We all experience a mixture of positive and negative influences from the people in our lives.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others in our family serve as our first role models for what it means to be an adult human being.  Siblings, cousins and childhood friends give us our initial sense of what it means to be a young person.  Role models can be good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, but we generally reserve the term for people whose lives and behavior have had a positive, influential impact on us.

Over time, we encounter numerous people and life situations and we find new and better role models for how to love, live, work and achieve personal goals.  We choose our role models from among the many people in our lives. But we also frequently find them in history books, biographies and in the vast variety of media coverage that brings to light the lives and accomplishments of people we have never known and will never meet.

If we are fortunate, some of us also have mentors along the path.  While a role model is someone we watch and admire, a mentor is someone that actively nurtures our development in a particular life arena—an arena in which the mentor has great experience and expertise.  Mentoring relationships may evolve in academic, work or personal settings when the mentor and the novice feel a special “click” or rapport that leads them to become highly collaborative. In these relationships, the two people decide to consciously nurture the development of the less experienced person. As we get older we may become mentors to others. Being a mentor is a way of giving to the young and giving back to those who have mentored us by “paying it forward”.

Role models and mentors offer us living examples of how to succeed in becoming happier and more successful whatever your personal definition of success may be.

  • Who are your main role models and why did you choose them?
  • What qualities and characteristics make a person a good role model?
  • Have you had any mentors along the path? Where did you meet them and how did you grow as a result of their involvement in your life?
  • Have you become a positive role model and/or mentor to others? What is the talent you developed that you later chose to give to others from your life experience and hard-earned wisdom?