In the self help and self growth field, we ask a lot of questions. The reason, of course, is that any sort of growth involves seeing where you are now. REALLY seeing. There’s just no way to get THERE from HERE unless we know where HERE is. Two of my daughters (Emily and Stephany) and I recently went hiking. The trails winded through beautiful woods, with several swinging bridges over creeks. A few times we sort of misplaced ourselves on the winding trails. We had taken so many turns, backtracking wasn’t an option.
Just as we were beginning to get a little flustered, we found a huge mounted map – like the ones in malls. As we positioned our tired, sweaty bodies in front of the map, we all said, in unison, “Okay, where are we?” Complete with the Okay at the first. My girls didn’t fall far from the tree.
How effective would these maps be if they didn’t have the YOU ARE HERE point of reference? Can you say useless?
When it comes to self growth or improvement of any type, the questions bring us to a point of reference. Basically, they tell us… “You are here!”
Some of the most popular questions we are supposed to ask ourselves are:
- How do I spend my time?
- Do I spend my time wisely?
- Are most of my thoughts positive thoughts or negative thoughts?
- How do I react when things go wrong?
- How much exercise do I get a day?
- Do I eat enough fruit and vegetables?
- etc etc etc
However, a question that I, personally, believe is one of the most important questions is one that’s seldom asked. The answers to this question could make all the difference in the world. That question is: What influences you?
Influence. verb (used with object) <——- Guess who’s the object?!?!
If you take only one thing away from this article, I want it to be this:
- Everything you do influences you
- Everyone you “hang out with,” influences you
- Everything you read influences you
- Every song you listen to influences you
- Every book you read influences you
You know, Influence, as in AFFECT, SWAY, MOVE, IMPEL….
Sometimes the Influence isn’t immediate. Take commercials. We can see a commercial, sometimes 8 or 9 times, before we decide we HAVE to HAVE what’s being shown. Take the new Taco Bell commercial. I’d seen this commercial (for a huge burrito… because everything’s bigger in America) probably about 8 times before it hit me a few nights ago, “I want that!!!” Fortunately, I have the sweetest hubby in the world and he went and got one for us to split. (Delicious by the way.) The commercials influenced me – they subtly swayed me, causing me to make my move.
It’s this sort of thing that makes parents panic when their kids hang out with the wrong kind of friends. Their son or daughter promises that they would never do the things their friend does, and maybe they wouldn’t for the first 8 or 9 weeks or months – but after a steady influential diet, the parent knows all too well that they can be subtly swayed, causing them to make their move – in a wrong direction. We are influenced by the people we spend the most time with.
Of course, the scenario isn’t just for kids. Adults are influenced by those they hang around with as well. If one individual is a real go-getter and has high aspirations and goals in life, hanging around people with similar mindsets will spur him or her along. When that much positive energy shares a room, it’s electrifying! However, if one of these firecrackers continually hangs out with someone with zero ambition or aspirations, it won’t be long before they’re dragged down to their level.
It is what it is. We are greatly influenced by those around us – for better or worse.
But it doesn’t just stop there. We’re also influenced by the books we read, the television shows we watch, the websites we visit, and even the music we listen to. Swayed, moved, impelled…
Picture a swimming pool for a minute. It’s a hot July day and you’re going for a swim (yay, you). When you first step in, it feels like ice water! You pinch up your face and hope no one notices your teeth chattering. Ten minutes later, the water that once felt like ice now feels like Heaven poured into a cement hole. No pinched face. No teeth chattering.
The water didn’t change. Your body acclimated to the conditions. Your body adapted and conformed to fit more comfortably into the situation. Now tell me it doesn’t really matter who you spend the most time with.
If you’re skeptical about the assertion that music, websites, and television shows influence people, think about it for a minute. These things influence fads, fashions, and even the way we talk. They’re just done subtly. Now you know I love a lot of television shows, and several of my favorite ones are “reality shows” (Survivor, Amazing Race, Biggest Loser). However, I don’t have a problem with saying that many reality shows are influencing society in negative ways.
For one thing, everyone’s always mad and yelling on most of them! Grown women screaming, pulling hair, and turning over tables. If an individual gives themselves a steady diet of this ridiculousness, there’s no way they can keep from being influenced… even if the influence is slight. One reality show…. one single reality show… set off the entire FAKE BAKE fad! A tv show.
If you’re really serious about self improvement, enlightenment, and growth, I urge you to ask yourself, “What things influence me?” (The answer is simply the things you spend time with or doing.) Then sit down with these influences – each of them. Gather them around the table with you:
- the books and magazines you read
- the music you listen to (and can I just wax old fashioned here for a minute and ask if anyone’s capable of making songs that don’t involve alcohol,sex, or drugs?)
- the websites you visit
- the e-mail you read
- the games you play
- the hobbies you enjoy
- the places you go
- the people you spend time with
- your most frequent thoughts – the ones on repeat cycle
Now put each one under interrogation:
- Are YOU helping me get where I want to go?
- Are YOU making me a better person?
- What have you done for me lately?
One final thought: If anything isn’t moving you TOWARD becoming the person you want to be and having the life you want, it’s taking you FURTHER AWAY. Choose your influences wisely, they’ll leave a lasting mark.