“What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Aristotle’s followers are said to have discussed philosophy while walking about with him – hence their name: “Peripatetics.” I suppose they could have been said to “walk the talk.” For the rest of us, the saying is “if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk” – a modern version of old sayings like “actions speak louder than words” and “practice what you preach.”
We all know from experience that we can’t change other people, yet most of us have a tendency to try. This is because we naturally feel the need to do something to change situations that we find troubling. It often doesn’t occur to us that the best way to create change is not to try to convince others to change but to change ourselves. When we make adjustments from within, we become role models for others, and leading by example is much more inspiring than a lecture or an argument.
At least I think so.
We sometimes look inside ourselves for what’s “wrong” with the world, but the outside world is really just a mirror reflecting us back to ourselves. When we encounter negativity, we empower ourselves by looking for its roots inside of ourselves. For example, if you have a friend who is unreliable, observe yourself and notice if there are ways in which you are unreliable. You may be surprised to discover that you have your own struggles with this issue in ways you weren’t able to see.
Once you own the issue, you can begin to work for change within yourself. This may also enable you to have more compassion for your friend. At the very least, as you strive to become more reliable, you will become more of the person you want to be. In the best-case scenario, you could well be an inspiration to others.
You can apply the same method to larger issues. For example, if there is something you see in the larger world that you would like to change – let’s say, greed – try taking responsibility for changing it in yourself. Instead of being angry with those you see as greedy, look for the roots of your own greed and come to terms with your own ability to transform it. This could well be the best way to lead the world toward greater moderation and generosity.
How do you think Aristotle would feel about that?
If you seek ways to lead by example and Walk the Talk, consider these four practices:
Listen to others.
- Believe in what you do and what you love.
- Think before you act and speak.
- Stay firm in your decisions.