One day I had lunch with a good friend of mine who was a stay at home mom. She was regaling me with her story of losing her car keys that she actually had been carrying around in her hand. I gave kind of a loud, yet sympathetic, “NO” at her final key revelation. Her little toddler who had been running around at the time, looked at me and mimicked my “NO” sound which left my friend and me in side splitting laughter (it was told to me later that he continued to make this copycat noise for the rest of the day). Honestly, I was a little proud that I had influenced him, even if it was just a silly noise that he mimicked.
Whether it’s a person you look up to or who looks up to you, or it’s the media defining the new trends in society, we are exposed to and absorb influences every day. But what makes us pick one influence over another? How much control do we really have over what influences us?
A lot of it has to do with what we allow ourselves to be expose to every day. It’s like the frog slowly boiling in water. Sometimes we are completely unaware of it until it’s been gone a while.
One example for me would be profanity. I was never much of a curser, but I would hang around with people that used it in normal conversation. It didn’t really faze me after a while. Then, I made some life changes (marriage and moving), and I was around people that didn’t cuss. One day, a client, in understandable frustration, blasted out a few good ones. I actually jumped, and I realized that those words affected me now more than they did a few years ago.
It’s then I realized that whether it is radio, TV, computer or even people, I need to be more conscious in my choices of exposure. I find that when I’m around encouraging and uplifting things and people, I feel better and stronger as a person. When I was around negative people or things, I would start to feel negative and moody. I could feel my energy either drain or build based on what I was listening to or who I was with. I knew I needed to start surrounding myself with the uplifting and letting go of what was negative as much as possible
I know that we cannot sequester ourselves from everything negative, nor should we, because I believe that we are put in this world to have a positive affect on that negativity. However, I know now to be more aware of what I’m doing and who I’m with on a regular basis. It seems so simple of a concept, but to actively and purposefully live it day to day really takes some effort, at least for me. The sabbatical last year helped me gain some of this perspective. It’s something I will do again (on a smaller scale) throughout this year. I know that I will still be put in uncontrollable situations that may leave me drained and moody, but I can be more aware of what is driving me to be that way and seek positive reinforcement as well.
While I still don’t think we have absolute control over our influences and what we are exposed to every day, I believe it’s important to be as intentional as possible in our lives. We know our own moral compass. We shouldn’t sacrifice that in the name of staying trendy or fitting into a group. Because you never know how that influence you absorbed will eventually pass on to another.