Mirror & Model

The Way to Self-Mastery is found on a path marked by references, and along this path to mastery, self or any other kind, it will necessarily be the practitioner’s job to extract the most meaningful information from these references, make correspondences and conclusions, and apply these to personal development and/or the subject/object of learning. This is called cognitive behavioral strategy and is a technique used, either consciously or unconsciously, toward outcomes in which progress defines the goal.

Masters are eminently familiar with the references of their path or craft. We know which references lead to success, as well as which ones lead to frustration. We also know that as objective observers, presence in the moment taps us into a reservoir of such vast potential, that our resources are consistently replenished, giving us fresh opportunities for refinement of values, and delivers a steady stream of momentum that propels us in any direction that we desire.

Modeling the Best: An Integral Component of Personal Success

What do you want out of life? What do you want to create, in alignment with your personal vision of joy? And do you know how to get it? Do you have the resources? And if not, are you studying, or learning from the people who have already succeeded in accomplishing what you’re striving after?

Modeling psychology is powerful, perhaps the most powerful form of cognitive behavioral learning ever, precisely because it wasn’t invented, but rather encoded directly onto our developmental hardware. Modeling is how babies first learn and continue to learn for years into their development. Some say, though it hasn’t been precisely proven yet, that this is due to a system of mirror-neurons in our frontal cortex, that we have been quite literally hard-wired to mirror and model our surroundings. If this is true, then it sheds great light on the nature of the human and world condition, for conscious or unconscious, there is a force at play here that can be either a major support or perilous pitfall along our respective ways.

Modeling Means Learning by Copying the Behavior of Someone Else

The techniques that Cognitive Behavioral Psychology suggest implementing to intentionally change behaviors and improve mindset to achieve goals, can be employed across the entire spectrum of human endeavor. Specifically, conscious, or intentional modeling is a technique that can be used when one is determined to grow, to both unlearn behaviors that no longer serve our purpose, as well as learn new behaviors that will help us exceed and climb to new heights.

Modeling is Conscious and Unconscious

Everybody knows that kids copy parents. They copy the good and the bad. Parents who are conscious of this dynamic can use this powerful knowledge to literally shape their children’s destinies, by modeling positive behaviors in health, communication, self-expression, mindfulness – the list is endless.

A good leader will often model intentionally. Masters in the Tantrik tradition reference it as a tool of choice in teaching relationships, especially when the student is of sufficient awareness to mirror the teaching appropriately and proportionally to the current stage of development.

Intentionally Creating a Reality Requires Mindful Attention & Action

We all know the clichés. Walk a mile in my shoes to know where I have been. Don’t mistake the finger pointing at the moon. Kill the Buddha if you meet Him on the road. The Path of Self-mastery is necessarily walked alone. But although there’s a lot of work you need to do on your own, and experiential wisdom is only gained in the doing of that work, we can also enlist the aid of those who have already been down the path ahead of us and achieved the success we seek. After all, a mountaineer doesn’t dismiss a Sherpa out of hand. An athlete doesn’t shun a coach. As a matter of fact, often it’s the players at the top of their game who understand this maxim the best: success leaves clues. And an experienced, objective eye can often see what that which is closest to us cannot. Likewise, in objectively following the breadcrumbs left by a good role-model, in the intentional modeling of the way of an impeccable master’s approach, style or method, we give ourselves the benefit of somebody else’s often years of experience, trial and error to help overcome pitfalls before we even encounter them, and virtually catapult ourselves to success. Not on the master’s coattails though. It’s still you doing the work.

But haven’t you noticed that the most successful people will more often than not surround themselves with people who are better and brighter than themselves? They’re not hoping that something passively rubs off; they’re looking to actively use this added illumination to advantage. We surround ourselves with the best because sure, we know that we become what we associate ourselves with. Consciously modeling those behaviors just gets you where you’re going anyway, faster.

Using Modeling to Achieve Your Spiritual Ambitions

Modeling to achieve peak state is one of the most powerful, transformative techniques available. Choose a person you admire, study the methodology behind their success and create a similar path for yourself. For instance, on the various paths of Yoga, who is someone that is already getting, or has gotten the specific results that you’re after? Are you looking to achieve what the Sramana Gautama achieved? Are you ready to model that Way? Do you want what Yogananda found?

Don’t put success on a pedestal. Model someone who is already getting the results that you want. If you want to accelerate the tempo of mastery, find someone who is already getting the result, and figure out how they do it and do the same thing. Simple. Consistent success means there’s probably a strategy and you can save yourself decades by mirroring and modeling that strategy. Some masters like Patanjali even took pains to bullet point a strategy for you. All you have to do is model it.

Modeling to Success is a Simple 3-Step Process

  • Pick the Right Person

Find someone who is already successful in your chosen field, or someone who has created the kind of life you want to live. Check them out. How did they do it? What kind of challenges did they face and how did they address them? What are their philosophies, approaches and methods? Use this information to build a path that mirrors theirs.

  • Ask For Help

If you already know or have a connection to someone, perfect. Reach out. You don’t just have to study masters from the past, or from afar, reach out into your immediate circle of influence for experiential sharing or mentoring from someone you admire or respect. If mastery is in your vicinity, get its number and make an appointment! Time is a valuable resource on both sides; don’t squander yours, and perhaps consider adding value to theirs while they show you the ropes. And of course there is the valid option of schooling and professional coaching on any number of levels.


An interesting condition of our mirroring psychology is a tendency to believe ourselves capable of mimicking anyone, whether or not we have the skill or temperament. There is a tendency to inflated self-assessment, and in reality, the ratio of believing you’re able to do something is often at odds with actual ability to do it. And yet, optimists statistically outlive pessimists and aren’t as easily dissuaded from learning things (at the early stages of learning anyway.) But pessimists really know how to give it a push when things get really hard, because to them, everything is difficult, so exertion becomes the only reasonable choice. Like most things, what you want is to be able to control your emotional range well enough to trigger whichever is more useful in the micro-moment. Hence mindfulness, and mentors.

  • Create a Strategy

Life doesn’t always have to be planned out and again there is validity to the cliché that tells us that the journey is more valuable than the destination. And yet, so much of our lives does, in fact, revolve around goals, whether in our careers, our arts, our yoga practices or our daily schedules, and hence practical and pragmatic approaches to self-development can also be considered. The question always comes back to one thing and one thing only – what do you want? Answer that, and developing a strategy that works to get you there is the next logical step. If you’re lucky, modeling will be a part of that strategy.

Mirroring and modeling is a skill set like any other – it’s something you can learn and improve upon. Keep the lesson of Dunning-Kruger in mind, the one that warns you of your cognitive bias. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself, acknowledging both what you know and what you don’t.

Real Yoga is found in that acknowledgement, and acceptance of Self in the moment. The objective abiding in that awareness, of what you are, your essential nature, is the true mirror mind and most impeccable model. Use both to further your creation and joy.