Posted by: coachingparents | August 29, 2007

Choose Heroic Role Models

By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. 

We were born to imitate.  The primary way an infant learns is
through imitation of what he experiences from others.  Infants attempt imitation as early as 3 weeks of age.  Imitation and repetitive
practice of what we see, hear and feel are two of the most powerful
natural drives we humans have for personal growth and development.
After we are able to distinguish between people and ourselves (usually
about 9 months of age), it becomes very important whom we choose to imitate.  Those early habits we develop by imitation are very likely
to influence the quality of our lives throughout life.

You need to be very discriminating about whom you choose to model
yourself after.  Never give up your own uniqueness, rather discover it
and strengthen it.  Then modify yourself through patterning your
individual characteristics, skills and talents after truly great
people… those genuine heroes who have made a significant positive
difference in who we are as human beings…human “becomings.”

Most of us believe that becoming heroic is impossible.  We are
either born with the talents, skills and abilities or we are not.
Such a belief is utter nonsense!  Helen Keller was born deaf and blind
and became heroic in her contribution to the world.  Olympic champion, Wilma Rudolph, had polio as a child.  Beethoven was totally deaf when he wrote his greatest symphonies.  Jerry Traylor, born with cerebral palsy, ran across the U.S. on crutches.  Eric Weinmeyer summated Mount Everest…totally blind.  We are all born with the talents and capacities for heroic greatness.  But those talents and capacities need to be developed through imitation and repetitive practice.

What are some positive qualities of heroic role models?  Here are
some of the most important ones.

  • Outstanding people always work hard.  They practice, practice,
    practice.  The strengthening of any muscle requires repetitive
    movement, preferably against some resistance other than air or
    gravity.  Any talent grows stronger when you work it over and over, preferably against some resistance or obstacle.  Difficulties and mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn, grow and develop. Focused persistence is characteristic of most heroes.  They usually have spent years and years of focused practice on developing their particular talent(s).
  • Heroes are usually intelligent…but not in every category or
    subject.  After walking for an hour absorbed in answering a student’s question, Albert Einstein asked the student, “When we started, did we come from that direction or this other way?”  The student pointed in the direction they had come, saying, “We came from over there.” Einstein replied, “Good, then I know I’ve had my breakfast.”  Many heroic models seem dumb by some standards of intelligence, but absolutely brilliant in others…particularly in those areas they have persistently practiced.
  • Heroes are willing to take calculated risks.  Like turtles, they
    only move ahead when they stick out their necks.  They are not
    governed by fear, particularly fear of what others might think, or fear of anticipated failure.  They move forward toward their desired outcome despite setbacks, and mistakes.  Thomas Edison tried over 10,000 elements before discovering which one worked to generate light without burning up.  Beethoven’s great Fifth Symphony was ridiculed when it was first played.  Did these heroes risk continuing? Absolutely!
  • Heroic role models enjoy what they do best.  They have fun.  When practicing their highly developed skill becomes no fun anymore, they move on to something new.   No matter how good they become, they are always pursuing “the better.”  As far as we know, human potential is limitless.  Therefore, there is no end to human betterment.  The better you become, the more enjoyment you experience.

University of California Professor and Psychologist, Dean Keith
Simonton, Ph.D. writes, “Except for tremendous interest, enthusiasm,
excitement and determination, great people are not clearly superior to
those who don’t become great.”  Yes, you too can become great at
anything to which you apply the above characteristics.  Choose your
role models wisely, imitate them with persistence and delight, and no
doubt you will become heroic.

Copyright 2007.  All rights reserved.

Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. is a Certified Life Coach and Licensed
Psychologist, specializing in life coaching and behavioral medicine.
Contact him: 3421 Polk Circle West, Wellington, CO. 80549.  E-mail:, or

Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30+ years experience as a Life Coach and
Licensed Psychologist.  He is available for coaching in any area
presented in “Practical Psychology.”  Initial coaching sessions are
free.  Contact him: (970) 568-0173 or E-mail: or

Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life
coach.  He serves on the faculty of the International University of
Professional Studies. He recently co-authored (with Patrick Williams)
the book: “Total Life Coaching: 50+ Life Lessons, Skills and
Techniques for Enhancing Your Practice…and Your Life!” (W.W. Norton
2005) It is available at your local bookstore or on

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