At the heart of influence
If I ask you the question, who or what influences you? How would you answer? Take 5 minutes and try for yourself. Read further when you are ready.
Maybe a few responses you considered included:
- The people around you: your parents, family, your partner, friends, relatives, or colleagues.
- Your experiences, your education, your past.
- External stimuli: social media, music, TV, books, movies, documentaries.
- With a larger scope, you might have said: society, technology, politics, or religion.
- On a totally different scale, you might have answered: your current mood, the life events you are going through, or maybe even maybe the weather.
And you would be right. But only to a certain degree—I’m going to talk about that later.
Now, if I gave you 10 more minutes, chances are you would just extend the list. It is common for the mind to search for influences as something external that has an impact upon us. We find this in the etymology of the word influence itself.
These definitions bring the idea that external inputs (like stars) act upon us. And that somehow we are passive when it comes to being influenced.
A new definition
I would like to take a different approach to the initial question. What if the answer was not a list, but only one element: you.
You are influencing yourself above all else. Why? Because you chose to believe what certain people say, you chose to read some books over others, you chose to develop trust even when it’s hard, you chose to spend time reflecting on and learning from your mistakes rather than blaming others or luck. You chose to push your own limits to reach your goals, rather than refreshing your Facebook feed.
Accepting that you are at the essence of your influence as an answer opens a door to infinite possibilities for your life. You are the only person that is able to better influence yourself. You can make the decision to set up an environment that will help influence yourself towards becoming the best possible version of yourself and cultivating the life you want.
For example, maybe you know that you will never leave your job to go on a six-month trip around the world, but inside you crave it and are just waiting for an external event to make it happen. If you go about it like this, it might never end up happening. Now, what if you read books about traveling, you start speaking with people that did a world tour, and write on the mirror where you daily brush your teeth: “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” Odds are, you will start gaining momentum towards your goal.
Same goes for everything. If you want to change your career, start speaking with people who work in your desired field, read about new trends in this field and learn more about what the positions entail.
You can influence yourself to change your bad habits, reach your goals, achieve your dreams, or just become a better person. You can learn to exceed your limits without anything external because this approach relies on only one element: yourself. All the bad excuses, all the external elements you lean on to justify your passive behavior—these no longer have a place under the new definition.
Turning the question on its head
To conclude, I would like to come back to the original question and ask instead: who do you influence?
Developing good influences for yourself might end-up empowering the people around you, and helping them to adopt good new habits as well.
Sharing, giving, or even just advising someone to read a book can have a greater impact than you may think —regardless of how the stars align for that person.