It’s a New Year, and it’s essential to take a look around and reflect on the influences that are shaping us into our future selves.
What’s influencing you these days? Who are you becoming? Someone once pointed out to me that not making a choice is a choice. Of course, as long as you’re not aware of what you’re “choosing”, it’s technically not your fault. But what do you want to be doing five years from now – making excuses for your unconsciously made mistakes (“I had no idea!”), or smiling happily at having thoughtfully, intentionally, moved in the right direction in your life?
It’s quite illuminating to take a look around and realize what’s influencing you. You might think that that’s not possible, that you are you and you’re able to filter your environment at your will…well, think again.
I once had the experience of spending about an hour hanging out with someone at a party. She was really fun, and funny, and swore like a trucker. I used to enjoy swearing when I was younger (it helped with the goody-two-shoes teacher’s pet image I was always fighting), but I’d consciously cleaned up my language over the years. Well, the day after I’d hung out with this friend, I got frustrated and lo and behold…a very uncharacteristic word popped out of my mouth. What on earth? I was really embarrassed.
This “influence” was easy to pick up on – but what about the subtle, steady influence of the people you’re around every day. Are they positive, or negative? Do they gossip, or love to talk behind people’s backs and call them names? Are they big-hearted people with great attitudes, or are they whiners and complainers? No matter how much you might think that you’re different, the more you hang around certain people, the more you will become like them. It’s an insidious and sneaky process.
Some financial experts claim that your income tends to be the average of the incomes of the five people you spend the most time with. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but yikes! I don’t recommend picking friends based on their incomes (what a horrible thought), but it’s true that if you’re around people who are responsible and hard-working (within reason), you will be more likely to do the same. Same goes if you’re hanging around people who really don’t care much about anything.
What books are you reading? I try to read books from which I’ll learn something, like those which take place in another culture. I also love books which tell an inspiring or positive story that inspires me to live with more character and make better choices.
Do you watch a lot of TV? I rarely do, and I find that when I do watch, after a few commercial breaks I suddenly find myself feeling really insecure about my looks and style, and simultaneously wanting to go shopping. You may not notice this if you watch TV every day, but it’s really quite shocking when you’re not used to its influence anymore. I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch TV, ever – but are the things that you watch adding quality or depth to your life? If not, are there other, far more productive or meaningful activities you might be doing instead?
Even music is an influence – think of your favorite songs, the music you listen to over and over. What’s the message you’re getting? I won’t listen to music that I find negative, demeaning, cheap or ugly. And those “romantic” songs about not being able to live or breathe without another person – do you really think this is a good way to view relationships? Something to think about.
Take a good look around. The things which you choose in your environment are shaping you into the future you. Who would you like to be? What positive influences can you choose, starting today?