A young girl recently wrote to me on Instagram that I was a role model for her. She would find my career as a journalist – “be brave to do your own thing” – inspiring. At first I felt flattered. (Who wouldn’t?) But in the second I wondered what it means to be a role model. I don’t mean to necessarily be the next Greta Thunberg in terms of climate activism or to be on the Forbes list when I’m under 30. I mean the everyday things that we exemplify for our fellow human beings. In search of an answer, I ended up with exactly four points that each of us should internalize in life – without compromise.
When it comes to “role models”, the first thing we need to understand is that we shouldn’t try to be one. Says at least Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of “Headspace”, an app that made me meditate on my cell phone for the first time three years ago and which now reaches over 65 million people in 190 countries worldwide.
It may sound paradoxical, but you will understand what Puddicombe means if you continue reading this text. Like many other entrepreneurs, Puddicombe is an entrepreneur by conviction. He is passionate about meditation: At the age of 20, he decided to drop out of college to become a Buddhist monk. Over a decade, he deepened his practice in countries like Nepal, India and Russia. He returned to the UK in 2004 and was certain of his mission: demystifying meditation and mindfulness, and helping people to become happier and healthier.
First: inner peace
“I think we think too often in life:” How do I stand in front of this group or this person? “Or, How can I become a better person?”, Says Puddicombe. As an entrepreneur in particular, it is often about success data and key figures. Even though it is undoubtedly important to do business sustainably and be profitable, he doubts “whether that really brings out our better side.” The people who inspire Puddicombe the most would never have built a company or achieved things that were considered “successful” in society. “They are people who don’t care what others think about them.” One thing that makes them special is: inner peace.
I myself remember my first attempts at meditation well: at the age of 20, at the recommendation of my mother, I attended a mindfulness seminar in which we were supposed to be silent for seven hours on the last day – with food in silence and long, guided Meditations. My motivation at the beginning was zero, but the evening I left the building I was balanced like never before.
It was similar with Puddicombe, who was said to have been a restless and bright boy as a child. He meditated for the first time at the age of ten. “I didn’t know what to expect at the time, but I felt incredibly calm inside for the first time.” Even though he was still very young at the time, this intense experience paved the way for him to be nicer and less self-critical, as he says today.
Especially when we are perfectionists by nature, like me, our life can quickly become uncomfortable. We are often frustrated because things are changing rapidly. Especially if it goes in a direction that we would have better avoided. “It’s easy to get lost in your chaos of ideas and difficult to change something for the better from this attitude,” says Puddicombe. Some of the most important values that he learned in the monastery were those that still help him on bad days: resigning himself to not being able to control everything.
What helps me with this is meditation in motion. If I used to think that I can only get my energy level under control by jogging for hours or intensive training, I now long for long yoga sessions. Every time I leave the class, I feel like I’m standing on a high pedestal, looking out over my own forest. Before that hour I was more of a tree in the deepest thicket. It roughly matches what Andy Puddicombe says.
Those who find peace in themselves pave the way for clarity. At this point I like the picture of the sea: With raging waves we hardly see what our compass shows. When the waves are smooth, we can see the horizon. Our mission is to find out where we want to go with the ship and, most importantly, how to navigate it in the right direction. “But the truth is: so many things will change on our way,” says Puddicombe. “We are usually stressed or desperate when we don’t know how long something takes.” That is why it is said: With every destination that we have in mind, it is important to remain flexible on the journey. Because: “Life is the journey” – and not what comes out in the end.
Third and fourth: compassion and mindfulness
How satisfied are we with our way? Right now, as it is, maybe even while we’re reading this text? Sometimes it pays to think about it. That doesn’t mean I’m happy, I have everything I need. Rather, it is about realizing that there are many people who do not have many things. To be a role model means to ask: “How can I start to be more aware of my environment and see what the world needs?” Says Puddicombe. His greatest teachers particularly impressed him with their altruism: being considerate and not doing things for your own benefit. The fourth and last point goes hand in hand and therefore forms the basis of everything: compassion and mindfulness.
The speed with which we are currently moving in society is not helpful, says Puddicombe. But there is one thing that he noticed positively even in the Covid 19 crisis. “For the first time we see the world through the same glasses.” Suddenly there is a unique opportunity to state: “I know what this person is going through, I can empathize with his fear if he has lost his job or maybe even a loved one.” In his eyes, this is a profound change in our society , which I also feel this way: No matter which friends I call, whether in the USA, Mexico or Austria – at least in the beginning everyone understands what the other person is going through. Regardless of whether destinies and oceans separate us.
Calm, clarity, contentment, compassion – these “four C”, as the four properties listed in English are called, “these are the things I want to be surrounded with in life,” says Puddicombe. The other things are “nice” – such as celebrating a lot of successes – but basically it’s more about everyday interaction. How we meet our fellow human beings.
So who are those who set an example for the founder of Headspace? Especially the Buddhist monks with whom he spent almost a decade of his life. “Very few of you will ever get to know them. You are not known. They just do their thing. ”But no matter what they do, says Puddicombe, there is always a feeling that this is not about them. “It’s about us.”
A large classroom full of inspiring personalities who have become their teachers over time: This is how our author Laura Lewandowski sees the world. For the “Meet your Mentor” special edition of her column, she speaks to those who particularly encourage her to think in new ways. Your key question: How can I apply what I have learned to myself?