Most days I wake up with my daily routine on my mind. I anticipate my workout and the associated feelings of accomplishment after I complete the sweat session. Ever mindful of the time, I continuously monitor the clock to make sure I have ample time for prayer, Bible study, and writing. Then it is a mad dash to hit the shower, get dressed, and kiss my family goodbye before dashing out of the door only to be joined in traffic by thousands of other individuals rushing to work. As I engage in all of these routine tasks, I am intentionally focused on doing, what I have come to learn, helps me to be the best person I can be for the day. But today, when I arrived at work, I realized that there was an important factor missing from my daily regiment.
It was when I stumbled upon an encounter with a co-worker that I rarely interact with in the break room. After a few pleasantries and a short conversation about a recent news event, my co-worker surprised me with one of those comments that make you think, “I never knew you saw me that way.” He shared a comment that included a statement like, “because of you, I have decided to pursue a long-held professional goal…”. I immediately replied, “good for you,” but internally I was shocked by his response because I couldn’t recall ever having a conversation with him about his career goals, my professional experiences, or anything that would lead me to believe I would have influenced his decision. I was quickly reminded at that moment that my personal example is speaking to people even to those that I don’t really engage in conversation.
Personally, I believe that we all should take responsibility for our words and actions, which are manifested through our personal example. So, after being reminded of my long-held belief by my co-worker, I realized that I was apparently communicating a message that encouraged others to take action to improve themselves. However, that encounter made me think a little more about the message I share daily. More specifically, I wondered, what am I doing to ensure that my personal example is communicating what I would like for it to say? After all, I put so much effort into getting ready, physically, spiritually, and emotionally to be the best version of myself, that I should be more aware of the fact that my actions are speaking to others.
Now, as an educator, you can’t avoid influencing others through your example. In fact, one of the things successful teachers realize is that your personal example is your most potent instructional tool with students. Since this concept wasn’t foreign to me, I focused on identifying approaches to help me be more present and aware of the opportunities I have to influence and hone the message of my personal example.
(1) strive to be the best version of myself in every aspect of my life, from my appearance to my word choice to my disposition every day
Excellence fosters excellence, and the more we are at our best, the more we can inspire others to be at their best. Making a conscious effort to model the highest standard of professionalism, collegiality, and respect for everyone we interact with will drastically streamline what our personal example is saying to others.
(2) concentrate on being present and paying more attention to the people I interact with daily
We have to be aware to be intentional, and it is easier to pay attention to people when your general disposition is to have outgoing concern for others. Living as an example is an enlightening way of life rooted in service to others. It can be both rewarding and eye-opening to merely think about the needs, perspectives, and strengths of others before acting.
In a Forbes article, The Most Powerful Leadership Tool You Have: Your Own Example, contributor John Hall states, “Your own example is the most powerful leadership tool you have.” He goes on to share five things you can do to strengthen that tool and improve your example as a leader.
1. Get in the trenches (without getting trapped in the weeds).
2. Eliminate superiority barriers.
3. Forget your insecurities.
4. Challenge yourself and those around you to become better.
5. Prove the impossible is possible.
My daily routines are filled with activities designed to help me accomplish my goals. They serve me well, and I see no reason to change them. Instead, I understand the need to align them to the broader purpose of preparing me to influence and improve the lives of others positively. After all, Booker T. Washington said it best, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” So the more awareness I have of the message of my personal example, the more I will be able to accomplish my goals of helping others aim higher and be better. Now, my question to you is, what does your personal example communicate?