s mother was puzzled. She turned to Gandhi and asked:
“Bapu, Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”
“Mother, two weeks ago I was eating a lot of sugar myself.”
Let’s explore the importance of modelling.
1) You can recognise the power of positive modelling.
Looking back in your life, who have been your positive models? What did you learn from these people? How can you be a good model in your life and work?
Children learn from their parents; employees take their cue from the tone set by their leader. One picture of positive modelling is worth a thousand words. Sometime this is good; sometimes it is bad.
“Twenty years ago I saw the damage done by setting a bad example,” said Paul, the chief executive of a hospital group. “The staff in the hospital where I worked spent months preparing for an important visit from a Health Minister.
"He arrived half-an-hour late, but still sat in his car smoking. He then rushed through the hospital in 15 minutes, only stopping to grab a photo opportunity with a patient.
"The staff knew about the Minister’s foibles. They knew he was considerably overweight and could be rude, but were still crestfallen. They questioned the value of their work when somebody so disinterested was deciding the health service’s future.
"We returned to the job in-hand, taking care of our patients. But the experience taught me about the distress caused by setting a bad example.
“Now I aim to act as a good model,” said Paul. “Visiting the hospitals, I plan it like a military operation. I build-in time to talk with the security guards, receptionists, patients in reception, cleaners, nurses, doctors, admin staff and anybody else I can meet.
"Why? Our job is about providing the right medical care and the ‘personal touch’. I am paid to make decisions, which sometimes involve life and death, but I love visiting the hospitals.
"Our staff and patients are human beings with feelings and each person wants to feel valued. So it makes sense for me to set a good example.”
Let’s return to your life and work. What is the area in which you would like to act as a positive model? Try completing the following sentence.
2) You can clarify the specific things you can do to be a positive model.
This is a life-time task for most of us – because we all make mistakes. Yet it is something we aspire to achieve – whether it is by being a good parent, teacher, manager or whatever.
“I used to fly off the handle when things went wrong,” said one manager, “but then one day I got a shock. Somebody said: ‘Do you realise that you act like a bully?’ That was the last thing I intended, so I immediately changed my behaviour.
"Nowadays I count to 10 when faced by a crisis. This seems to have rubbed-off on my team members who have also become calmer in difficult situations.”
Let’s return to the activity in which you want to be a good model. Do two things. First, describe the specific things you can do to behave as a good model. Second, describe the benefits – both for yourself and other people. Try completing the following sentences.
3) You can be a positive model – and sometimes see the benefits.
Go out and do your best; because that is all you can ever do. Sometimes you will see immediate effects, but sometimes the results may take years.
“The joy of teaching is that you plant many seeds – and sometimes you see them grow,” said one educator. “But the real pleasure is that many students learn and plant seeds in their own way miles away in places you will never visit. That, of course, is nature’s way."
"Human beings are hooked on seeing immediate results in front of their eyes, but they must learn from how nature pollinates. Several times a year I receive letters from old students.
"Each letter usually starts: ‘I am not sure if you remember me, but I learned so much from your classes. I now try to inspire other people in the way that you inspired me.’ This is humbling, but we never forget a good teacher.”
You may have had a similar experience. One day somebody says how much they learned from you in the past. Whatever you do, accept the compliment.
They may have spent years waiting to pass-on their thanks. Everybody learns from parents, teachers, leaders and other models. Many of us owe much to the power of positive modelling.
So how can you turn your intentions into actions? You know ‘what’ you want to do and ‘how’ you want to do it. Now comes the ‘when’. Conclude by making a specific action plan for being a good model. Try completing the following sentence.