Role models are an important part of our growth as human beings. Role models help us establish direction and intention with dreams and goals; often times role models are the ones who breathe inspiration and life into the otherwise drab existence we all live. They can and should instill a sense of belief in self, a self-confidence to be able to achieve, especially after setbacks.
Today I want to talk about a special kind of role model. It’s not necessarily the kind who has earned it all in the material realm. That is important, too, and material goals can and are just as important as spiritual or lifestyle goals, but this kind of role model is, for me, even a new-ish kind, and is probably one of the most important.
My role models growing up were pretty much as follows: Florence Griffith Joyner (even though she died when I was really young, she inspired me to pursue a professional track career), my English teacher/track coach from high school Jodee Esser (now Blair), and my aunt Gwen, a realtor in Iowa, whom my sister and I held in extreme awe when we were kids. She lived in Chicago on her own when I was young, and back then I thought that was the most daring thing ever, and probably had a subconscious effect on my decisions later in life to move to Scotland by myself and then Miami.
All of these women represented something I admired: belief in themselves and their abilities, shameless desire to chase their goals and do what they wanted with their lives, extreme intelligence both street smart and book smart, elegant, and well rounded. Those were the things I admired to be, and they were all three beacons to what I wanted to achieve in adulthood. I saw and believed that if they were able to do it, then so could I. Which is extremely powerful.
Now that I am an adult, I used to believe that role models were things only for kids and teenagers. So not true. At any and all ages can we have people enter our lives who are in places in their lives where we wish to be (vastly wealthy; living on a yacht; being a college professor; teaching meditation; living off the land in the rocky Mountains; whatever that vision is for you!), and the only thing separating us from the vision we hold for ourselves is the decision to act.
Other people compel us to act. No decision we make do we only make it for ourselves. Ripple effects constantly pour off of the things we all do from moment to moment, because even the smallest decisions we make shape our destiny. And our destinies are happening right now.
I find myself looking out into the world for new types of role models now. I search in my immediate vicinity, amongst the people whom I interact with every day, and I search through the realm of the media, because, even though it’s promulgated, those people pushing those stories are people too, made of the same stuff as we, and can be just as great a fodder for inspiration as those who are tangibly in our lives.
I search for a soul model now, and not just a role model. The role models from my youth are also great soul models. A soul model takes things a little deeper: it isn’t just about outward, physical success. It isn’t about any kind of monetary wealth or awards. Can it include those things? It sure can. But those things are only a GOOD symptom of following your heart and soul, and doing the things you really want from the start of the day to the end.
That’s what a soul model really is. Those people who listen to their intuition. The people who do what they feel they should be doing, no matter what people say about their decisions. I experienced this right after high school when I decided to go to Scotland for college instead of stay home in central Minnesota. My soul literally ached for adventure and a new environment. I needed some place new, with new, challenging experiences that took me completely out of my comfort zone, and left me space to explore not only the world, but myself. I learned a lot through that one semester in Scotland, and it set up a lot for me in my future. It helped me choose to stay in the United States and continue my education there while I pursued a track career at a Division I university, some of the most valuable time in my life.
I know in the eyes of many family members, I failed at achieving two great big dreams of mine: living in Europe and pursuing a career as a professional athlete. In reality, I won out because of the valuable experience I got from those things, and the great people I met along the way. Pursuing two massive dreams back to back like that really taught me what I am made of, and what I am capable of doing when I put my mind on hyper-focus and push forward with appreciation and love for what I have. My decisions to move away looked insane, rash, and irresponsible. I know this because I was told those things. And I was also told I wasn’t smart enough to get in to the University of Aberdeen. Imagine my elation when that acceptance letter came in the mail via international post. Of course I was going to go there, since so many believed I couldn’t get in! And as for student loans? Great! I have the rest of my life to pay them back. A payment I will gladly make each month if it means I got to follow through with a mega-dream!
These are the kinds of insane things soul models do. It’s strange to use myself as an example, but there are many people I have met along the way who do these same things as me. And when I meet people who are contemplating thing like this but are paralyzed by a fear of the unknown, I have it within myself to tell them that everything WILL be okay. That everything WILL workout, just remain true to yourself, your vision, and your purpose. As long as your vision stays in tact, your path will always be there for you.
My current soul models are as follows: Danny Lopez-Calleja, my boss, coach, and owner of CrossFit Soul; Kiersten Mooney, my boss, yoga instructor, and owner of Green Monkey yoga; Angelina Jolie, for following her dreams of being an actress and dedicating her life to not only her art but to humanity as well; and my amazing boyfriend, Al, my heartiest rock of rocks, whose own clarity of vision, ambition, and compassion inspire me every day.
I am very fortunate to have these four people to motivate me in some way on a daily basis. They all share one thing in common: they have all followed visions for themselves, visions that are dressed as dreams and executed as tangible goals. People who have built things for themselves out of nothing, and who stop at nothing to bring others on board with them and their visions, who area team builders and leaders in the communities they are involved it. Heart, passion, and soul are what brings these soul models together for me, and when I think of quitting or taking an extra break because I don’t “feel” like doing any more work for Red Cheetah Yoga, Cheetah Grounds, or my books, I just think of them, and consider what they would think or do in the moment if they are presented with an opportunity: sit and let it fade away, or take action and help it flourish? Because by taking small steps each day, who knows how big a dream can grow, and how many people it can attract and affect?
Danny is one of my biggest role models first and foremost because of his determination to make a CrossFit training program with integrity. When I first went to CrossFit Soul (YES that is the name of the gym I train at!!) I learned immediately they did CrossFit differently than the others; where I was constantly get injured and re-injured at other gyms, I was allowed to go at my pace at Soul, to honor my body during wods, to change out movements if I needed to and scale as I needed to accomdate me just staying active and sweaty. This made a huge impact on me as I learned the Soul methods on progressions from Olympic weight lifting to gymnastics movements, and as I got stronger and fitter, I felt my confidence soar, too. Danny’s confidence in himself leaks into his belief for all of his clients’ abilities: the only thing he requests of anyone is just to show up. He gets that his clients don’t show up for him, they show up for themselves. Great coaches are just conduits of change and guides for those who take personal transformation seriously, and he fills that role. Without his guide, I probably would have quit CrossFit a long time ago, and I never ever would have done a competition. Him taking on the mighty force that is CrossFit programming has gifted him with an elite Weightlifting team and Regional and CrossFit Games competitors, all because he chose to stick to what he loved, and did things at a pace that was right for him. He is a reminder we are only as healthy at the level of our actual souls as we are in our bodies.
Kiersten takes things to a whole new level for me. Her work also includes using physical practices to get people into the possibility of their lives, just that this time instead of CrossFit it’s yoga. Her ability to tie in physiology, ontology, and psychology into her classes adds such a level of depth, that her teaching ability and ability to connect with her students inspires people to sign up for teacher training. The level of gratitude I have for the teacher training program she has I cannot put into words; by far it is the single greatest learning experience I have ever had. Her dedication to take her transformative work worldwide is one of the most inspirational things I have ever seen. Someone who believes in herself so much, and believes in the ability of this planet so much to make positive change, she truly is a champion of changing this world for the better. When I run my companies, she is who I think of. Her relentless pursuit of what works the best, her malleability to shift methods and focus on a whim, and her undying love for changing people’s lives is what draws literally hundreds, maybe thousands of people into her presence, who are affected for the rest of their lives. We all have the ability to change people’s lives for the better. We ALL have that ability. Kiersten and Danny are two people who embody this, something that we can all learn from.
I have to have one celebrity or celebrity-like role model, just because I love being inspired by images when I am out and about in my community. And I love to daydream about how far I can take my life if I choose to keep on holding my vision. I encourage everyone to take on one person of international influence who is doing something good for this planet. I like choosing celebrities, especially this one in particular, because, let’s face it, doesn’t it look like fun-CHALLENGING fun!-to be a movie star? I always said that if I hadn’t pursued track and field, I would have been an action movie star, just because I am so addicted to the pursuit of adventure.
I admire any and all celebrities who take it upon themselves to use their wealth and visibility for the good of humanity. A lot of celebrities do this, and I don’t think it gets spoken of enough. Angelina Jolie to me is a perfect soul model because she truly wanted to be an actress, and didn’t give up until she achieved it. When she achieved her fame, she was sensitive to other people occupying this planet less fortunate. Truly, as a specie, we are only as strong as everyone else on this earth. We are all connected. Angelina embodies that, and works at it every day.
Angelina stood out to me when I was really young when she adopted her first child, Maddox. I admired her so greatly for taking that on because she was, firstly, very young when she did it. It was something she didn’t need to do, and something I sensed she didn’t do just to get reported on. Adopting a child is something someone wants to do because they want it, and the fact that she did it as a single parent and someone who wanted to make a kid’s life better really hit me deep. I still remember the first image I saw of her in a magazine when I first read the story. I forget if I was in high school or in Aberdeen at the time, but she was sitting on a beach staring into the waves with the small boy sitting next to her. The picture was so grounded and peaceful, and, having just come out on the otherside of my childhood rife with family trouble due to divorce struggles, I really admired her efforts for what she wanted to do. In short, I admire people the most who do what they want with their lives. Because what you want to do is what truly makes your soul sing. People who want to do good for themselves usually end up wanting to do good for others, too. Following your own dreams and executing them is enough to inspire those around you to do the same, because that is the only way the planet moves forward. To take the next step to help others achieve their dreams and achieve better lives sets this world at a whole new frequency: we are all in this together.
Angelina to me sets this standard, and I love seeing the reminder of our teamwork as I am in a checkout line, or see her image pop up in social media or in a news story. When her image graces the cover of a magazine, it is the only time I ever buy a magazine, because when she is interviewed there is always something that comes from the depth of her soul to help me make great choices for the rest of my day, and she is a reminder that family is the most important part of life, especially those family members whom you choose. I like choosing at least one celebrity to admire because you might as well do something positive with the bombardment of media coverage in our society: turn it into something good!
Last but not least is my amazing boyfriend Al. I know I have written about him in previous posts, but he always deserves more time at my computer. Red Cheetah Yoga was Al’s vision. Thanks to him, we have fourteen employees. Our work to make Cheetah Grounds at least a nationwide company, with a vision to go worldwide, was his idea, not mine, and it is one I gladly stepped into and adopted for myself, for us. Al helps me stay focused, helps me stay my course, and has always helped me be more responsible each day. He is my daily reminder for teamwork, that together we can and will truly achieve more, and achieve everything we set out to do. He reminds me that together we can create the most free life possible, a freer life together than if we were trying to do things solo. We bounce ideas off of each other, we never put down the others’ ideas, we discuss and debate topics at length from politics to spirituality to personal training and CrossFit, to what kind of floors to put in our house.
We talk about the house we see ourselves living in in two years’ time.
We talk about where we are going to travel next, and we are always open and curious about what our next steps are in our business to help them grow, to affect more people, to make our products better and how to better serve the world.
We share everything together: our ups and downs, are patient with each other when the other is having a not-so-great-day, practice patience and compassion with one another (which as anyone knows is not always easy!), and we push each other to live healthy lifestyles through proper diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, and reading.
In the past month Al has lost over 15 pounds, and I am so proud of him, all because he supports me in my decision to do a figure show next year, one I intend on winning.
But most of all he is this to me: he is fun, and he is family.
Al is my compass, and I know I am his compass right back. He has helped me create visions for myself when I used to think I was undeserving of new goals and good things in my life, and I know he could say the same of me. Together we know we can set goals so big they frighten us, and our work ethics and teamwork help us walk towards those goals hand in hand.
Al is my ultimate soul model, and I have the immense joy to call him mine.
These are my main soul models, and the ones I go back to for inspiration again and again when I feel I need to be centered. Whether it’s reading a part of Angelina Jolie’s book, Notes on my Travels, to remind myself of the fortunate life I live and how I can be of service to others through my presence alone, or taking a class at either Green Monkey Yoga or CrossFit Soul to get confidence back in my body and drop the negative voice in my head, or spending quality time with Al, there are always concrete choices I can make to center me again through what my soul models have created in an effort to better others’ lives.
All soul models share the common denominator that they make choices based on their deepest passions in life, and choose to trust the timing of the universe to provide for them, and take risks just to see what it is they can create with the time they have on this planet. They are the ones who choose to not do things like how “everyone else” is doing them, and they shine because of it. Getting lost in the white noise of what society “thinks” we should do is not a bad thing, in fact, it can be a great step on this journey to figuring out what it truly is that makes your soul feel like it’s singing. Those things you get excited about doing when you wake up in the morning are the things you should be doing before you see your bed again.
Do these two things for yourself: make a list of the things you want to do with your life, and make a list of the things you are doing with your life. Compare those two lists, and adjust accordingly.
The second thing you should do is find yourself some great soul models. Who out there in our world do you really, truly admire? What artists? Coworkers? Acquaintances? Instructors? Teachers? Coaches? Bosses? CEOs? Whatever it is you want to do it literally waiting for you to take it on. Learn as much as you can from people who make decisions from the depths of their hearts. Read inspirational biographies (My favorites: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Coco Chanel: A Woman of Her Own, John Adams, Elizabeth Gilbert, etc.) of people who have achieved things you want to achieve, and get curious about the opportunities that open up for you along the way.
Pick soul models in your direct contact and pick one or two who can inspire you just by gracing the glossy page of a magazine or when a movie of theirs comes out. Take in their inspiration just by their dedication to who they are, because that is the vibration we are all meant to be operating at.
We are all here for one another. We are all here to help one another and inspire one another and to work together in peace and harmony.
Who knows whose soul model YOU could end up being.