Influence is described as the effect of something on a person, thing, or event. If you’re a student of leading people, it’s also the one word definition of leadership. Normally when we look at influence, it’s how we can impact others. While I’d like to address that, I’d like to begin with how we are influenced ourselves.
From the time that we exist, we are influenced by our parents, our environment, and the world around us. We start out like an empty suitcase, we begin to carry things. Over time, we’ll discard some items, and add some more.
What is alarming to me is the passive approach that we take to the influence of others on our lives. Let’s examine three seemingly innocent questions that illustrate what I mean.
- What do you read each day?
- Who do you talk to every weekend?
- What do your best friend(s) like?
These seem like small things, but they’re not. They are going to shape your morning, which will in turn craft your day. Days produce weeks, which turn to months, and years.
Before you know it, you’ve compiled a lifetime. With that in mind, let me ask you the same questions. What are you reading every morning? I’m not only referring to inspirational reading, but any and all reading.
As a Christian, I feel strongly about reading the Bible daily for our spiritual wellbeing. I also believe in reading other beneficial materials regularly. These are books that improve relationships, provide leadership resources, and are tools for learning.
Each day I check certain blogs and websites whose content improve my life. One is my Pastor’s site, www.DennyLivingston.com. His viewpoint inspires and challenges me to be a better man. Seth Godin’s blog, sethgodin.com stretches my brain in a different way. It brings perspective from a business point of view.
I also believe in reading that makes you smile. I read Garfield, Dick Tracy, and Arlo and Janis each day. How does that affect me? It makes me happy.
It’s become a practice for me to text my wife the Garfield comic each day. She would never seek it out herself, but it makes her smile. It’s an intimate unique part of our relationship. If you read something that makes you happy, you’ll going to spend at least two minutes smiling every day.
Second, who do you talk to every weekend, or your leisure time? Your weekends are normally viewed as your voluntary hours. Many don’t have as much voluntary time as they use g to, but they do have some. Who do you spend that time with?
Are those people adding to your life? Whether we want to admit it or not, they are influencing us. They’re not forcing us to do anything, but we pick up the habits of those we’re around.
If that friend were a voice in your child’s life, would you approve? If the answer is no, then a re-evaluation of your personal circle may be necessary.
Thirdly, what do your best friend(s) like? What are their interests? Do you know enough about them to know their hopes and dreams. The way we react to the crisis of those in our lives is vital to a healthy personality. What do you connect about when you get together? Are you working to ensure that it isn’t a one sided relationship?
Influence is what affects us, but it is also how we are affected by others. One way that we should be impacted by others is in our empathy. Are we close enough to truly care about what they’re going through?
How you react to their needs influences us as well. It builds our own compassion, empathy, and understanding. We must be able to laugh with those who laugh, and mourn with those who cry.
If we take a passive stance on what, or who, that we allow to influence us, we give the keys away. We’re nonverbally saying that it’s not important enough to safeguard the channels into our hearts and minds.
Life is too valuable not to at least consider how the you of today differed from the you of five years ago. If you like the changes, then evaluate how you arrived at them, and plan for the you of the next five.
If there are things that bother you, walk backwards through your mind. Explore the events, and begin correcting your course. We can change, as long as we live, we have the ability.
Growth is uniquely attached to life itself. Living things grow, such as plants, flowers, minds. Bodies may reach their full peak, but they will continue to change as long as they exist. Our mission is to ensure those changes are positive in scope, and long lasting.
It is possible to have a well rounded life, if you use the right sandpaper. We all have rough edges, I see plenty in my own life. Smoothing them out won’t happen overnight, but it’s worth taking the time. I can use outer things to make me fluent in the language of change, I just have to be proactive in the process.
In the next two articles, we’ll look at Influencing others, and something I call extended Influence. Today, I wanted to look on the outward influence of others on you and I. Those things, people, places, and events that shape us. Primarily, we don’t have to be passive in our own development, we can have an active hand in all three levels of influence.