A person walking in front of the sunset

How many times have you heard someone talking about how we need to do more to help X? (X could be the environment, the homeless, other countries, etc.) But then when you take a closer look, they are not doing anything to help that cause themselves. They are telling you that you should send money or spend time helping, but they aren’t doing it themselves.

What is missing from that equation is the fact that, if we are going to use someone as an inspiration, then we need to make sure that they are leading by example. If we are going to be an inspiration to someone else, then we need to lead by example.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do”. It’s fun to say that. I’ve heard a lot of parents say it and mean, “Learn from my mistakes and don’t make the same mistakes yourself”. Some people though, say it and mean that they want to give advice, but not follow their own advice. They want to tell other people what to do and how to live, but they don’t actually do those things themselves.

If you are trying to do better for yourself, look for those around you that are not just talking about doing things, but that are actually doing them. When we surround ourselves with people who just sit around and talk a good game, we often fall into the trap of planning but never actually doing. We get stuck. Find those people that are moving forward, that can inspire you to move forward as well.

Really, leading by example is just each of us finding what we enjoy doing, and then inspiring others to do it too. If you love to cook healthy meals, you can do so and inspire those around you to do the same to improve their health and quality of life. If you love to sing, you can do performances to entertain people, sing at nursing homes, or just sing to your friends and family to make them smile. If you love to work out, then you can help others who may not know the best way to exercise to improve their health and body image. There are endless possibilities.

What shines through is your love for what you are doing. People will see that and it will inspire them to do better for themselves. They may not do the same thing that you do, but they will begin to find ways to move their life in a more positive direction.

People losing weight and eating healthier often inspire others around them to do the same. A lot of times they do so without saying a word. They go to the gym, they make better choices when it comes to food, and they don’t really say much about it. They do what they enjoy, what they know is good for their bodies and their health. Or there are those who make videos about getting healthier and feeling your best. The ones that have the most impact are those that are “walking the talk”. Two that inspire me, and you’ve heard me talk the most about, are Chris Shelton with Shelton Qigong and Adriene from Yoga with Adriene.

It’s not just about physical things. People who have a more positive outlook on life can influence those around them to be more positive as well. Look at the influence that people like Brandon Farris, Mark Borella, and Brendon Buchard have on people. Or those like Lewis Howes, Miles and Melanie Beckler, John from John’s Crazy Socks, Victor Oddo, or Eckhart Tolle. All of these people are making a difference, each in their own way, by being an example to those around them.

I’m sure that you can name even more people that you love to connect with. Or friends and family that you see inspiring people each and every day.

Ask yourself, who are some of the people in my life that inspire me to do better, to be better? Why are they inspiring? Is it because of what they are saying, or what they are doing?

We don’t even necessarily have to say anything to those around us to be inspiring. How many times have you watched someone work really hard at something, keep at it until they accomplish their task? Or have you seen someone who overcomes every obstacle that is placed in their path? Have you ever been around someone that makes you feel better just by being themselves? What about someone who takes the time to help those around them?

Those are people that are leading by example.

We can talk to people all we want to about how to do this or that. We can hound them about doing better, being nicer, eating right, losing weight, or any number of things, but if we’re not doing those things that we’re asking them to do, those words are likely falling on deaf ears. People are more likely to listen to what you’re saying if your actions follow your words.

To make a real difference we have to show people instead of just telling them. I’m not sure where I first heard the phrase, “Show Don’t Tell”, and I think it has to do with writing, but it’s accurate for life in general too.

People can say they are going to do this or that, but until they do it, their words don’t mean a thing. Someone can apologize, but if their actions don’t improve, then that apology seems to have less meaning in the end. You can’t tell people to be more positive, if you’re walking around in a cloud of doom all the time. You can, but it’s not going to make any difference in their lives.

Do a little self-reflection and find those places where your actions and your words may not match up. Ask yourself why they don’t match? Are you saying what you think people want to hear to impress them or so they don’t get upset? Are you trying to act tough or put on a brave face when you know you have no intention of following through with something? Are you agreeing to do things that you don’t enjoy just because you can’t say no, or because you feel obligated for some reason? Is there something you’re doing that may be having the opposite effect of what you want, because you’re setting an example of what not to do and how not to be? Don’t settle for being a cautionary tale. Set a positive example for those around you. You have a lot to offer.  

Leading by example is important because it inspires you and those around you to take action. Instead of getting stuck in the planning phase forever, we begin to move towards our goals, move towards our dreams. It is also important because it shows that we really care about something. If we are willing to “put our money where our mouth is” then we show those around us that what we are doing is meaningful. Not in a way that asks for validation from others, but in a way that will help them to find their own important thing and work for it. Leading by example allows us to truly make a difference in the world.

So tell us, what is it that you love to do? What can you lead others to do by the example that you’re setting? Where might you need to change your actions to match your words?