Everyone has aspirations. We all have certain things we wish to accomplish – certain goals we want to achieve in life. These aspirations come in all shapes and sizes, some are more personal, e.g. striving to be a good person, some more professional, e.g. becoming the best neurosurgeon, and others may be of a more materialistic art like owning a Ferrari.
Aspirations all revolve around the person you strive to be. One of the ways to define ourselves is to compare us to others. By evaluating ourselves, comparison can positively influence our motivation and development. Namely, the position of prominent and successful individuals is something we admire and wish to reach.
Who do you want to become?
There is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to idolizing a person. On the one hand we worship certain individuals because they seem to have it all – they appear to be ‘perfect’ human beings. On the other hand, we dislike them because they represent an unrealistic standard, which is unattainable for us ‘normal’ people.
Research has shown that the effect of idolizing a person is contingent. Lockwood et al. (1997) showed that the effect of idols depend on their relevance. Idols can be inspiring if they excel at something you can take precedence at too. Namely, the high position that they claim today is mostly the result of hard work and perseverance. Hereby, they can provide a template for us – they can inspire us to emulate their success.
It is also important to be conscious of the way you view your idols. We admire individuals who appear to not have made any mistakes, who seem the paragon of perfection. According to Toku McCree people tend to focus on persona. A persona is unflawed; it represents the ‘perfect’ individual. Because we are all flawed, comparing ourselves with idols will have a negative effect on our aspirations. In order to strive to be the best within your own abilities, you have to embrace yourself as the whole person that you are, flaws included. This should also be your outlook when it comes to role models – pursuing an ideal will not bring you any further. Chasing after something that is intangible and indefinable means to embark on a never-ending journey.
Becoming the person you strive to be is a long process. It takes a lot of time, effort, persistence, and most importantly a great sense of self combined with a realistic outlook. Successful individuals can inspire you on the condition that you focus on your own capabilities and that you do not fixate on the concept of an ideal outcome. The definition of you is not absolute, so your perspective shouldn’t be either.
Lockwood, P., & Kunda, Z. (1997). Superstars and me: Predicting the impact of role models on the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 91–103.