Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about what or who influences your choices. Specifically, I’ve been wondering if it is possible to make your own choices completely uninfluenced by outside forces.
In wrestling with this question, I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t–until it is.
Let me explain.
When we first start out as little children, our every action and thought is directly influenced by our parents. How many times have you heard a 7 year old spout something that you know came from an adult in their life? They have internalized a concept and taken it as their own without truly understanding what it is.
This is not a bad thing (but it does underscore the daunting importance of parenthood). It is simply how we develop, and it is an important part of the process.
As we get older, we rebel against our parents, but we do so simply by switching what influences us. Instead of being influenced by Mom and Dad’s thoughts and actions, we give precedence to the impact that our friends, the internet, and pop stars make.
This too is an important part of the process. It reveals that our minds are not immobile–there are different influences to choose from.
As adults, we like to think that we have solidified our beliefs enough that we are unswayed by the flotsam and jetsam floating alongside our craft. However, if you look back at the decisions you have made, how many of them can you say were truly uninfluenced by anything but yourself?
There are so many times where people do things because those around them are doing it (case in point: mob mentality). Johnny got married, so I guess I should probably propose soon, too. Jenny is going to college, so I guess that’s what I’ll do. Jack is happy living at home, so I guess it’s not so bad.
Influences are everywhere; they cannot be escaped without extreme measures. In my view, if you can make choices without placing significance on other’s input, it is simply because you have internalized your influences.
For example, I started this blog as a result of reading the blog of someone else’s and desiring it for myself. The idea for a blog was not mine-I had never considered this route until I saw his. However, if I were to remove this person from my life at this point, I would still keep up with the blog. I have internalized his influence and it has become my own personal drive.
Internalizing someone’s influence is not a negative thing. In fact, it is a major factor in people’s success. If you listen to people who have ‘made it’, they will without fail point to the people or ideas that impacted them in the beginning, which they now have internalized and made their own.
Of course, if you make choices based on real or perceived pressure from others without having first gone through the process of incorporating those ideas into your own personal belief system, those choices are destined to make you unhappy and unfulfilled.
For example, if you are choosing to eat healthy and exercise because you believe that your partner will not be attracted to you if you don’t, you have already failed. However, if you see your partner working out and taking care of themselves and you allow them to influence you in this positive way, eventually you will be making that choice for yourself and not for them.
Choices should be made out of love, not fear. If you fear the loss of respect due to choosing one way or another, you are not making the choice based on YOUR internal viewpoint.
The realization of how susceptible we are to the influence of those around us underscores the urgency of surrounding ourselves with positive, uplifting people who are where we want to be in life.
For most of my life, I have resisted admitting to myself that I can be effected by those around me. However, as I have gone through several different relationships and unwillingly noticed how I changed through each one, I have realized that I am a person who is very malleable if I deem the influencer someone of great importance in my life.
Simply admitting this fact to myself is a giant first step towards making sure that I am heading in the direction that I wish to go in. Since coming to this realization, I have been much more able to step back from my thoughts and sift out who and what is influencing my decisions, and from there decide if I actually want to continue to give that significance or not.
Overall, actively choosing who or what you allow into your life is the greatest determiner of where you will end up. If you do not purposefully choose your influences, they will choose you. And usually, the things or people that choose you are simply what’s laying around where you are. Sometimes you’ll get lucky. Most of the time, you’ll get complacent.
And so, seek out those people who are notable. Fill your mind with positivity-read uplifting books, have deep conversations, connect with those you love. Most of all, be aware every. single. moment. what YOU want to be influenced by, and make sure that the instruments of impact on your life are handpicked by YOU. You cannot avoid being pulled along the current, but you can choose the stream. Choose wisely.