We’re surrounded by influences.
They’re everywhere. And they’re getting in our heads all day, every day, from advertisements on the radio to what our friends think. They impact what we think, and sometimes even how we think (consider: how similar are some of your thought patterns to those of a sibling or spouse?).
These influences affect our choices, and our choices affect our influences, round and round. But there is no way to simply avoid influences.
You can’t escape it.
But you can control it. How? It’s not really all that hard.
You are what you eat. This goes for your mind as well as your body. Your friends, clubs, coworkers, the shows you watch and even your hobbies influence you. So then, you can decide what has the ability to influence you with what you choose to give your time to. Choose wisely. Pick the things that hold value for you.
Filter your intake.
You’re not always in a position to control your influences. You can’t determine who your family is, and you can’t always be so choosy about your work environment. But you have a brain—use it. Awareness about what you are taking in, the dynamics at play and the motivations behind them, can help you build a filter to take these influences in through and protect you from simply absorbing the ones you don’t want to buy into.
Limit your consumption.
I was recently introduced to the Continuous Creation Challenge via the Nurturing Creativity blog. The idea is that to tune into your inner voice, you turn off the outside ones—stop consuming and focus for a short period solely on creating. Like all fasts, it’s not a healthy long-term option, but when done for a short time, it can help you jumpstart a fresh perspective. Are there influences it would serve you to remove or limit? I know I can think of a few I could stand to quiet.
We don’t like to think that we can be influenced so easily affected by others. But not all influences are bad. If you live thoughtfully, you can be a better person for your influences. I heard of a study that showed that individuals with stronger religious identities were less swayed by brand identities. And where would be we without the influence of the great artists who came before us?
It’s okay to accept and even embrace our natural inclination toward influence. It’s part of connection. You just have to be mindful of it, too.