What makes people want to expand their horizons, learn, and grow?
For most of us, it’s the example of other people who have gone before us. These people inspire us and show us a multiplicity of paths that could be traveled.
Who are these inspiring humans?
They could be people who’ve lived incredible experiences or who seem to hold a wealth of wisdom that we long for.
Rather than celebrities or people outside our spheres, these are normally people close enough to us that their example seems attainable and achievable for us as well.
These people who inspire others to grow usually embody these seven traits that draw our admiration and our interest as exciting models we can learn from.
1) They’re adventurous.
When I was still a student, I was traveling across the country from west to east as part of a summer job.
I stopped right in the middle to stay at a hostel one night and decided to use the kitchen to cook some food on the cheap since my meager budget was stretched thin.
While I was cooking, an old man came in and sat down. Eventually, we got to talking, and it ended up being one of the most inspiring conversations of my life.
This guy was 75 years old, so when I asked him about where he was headed, and he told me he was biking across the country, I was really surprised.
It turns out this was the second time he’d done it, plus he’d once biked from Hong Kong all the way to France!
When I asked him why, he said that there were periods in his life when he felt he was stagnating and needed to find a new direction. So he saved up money and took the time to go on these long trips to explore both the world and himself.
That was a huge inspiration for me to think about my life and how I, too, could expand my horizons.
2) They’re wise.
What exactly is wisdom?
It seems to go beyond simply a knowledge of facts.
Here’s one great definition that tries to make sense of this somewhat ambiguous trait:
“Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to contemplate and act productively using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.”
This implies sound judgment, compassion, and benevolence. It suggests a deep understanding of the world and the place of humans in it.
Wisdom is also interesting because, while parts of it (words of wisdom) can be shared, it typically takes years to attain. It also requires personal growth and development.
Still, some people are wise beyond their years.
I once taught a ten-year-old who was one of the brightest boys I’d ever met. He had also spent a summer as a novice Buddhist monk and seemed to have this aura of wisdom and compassion around him that you’d expect more from an 80-year-old!
He was calm, kind, open-minded, fun-loving, and incredibly positive.
Surprisingly, I found myself inspired to grow from the example of a child, one of my own students!
3) They take risks.
People who inspire others to grow have to show growth themselves.
And how can they do that if they never step outside of their comfort zones?
Have you ever seen those cube-shaped watermelons developed in Japan? They’re grown in boxes that confine their development, so while they try to expand, they have nowhere to go except to fill up the box they’re in.
For people, it’s much the same thing.
If you’re staying inside the box of your normal life and regular patterns, the most you can grow is to fill up the box you’re living in.
But by taking risks, some people break out of their boxes and find a whole wide world out there that they can extend themselves into.
They dare to learn new things and take on new responsibilities that change them in important ways.
Do they fail?
But they use their failures as tools to learn about how to do things right the next time. They don’t let these failures stop their growth or make them retreat back into their original boxes.
They’ve grown too big for them already!
4) They’re kind.
I was once in big trouble in Kuching, Malaysia. I was lost (this was before map apps), and I’d had my pocket picked, so all I had to my name was a few coins.
I needed to get back to my hotel, where I could use my laptop to sort things out, but I didn’t know how to find it. I couldn’t afford a taxi with the 20 cents, or so I had.
Luckily, I ran into someone who was extraordinarily kind. I wandered into a shop to see if I could ask for directions and met an old gentleman who spoke English very well.
When I told him what had happened, he immediately grabbed the keys to his little scooter and drove me clear across the city to my hotel. When we got there, I asked him to wait as I had a bit of cash in my room, but he outright refused.
He said he was just happy he could help me and zoomed off, never to be seen again (by me!).
This man was not very well-off, and I would have given him much more than a taxi would have cost, but he clearly did the good deed out of the kindness of his heart.
It was so inspiring that I vowed to pay it forward when I met others in need, and have several times.
5) They’re authentic.
It’s a combination of lots of qualities, yet I think we all instantly recognize a really authentic person when we meet one.
These are people who say what they do and do what they say.
They don’t ever seem to be putting on airs or trying to impress anyone. Instead, they know themselves inside and out and show everyone who they really are.
They do this in spite of what others might think or even the negative treatment they might receive from others.
These people are inspiring for those of us who have a hard time expressing ourselves or living our own truths. Many of us feel like there are parts of us we need to hide or that we need to invent fictions because we’re not proud of our realities.
But when we look at these people who are fully authentic, it inspires us to try to live our lives in the same way.
6) They embody empathy.
Empathy is one of the most important traits a person can have.
It’s also one that so many of us try to develop in our lives.
There are really two parts to it.
One is that you understand your own emotions, where they come from, and how to deal with them.
The other part is that you can recognize and understand the emotions of others and respond to them appropriately.
When we meet an empathetic person, someone who can sense how others feel and really care about their emotions, they’re usually very inspiring. It makes us wonder where they find the depth to give to others continuously, like a well that never runs dry.
This inspires us to build our own empathy and ability to help us lift others up when we can.
7) They’re passionate.
One trait that’s so often overlooked is the passion some people have for life and their favorite activities.
These people usually have a fire in their eyes that’s unmistakable, and once you’ve seen it, you can’t help but want to have the same fire in yours.
I once went to a concert to see a band I’d been a fan of for over ten years.
At that time, they still weren’t a huge group, and I even thought that this might be my only chance to see them ever. Most bands don’t keep going if they haven’t managed to really break out after ten years.
But when I saw them, I understood something about what they were doing.
They loved it.
Most especially, I met the gaze of the lead guitarist as he shredded along through one song, and I was struck by the fire I saw there.
This was a guy who absolutely loved what he was doing, and you could see that it was truly his raison d’etre.
The concert was incredible, but what I really took away from it was that moment of seeing pure passion and knowing that’s what I wanted in my own life.
People who inspire others to grow usually embody these seven traits.
We not only see them, but we sense them deeply and they make us want to expand out and live our lives out loud like they do.
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