top of page

Who Are You Following? (Because it’s more than social media) Author: Jeff Taylor, MAC LPC

Albert Bandura created a fascinating social learning theory based on the premise that a key way that we learn is by observing and “modeling” the behavior and attitudes of others. All of us have people that we are utilizing as role models, whether we are aware of it or not. So, here is a key question you might ask yourself; “Who are my role models?”

To answer this question, a great place to start is to examine where you are CHOOSING to spend time. In simple terms, what are you "Googling"? Famous people? Rich people? Altruistic people? What are the qualities that best describe the people that you are with often? Are they complainers? Maybe grumblers? Fault Finders? Alternatively, maybe they are encouragers, hard workers, or helpers.

There is something that each of us are pursuing that exhibits itself in the people we admire and those with which we choose to spend our time. By bringing it to the surface, it allows us to be clear about our aspirations and to choose the role models that best reflect the person that we would like to become.

Character traits. These are the key elements that create a sense of self. Kindness, hard work and honesty are examples of characteristics in which a person responds to situations in life. This would also be true for selfishness, laziness and dishonesty. Character traits become part of us. A key aspect of how we develop these traits is through our role models.

Let’s say you asked me, “What is the main thing you would like to get out of life?” And I quickly replied, “Fame, wealth” or even “power”. The sole pursuit of these goals would create shallow character traits and my role models would reflect this. Equally true would be if my response was “being responsible” or “becoming more compassionate to all people”.

In my twenties, I asked my Dad, “When you were my age what did you want out of life?” He thought about it for a minute and said, “To provide for my family”. I have thought a lot about his answer because it reflected some important character traits of a strong work ethic and giving to others.

I asked a twenty-year-old that same question and he said, “To be an influencer”. I then asked, “In what area would you like to influence people?” He stated that he “wasn’t sure, but he wanted to have six million followers someday”. Now, does this statement make this young man a bad person? Of course not. But it does reflect the importance of what we are pursuing and those that best reflect that desire...

Some thoughts to ponder:

- Who am I choosing to follow? Do they reflect the character traits that I desire more in my life?

- Write down three people that you know that exhibit the attitude and behavior that you would like more of and reach out to them. Let them know that are positive attributes that they have developed that you would like more of in your life and ask how they developed them.

- Make a pie chart of how you are spending your time and with whom. What changes would you like to make?