My Top 5 Takeaways from #BlogHer17

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The past couple of days, I’ve been in Orlando, Florida at the BlogHer conference. ¬†It was INCREDIBLE. ¬†It was the first time I’ve ever been to a conference of any sort, and I was blown away by all of the passion, information, and people that I encountered on my two day stint.

There was so much amazing knowledge that was shared, and so many insights I gleaned from my observations and conversations.  Overall, though, I want to share with you the top 5 takeaways I gathered from my 48 hours at #BlogHer17

Takeaway #1: You Serve Best by Doing What You Love

As I was listing to all of the keynote speakers, it was evident that they had SO MUCH passion behind their individual projects.  While each of the speakers had lofty aspirations they wanted to reach, and they all wanted to make an impact on the world, they were doing it in so many different ways.   Likewise, when I dove into conversation with other bloggers, there was so much variety in what people were targeting in their blogs.

If you look at what everybody else is doing, it is so easy to lose focus on what we originally set out to do. ¬†One of the great quotes that I heard is “we envy what we don’t know”. ¬†I have found this to be true with me recently, as I am trying to solidify what impact I want to make in the world and how I want to do that outside of my teaching arena. ¬†I look at all the things others are doing and think “aw man, I should be doing that!” or “I should be doing this!”

In reality, we need to bring our focus back to us and what WE love. ¬†If we have passion, that passion will be infectious. ¬†However, if that true joy in what we’re doing is lacking, it will never end up being successful anyways.

Takeaway #2: ¬†Don’t Be Married To An Outcome

There were several speakers who touched on this idea.  The notion that we are going to go from A to B to C without any forks in the road or hills to climb is laughable.  Oftentimes we decide on a path and continue to slog through the mud, come hell or high water, even when stepping stones to higher, drier ground appear before us.  There were many examples at the conference of people who started out doing one thing and then pivoted and did something completely different than what they originally envisioned.

This idea of letting life lead you needs to be balanced with drive and ambition, of course, but if you find that you aren’t enjoying something as much as you used to, or you discover something else that gives you more fulfillment, it is 100% ok to change direction.

Takeaway #3:  Pressure is a Privilege

A couple of people discussed this idea that they avoided success because it meant that there would be a lot more pressure put upon them to perform.  If you are the best tennis player in the world, people simply expect you to win, which can be daunting.  However, being successful and having that pressure put upon you is a privilege in that it validates your achievements and gives you a platform from which to amplify your message.

Not having any pressure to accomplish anything is dangerous; it leads to complacency and a cycle of accepting the status quo.  If you feel that pressure to get better, go to the next level, or advance your brand or business, be thankful: It means that you are making headway and an impact.

Takeaway #4:  Celebrate The Power of Others

There were so many women (and a handful of men) at this conference who were doing so many amazing things, big and small.  There were several keynote speakers who blew me away with their social change efforts, and a handful of open-mic night participants that moved me to tears.  It was incredible to feel the constant energy, and it completely fueled my fire to do big things.

Someone else doing amazing things in no way dilutes your ability to reach success, too. ¬†If everyone helps each other up, all participating parties benefit. ¬†There are so many authentically awe-inspiring things that are going on in the world around you-get involved with other people’s success, and it can only augment yours.

Takeaway #5: Dream Big

Many times we imagine what could happen if our wildest dreams came true, and then we tamp our thoughts back down into the firm cold ground of ‘reality’. ¬†There were so many people who presented their accomplishments, and all of them conveyed them in a way that made it seem like it wasn’t an act of luck or happenstance that these things came to fruition but simply putting in the time or taking advantage of opportunities that cropped up along the way.

Our dreams are worth holding on to. ¬†There is no point in chasing a ‘realistic’ dream; than it ceases to be a dream at all. ¬†If you have aspirations that seem crazy, don’t let that dissuade you. ¬†Keep those goals in the forefront of your mind and actually believe that you can achieve them. ¬†We only have one life, and it is better to spend it working towards a bigger vision that squander it on the mundane.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, BlogHer was an amazing, mindset-shifting event that had a profound impact on my mindset and awareness.  While I still need time to process all of the information that I received, I am beyond thankful for the opportunity of going!

I highly encourage you to search up conferences related to your passions and professions. ¬†Not only will you return with renewed purpose, you will connect with others who are like-minded and maybe, just maybe, you will have one encounter that alters your course for good. ¬†In the infamous words of Shia LeBeouf, “Just DO IT!”

It Takes a Village

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Yesterday I chaperoned our end-of-the-year 8th grade dance. ¬†Well, merely chaperoned is an understatement. ¬†I’m in charge of our 8th grade end of the year activities, and thusly I’ve been prepping for this event for months. ¬†In addition to making sure that the students ‘left room for Jesus’ during the dance, I also spent several hours setting up the event and an hour afterwards tearing it down (AFTER, of course, a full day of teaching).

What made an impression on me, however, was how many people stepped up to help me out. ¬†I’m used to doing things on my own, and while I vaguely knew that people had volunteered to help, it was overwhelming HOW MUCH they helped; it was truly awesome to be able to trust the people around me to step up and help me get the job done.

All of this reminded me of the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”. ¬†As teachers, we have thousands of children to raise, and I am lucky to have an amazing village of teachers around me to help shape the children in our care. ¬†However, I feel that this saying applies to more than just raising a child; it also takes a village to provide the catalyst for success, motivation, and fulfillment.

This is not a very popular idea.  In America, there is a glorified image of the Lone Ranger taking on the world all alone and rising to the top.  Yet in reality, this type of win could only be achieved by stepping on the people below you in the fight to get the top, and you are limited by an unsavory reputation and the smell of burning bridges behind you.  However, if you truly cultivate a village around you, your potential is unlimited, and you and your village will progress together.

The original village mentality was built around survival.  If one person was out of line or there was a rife in a relationship, that threatened the very existence of the village.  It all came down to trust, and if that trust was lost, your membership in that community was called into question.  This guaranteed that the village members toed the line-their survival depended on it.

Today, we don’t need a village to survive. ¬†But I would argue that we do need a village to thrive. ¬†And while social media has done us a disservice by bringing to life the paradox of ‘the more you share the lonelier you feel’, it has opened up the possibility of being able to hand pick our village.

This is an amazing opportunity, so I’m going to repeat it: we live in a time where we are able to individually choose our village. ¬†We are able to actively search out people who will add value to our lives. ¬†This includes people who expose us to new information, pick us up when we stumble, and help us discover the tools we need to keep growing.

This, of course, comes with a flip side of the coin. ¬†In order to choose these individuals as your village, you need to bring something to the table. ¬†Gone are the days where you might happen to be born into the village where the best cloth-weaver resides, and where you can pick up on her skills by exposure. ¬†Now, in order to take advantage of someone else’s years of practice, you have to be able to contribute to their lives in some way.

It is a harsh reality, but it is true: if you do not bring value to anyone, no one is going to chose you to be in their village unless it is by happenstance.  I believe that this is why so many people stay by their hometowns and have the same friend circle throughout their entire lives.  People have a need to belong no matter what level they are on, but if you want to belong to more than the Friday night local bar club, you have to infuse your being with value.

Just as the top villages of old worked their ass off to make sure there was food, water, and shelter, the successful villages of today work just as hard to make sure that their minds are in tip top shape.  And the concept of striving for full potential is just the same as scrambling for survival; every single person has to be at the top of their game or the whole network suffers.

The ability to choose your village is a privilege that many forgo, simply due to the lack of effort or lack of preparation.  Actively seeking like-minded people is a foolproof way to light your own personal fire while getting the benefits of helping other people light theirs.

Take the time to think about who you admire, who you can see is creating your type of success, and who you want to be as a person.  You cannot simply run up to these people and create a shortcut to prosperity-achieving ANY kind of personal goal is always through hard work.  If you put in the arduous work, it will show.  And once it starts showing, the people you seek out will be attracted to you because YOU can help them, too.

It truly takes a village to become the best version of yourself. ¬†Don’t shun the idea that you need help to get to where you want to be. ¬†While you’re waiting, strive to become the best version of you on your own, and when that is achieved, there will be people who come into your life to skyrocket you to heights you could have never even seen if you stayed in your own bubble. ¬†Strive for more than survival–seize the chance to thrive!

 

The Three Most Annoying Words in the English Language

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I had a nice little chat with two different friends yesterday. ¬†I was detailing the horrors of the end of the school year, and lamenting that I wasn’t as far along with my real estate classes as I would like. ¬†I was, of course, expecting the sympathy to start rolling in–HA. ¬†I should have known better.

They both, in so many words, said “Sounds like a bunch of excuses.”

This, obviously, was the exact opposite of what I was wanting to hear. ¬†Aw man, that sucks! ¬†Yeah, you definitely have your plate full, I wouldn’t be that far along either. ¬†That is completely understandable. ¬†THAT’S what I wanted to rain down upon my ears.

But instead, I got “quit slacking”. ¬†“It all comes down to you.” ¬†“Sounds like you aren’t working hard enough.” ¬†So that was cool. *insert sarcasm*

But the most annoying part…the part that sucks….the part that I hated to admit was:

They were right.

I DIDN’T actually have any excuses. ¬†I legitimately was kind of being a slacker. ¬†And as much as I like to think of myself as a driven person who won’t quit until success is reached, I kinda sorta have to admit that lately, that hasn’t been the case.

“You are right”. ¬†Those three words can cause even the most seasoned life veteran to cough and stutter before spitting them out.

No one likes to hear that they are wrong. ¬†They especially don’t like to learn that they’re wrong in a direct, straight-to-the-point matter. ¬†With witnesses. ¬†And it SUCKS to have to swallow your pride and admit your downfalls to yourself, much less to the person casually pointing them out.

I know that if I were to have talked to any of my other friends, I would have gotten what I wanted-soothing words of affirmation that would assure me that there was nothing wrong with what I was doing, and I should just keep on keeping on.

And yet, I feel that this would have been a disservice to me. ¬†We don’t need people to encourage us to keep curling the 5 lb weights that obviously are a better fit for the tiny 80 year old woman in Silver Sneakers class. ¬†We need people who are going to yell in our face as we struggle to put up the 20 lb shoulder press, and encourage you to go for that last rep before our arms fall, exhausted, but our pride swells, elated.

Of course, this last metaphor would be a lot more effective if you’re being yelled at by a 220 lb jacked trainer rather than your 115 lb friend who loves Zumba and Yoga. ¬†Likewise, we need to have those friends in our lives who are living what they push us to do.

The two friends who called me on my shit?  Both male.  Both extremely hard-working.  Both putting in long hours towards their differing goals, so much so that most people would think them slightly nutty.  Both headstrong, very smart, and driven from within to succeed.

So yes, it was extremely annoying to have to admit that they were right. ¬†But I would rather have friends who push me to my breaking point and help me reach beyond rather than ‘friends’ who are content floating down the Lazy River.

“You are right” are the three most annoying words in the English language. ¬†But they are also the most necessary words to hear in order to move forward with your life and your goals. ¬†If you never feel the need to admit that you were wrong about something, then you have never felt the impact of growth.

Growing.  Changing.  Evolving.  These are all symptoms of realizing that we do not know everything, and we are better than our excuses and previous mindsets.  If the people that you surround yourself with have never ever made you say those annoying words, than you need to find yourself some other friends and mentors.

Flourishing as a person is not easy.  But it is infinitely better to go through the pain of mental reorganization and realization of temporary failure than it is to skip blithely along with the mindset of your youth unchallenged.

“You are right” is annoying only because of our pride. ¬†Set aside your ego, and those words become words of discovery, words of new beginnings, and words of positive change.

In today’s society, we have become so accustomed to others patting us on the back with a ‘there there’ and moving on that we instantly become offended when people try to point out how we could improve. ¬†Straight-shooters are seen as assholes. ¬†Individuals who keep it real are snubbed.

But stop and think about it. ¬†Who really cares about you? ¬†The person who nods their head and agrees externally while rolling their eyes and shaking their head on the inside? ¬†Or the person who stops you in your tracks and says ‘wait a minute dude, you’re selling yourself short’. ¬†I know who I’d want on my team.

So challenge yourself to truly see what you are. ¬†Call yourself on your own shit. ¬†If you actually care about the people around you, be (wo)man enough to call them out when they aren’t serving themselves well. ¬†The quick slice of a knife always heals faster and less ugly than the slow degradation of flesh. ¬†And the sting of reality is substantially better than the suffocating cloud of self-deception.

Embrace the annoyance.  Relish the feeling of those words on your tongue.  Love the effect of pushing yourself to constantly be more.  At the end of the day, the moment of irritation and ego deflation will fade away in the bright light of fulfillment, and you will thank god that someone took the time to call you out.

 

Nobody Cares if You’re Motivated

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The past couple of weeks, I have been mentally out of the discipline game.  I haven’t gone off the deep end where I’m running around eating, drinking, and doing whatever I want, but I feel like I definitely have allowed myself a lot more slack than I normally do.

This might not be the end of the world, but for me, who is used to carrying things out in a timely and orderly fashion, I can completely tell that I am not at the top of my game, and I hate it.  I have so many things that I want to accomplish, yet I seem to keep sliding backwards when I should be striding forward.

I desperately want all of my goals to be accomplished.  So why is my motivation not propelling me forward in the way that a burning desire should?

Motivation isn’t the catalyst.

I read or heard something recently that you don’t need more motivation, you need more discipline.  This could not be more true in my experience: I am completely motivated to get my real estate license and to lose the last 5-8 lbs that I need to lose in order to be completely happy with my bikini bod, but the last couple weeks with discipline being completely thrown out the window, I can tell that my body is a little softer than it was 4 weeks ago, and I’m still on my first real estate book when I had planned to be on my second by now.

And so, here I sit, no real estate license in hand and jeans a bit more snug that I would like.  Nobody wants to hear about the time you were motivated to almost finish a race or almost start your own business.  We love stories about actual results.

Why, then, are people so quick to blame lack of motivation or claim they need to do all these things to get motivated to do something?  Why don’t they simply put their nose to the grindstone and start to see results?

 

Sadly, the truth isn’t exciting.

Quite frankly, discipline sucks.  No one WANTS to constantly resist all of the tempting foods that are constantly being shoved in our face.  It’s definitely not FUN to stay home on a Friday night once again so that you can pop out of bed bright and early on Saturday morning.  It’s BORING to sit down to the table to read a chapter for the 17th day in a row rather than flip on the TV to the latest hit show.

Motivation, on the other hand, is addicting.  It’s highly enjoyable to get all hyped up about something, especially if you are getting pumped up in a crowd.  You see people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish.  You hear about how they achieved this body or that amount of customers or traveled to this many places, and their story inspires you to make more of a push for your goals.

But the thing is, most goals are not going to be accomplished in the hour or two where your motivation is at peak levels.  If motivation is the only that that is fueling your fire, than you will be shivering in the cold long before the end game is in sight.

It takes discipline to go the long haul.  You are going to have to go out to the woods, chop a tree, bring it back piece by piece, and do this over and over again to keep that fire burning.

Simply put, discipline is the ONLY THING that guarantees your results.  The very nature of discipline implies consistency, and if you are consistent with anything long enough, you will eventually achieve your desire in one form or another.

Any time that I look at what I have or don’t have and try to mentally complain about how it’s not fair that I’m not at this or that level, I can always force myself to look back and see the lack of consistency that led me to where I am at that moment.

Discipline is hard.  But eventually, discipline leads to habit, and once you’ve reached habitual levels of consistent effort, your progress will speed up tremendously.

However, life still likes to throw roadblocks at you in the form of unexpected events.  When I have a week where my routine is uninterrupted, my food consumption, gym attendance, and learning schedule are unchallenged and go off without a hitch.

But throw in a random meeting or two, life responsibilities that take a lot of time in my otherwise normal day, and people who are visiting or who want to hang out, and my discipline goes out the window.

So, in reality, I’m actually not that disciplined.  If I was, I would be able to navigate those stumbling blocks with ease, and keep my eyes on what it is that I want long-term.

This is a sucky thing to admit to oneself, especially if you have an image in your mind that encompasses all you WANT to be, versus where you really are.  And once again, I have all the motivation in the world to want to be fit and advance my learning in general, but when it comes down to it, desire doesn’t matter.

Your body doesn’t react to what you WANT it to look like-it shapes itself based on what you do to it and how you feed it.  Your business doesn’t grow based on what you WANT your revenues to be, it yields tantamount to the consistent effort that is put forth by you and your employees.  When it comes down to the wire, your efforts will show, no matter how much you will them to be different than they are.

There is no shortcut to any success.  Motivation may cause an initial burst of energy that will get you past the breakers, but it is the slow, steady strokes, hand over hand, that will get you across the channel.

So sit down with yourself.  Acknowledge where you want to end up, and how far you are away from it.  Steel yourself for the long haul ahead.  Write out a specific plan for your days, and how you will handle routine interruptions.  Settle into the reality that it’s not going to be a high-energy, full speed ahead race where the finish line is reached in mere seconds.

The journey is long.  It’s arduous.  It’s full of moments that suck.  But in the end, the steady turtle of discipline will outpace the bounding rabbit of motivation every. single. time.

Best Foot Forward

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I just ended a week full of presenting my best self.  Interviews are no joke: dressing to impress, trying to recall all of your vast work experience to fit into one perfectly worded response to the rapid-fire questions coming across the conference table, and anxiously waiting to hear back from the one job you really want (and, of course, hearing back from the job you’re only so-so about two hours after you leave).

Finding a job is serious business.  If you’re good at the initial first impression game, you have lots of offers, even if your qualifications are sub-par.  If you can’t interview well, sometimes you are passed by for someone with more flair.  Knowing how to play the game is crucial if you really want to get ahead.

These observations instantly reminded me of dating.  Finding a partner is one big interview process that can be intriguing and exciting but also exhausting and disheartening.  And the exact same parameters for success apply.

When you’re dating, you make sure you make up your face perfectly and wear the top that shows off just enough cleavage to be interesting, but not enough to be slutty.  You try to come up with clever and witty responses to their questions, and you anxiously wait by the phone for them to text (but sadly, usually only getting 5 in a row from that one guy from that one bar who won’t leave you the hell alone).

This begs the question:  what’s the difference between someone who gets the job, and someone who is sent the polite “thank you but no thanks” e-mail?  What differentiates between someone whose call is eagerly awaited and someone whose very name on the screen initiates an eyeroll and a screenshot?

Marketing matters.  The candidate who comes across as knowledgeable, friendly, and confident, even if she is shaking in her proverbial boots, is the person who will receive the offer.  Likewise, the guy who goes after what they want without any hesitation and puts out the vibe that they know the other person will like them will usually get the giggle, sideways glances, and beaming smiles from the girl they are pursuing.

However, this is a double-edge sword in both scenarios.  Sometimes confidence can cross the line into arrogance.  No one, either in the professional and dating worlds, wants to be around an egomaniac.  Trying to downplay things, though, can be equally as off-putting.  While reaching the Goldilocks sweet spot can be tough, it is the attitude that wins the offer letter AND the 2 second text response.

Authenticity matters.  Even if people aren’t  as in tune with their inner psyche as they should be, we usually can tell when something is off.  As humans, we want to know that we are surrounded by trustworthy human beings both on the job and in our romantic relationships.  Authenticity means being true to your likes and dislikes, what you need, and not being afraid to show your whole self.

Nonetheless, this again needs to be tempered with common sense.  Just because you prefer casual dress at the workplace doesn’t mean you should show up to an interview in jeans.  Likewise, just because you enjoy frozen TV dinners more than fine dining doesn’t mean you should take your date to Chipotle the first time around.  Our BEST authentic self should be what we present, not our ’20 years in the same job’ self or ‘thrifty, cutting corners’ self.

Preparation Matters.  Believe it or not, there are some people who show up to an interview with no idea of what the company stands for or what makes it unique.  Likewise, there are people who ask for a first ‘date’, only to end up dilly-dallying around because they made no plans beforehand.  Interviewers want to know that you have done your homework and that you actually want to work THERE versus ANYWHERE.  Girls want to know that you care enough about the date to take the time to set up a dinner reservation.  Doing your homework may not guarantee an A on the test, but it will give you a hell of a better shot than just winging it.

Ultimately, you can market yourself impeccably, be true to yourself, prepare to the Nth degree, and still not get a callback or a second date.  Sometimes, there was a superior candidate.  Other times, it just wasn’t the right fit.  While either scenario sucks, it’s also a relief to know that you are still free to find the perfect fit for YOU, whether it be a job with more flexibility or a partner who just gets you.

Opportunities in life are just that: opportunities.  Just because one doesn’t take off the way you imagined or hoped doesn’t mean that you are forever doomed.  In most cases, people looking back on their lives at chances that didn’t work out for some reason (OTHER than lack of effort) feel that they were the recipient of something much better later on.

And so, whether you are searching for a job or searching for a soulmate, don’t tie yourself to one image of what you *think* you want.  Give your all and take every chance that you think might pan out, but don’t spiral into despair over a rejection letter or a flopped date.  In the end, if you play your cards right, the best things in the world will fall into your lap, and you will thank the stars for every experience that led you to that point.

LIVE for Something

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Yesterday I was listening to a song, and one of the lyrics stood out to me: “Why isn’t anyone willing to die for anything anymore?” (paraphrased).

At first glance, being willing to die for something is the ultimate commitment.  You are willing to lay down your LIFE for this thing, which means you are willing to give up your existence in order to show your dedication to this cause you feel so strongly about.

But when I was pondering this lyric and internally agreeing that the willingness to die for something really IS lacking in today’s world, I came to the realization that dying for something is hard, but living for it is harder.

When you die for something, it is over in an instant.  You declare your unending dedication by a short, albeit dramatic demonstration, and then it is over.  People remember your act for a while, but it usually fades shortly thereafter.

If you LIVE for something, however, that takes substantially more commitment.  It means that all of your time is dedicated towards that goal.  All of your choices are geared towards furthering your cause.  There are constant sacrifices that need to be made, and you are consistently having to rededicate your mind to the prize and remind yourself of why you are so devoted in the first place.

This is the reason why people who LIVE for something are remembered.  People like Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Susan B. Anthony, and many more are individuals who are commemorated for their fierce commitment to causes that were near and dear to their heart.

Each of these people were living for things greater than themselves.  Which, in my belief, is the key to true success.  When you focus on causes that impact people outside of just you, you will get increasingly more momentum as others appreciate, acknowledge, and even join your purpose rather than simply putting your head down and bulldozing through your own personal agenda.

So, what does it mean to actually live for something versus simply existing?

It means that you are actively involved in the direction your life is going.  So many people allow their lives to be dictated by life events or people close to them.  They lose out on opportunities because they don’t want to leave their current job or the people around them, or they settle down with someone and give up their life long dream of traveling to Europe because that person doesn’t like to travel.

Using a personal example, I could choose to take my layoff as a sign to leave California, or bend to the pressure to move back to Minnesota, or simply apply anywhere there is a job and take what I can get.  However, I know that I want to stay near the coast, so I am only applying to jobs that fit that location criteria.  I refuse to let being laid off dictate where I live, and I am completely confident in my abilities to make it happen.

It means you have put thought into what is important to you, and you have decided what you can compromise on and what you cannot.  If you don’t forcefully put aside time for yourself to figure out what you want, there is no way that you can keep a steady course.  Living FOR something means that you have given substantial thought to this goal or cause, and have laid out the steps you need to take to get there.

I have seen this firsthand in the life of someone close to me.  He has decided what he wants to live for, and he refuses to let anything get in his way.  The reason he can be so absolute, however, is because he has devoted a good portion of his time to figuring out what is important to him and why.

It means you have character.  It is hard to stick to something with so many obstacles constantly being placed in your path.  People who have character stick to their guns no matter what because they have gone through the mental work necessary to solidify how important their goals or their cause is to them.

The best example I can think of for character is my father.  He has beliefs that he considers absolutes, and there is absolutely nothing that will sway him to compromise those beliefs.  Even if it would be immensely easier to give into to those around him, he still unwavering acts upon his own convictions.

Overall, living FOR something versus simply existing is the optimal way to live your life.  Think of your life as a giant puzzle: it is infinitely easier to put together the picture if you have the box to go off of.  It’s just that in life, you get to create the image yourself.  If you don’t take the time to create that image and set it up so that it is constantly in your field of vision, who knows what Kindergarden-like image you will end up with at the end of your life.

Masterpieces take time, planning, and dedication.  Don’t waste your life floating from one experience to the next; decide what you want to accomplish with this one life we are given, and then take the steps to make it happen.  Live FOR something, and your life will be one worth living. 

 

Influence

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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.