If you are someone trying to make a difference in the lives of other people, it is imperative that you realize that in order to do so, you must elevate yourself in words and actions. To the point that the people around you take notice. When I was active duty, something I would tell my subordinates would be "set the example, don't be the example." For most of us, those words may sound like common sense, but what I can tell you is, they are not.
Our conduct, words, and actions make an impact in the world we live in. Either as a positive, or as a negative. In my experience, "Set the Example" translates to, if you hold yourself to a high standard, people will notice, and someone will follow your lead.
"People will notice," does not mean "everyone" will not notice, however. And, also, of
those who notice, quite a few will not understand your behavior, or why it might be important. This usually means those people will try to discourage you, or berate you, or question your intentions. It's important to remember, that if you are attempting to be a better "you," then you do not owe any explanations as to the "why."
However, should you decide to explain, or defend yourself, you can find confidence in knowing that, in your attempt at setting a good example, the person, or persons you are trying to influence, are already following your lead. Keep in mind also you may never know whether, or not, your conduct is actually influencing anyone at all. But more than likely, someone is noticing, and they are grateful to know they have someone to look up to.
On the flip side, "don't be the example" could better be expressed as, don't be "that guy." You know, the person who makes all the wrong choices, for all the wrong reasons. He, or she, is the person whose life is a mess because they can't seem to get out of their own way. Always involved in drama, always attached to toxic people, always thinking of themselves and not of others, and more times than not, doing what is easy, versus what is right. This person comes with a warning label. The example NOT to follow. You're probably thinking about that guy, or gal, right now. Are you "that guy?"
Don't worry, our mistakes do not define who we are, as long as we are making the attempt to be something better. Sometimes, they pave the way to a better tomorrow. If your intentions are good, you are already more than half of the way to reaching your full potential as an individual, and likewise, influencing positive change in others. What is important to note is that the process of making a better you, is just that. A process.
In fact, when it comes to inspiring others, the thing that people usually pay the most attention to, is the process. A journey of ups and downs are the most compelling to learn from, because people who have weathered a storm, or two, typically have advice worth listening to.
Why am I bringing this up now? Well, it is my opinion that there aren't enough people in this world who care enough to improve it. Which means more work for the rest of us, trying to effect some sort of positive change. Also, what seems to be considered the norm now-a-days is for people to just yell at each other to try and convince one another why the other person is wrong. This, I think, is obviously causing more harm than good. The lines of division just keep getting wider and wider.
So my philosophy is this. In order to effect change, we have to be the change. And, I believe, that at this point, in order to do that, we have to look inward and hold ourselves accountable as individuals, in our conduct. Instead of expecting another person to somehow miraculously and spontaneously elect some new way of thinking because it was yelled at them, or there was a barrage of media thrown at them.
This is especially important for the younger generations who have to grow up in today's world. I propose we, as individuals, make the conscious choice to set the kind of example for them to follow that would hopefully promote a environment of acceptance and understanding. To lead the way to a better future through what is presented to them in their personal lives and not the one most are "tricked" into by catchy slogans with ulterior motives.