Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, informally named as Francesco, was a 12th century playboy. He was reportedly a good looking young man and he lived the high life; he enjoyed partying and utilised all the trapping of his parents’ wealth. At the age of 20 he enlisted in the army and went to war, was taken prisoner and spent a year in captivity. It is believed he started to question his hitherto profligate lifestyle at this time in his life and started to live the life of a pauper. Later, at the chapel of San Damiano he had a vision where he was told to rebuild God’s church (don’t panic, I’m not going to be espousing religion, here), and although he initially thought this meant funding the rebuilding of San Damiano it is evident that over time his spirituality grew within him and around the year 1208 he established an order of monks – the Franciscan Order, based in the Italian town of Assisi.
Francis of Assisi was on the road to sainthood.
But that is not why I brought him up. The reason he is mentioned at all is because of one quote, attributed to him and which is powerful enough to be a part of my own Personal Mission Statement.
He is quoted as having said: “I preach my philosophy constantly and, where necessary, I use words.”
It cannot be emphasised enough that when it comes to teaching integrity (and most other subjects), the most powerful teaching method is example.
Being seen to act in accordance with your values is more impactive to you and to others than any public declaration or display of the contents of a mission statement. Any public awareness of your stated values does enhance your need to live them, unquestionably. People will, often as much through malice as much as through a desire to help, make you accountable to it.
But when they see you living it, and when they see you stand up for it, and when they see you benefit from living it – then they learn from it. What’s more, Role-modelling your personal values to yourself is as much a teaching tool for you as it is for others. It is time for you, in living Your Way, to influence others. And you can do this through example, explanation and education.
Proof of the benefits and effects – and perils – of role modelling are also found in your own experiences.
You found your personal values by watching and learning from others. That teacher who saw something in you that you didn’t even see in yourself: that professional mentor who guided you and whose example you still follow: even your father’s laugh has impacted the way you laugh. And people on television perpetually answering ‘So..’ and ‘Yeah, no, I mean…’ are further examples of societal conditioning.
Your accent, your speech patterns, your clothing choices – all are the result of influences from others.
Until now, however, those choices may have been unconscious. Imagine deciding, instead, to actively choose your role models rather than just absorbing the ways of those who just happened to be nearby.
This is now an accepted personal development technique, particularly promoted by exponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, who follow the advice of their founders Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They suggested that role-modelling is a key route to developing the attributes you desire, not just by adopting fashion ideas and behaviours of the selected model but by going deeper into the model’s way of thinking, acting, behaving, speaking – almost to the point of absolute impersonation.
One of the objectives in my small book ‘The Way: Integrity on Purpose ’is to promote YOUR adoption of the behaviours, beliefs, rules and values of those YOU admire. Not mine. Yours.
I had mine. I chose some, some were inflicted upon me. I am proud when the better ones’ influences shine through on my better days.
Now identify – or choose – your own.