We all have factors in our life that influence us but sometimes we don’t realise what they are. For example, an external influence in my life, is to live within the legal system of this country, which prevents me from completely being free from external consequence. An internal influence that I have is that after being awake for 12 hours I get tired and have to sleep, even if in some ways (or in some parts of me) I don’t want to sleep, I still have this strong internal influence that guides me.
Ultimately I want to be:
- Aligned with the things influencing me.
- Aware of the things influencing me, and
- Able to modify those influences, or adapt my relationship to them so that I can choose how they influence me.
For example, I notice that I get a lot of influence from the social slipstream. Specifically when I see the behaviour of people around me, I find it easier to do the same behaviours. This can be either good or bad, for example now that I recognise my big influence from the social slipstream, I can choose to avoid environments that include drinking or netflix and attend more environments that are fitness oriented and entrepreneurial.
The legal system is not an influence that I think about every day, or even notice as a limit regularly. I’m so used to the laws that I don’t break them and I comply with them in the background. In this case I am naturally aligned with the laws because I already don’t want to murder anyone.
list out my big influences. Set a 4 minute timer and make a list on paper. You are looking for the significant influences, the ones that feel the strongest or most influential.
Consider your own ideas first and then take some clues from the list:
- Obligation influences (I feel obligated to call my mother every week)
- Obvious influences (I obviously have to eat every day, it’s so obvious I almost forget it’s there)
- Things that feel like “needs” or urges (I need social contact or I feel miserable pretty quickly)
- Surprisingly influential people (a specific friend is very influential on me in a good and bad way)
- Behaviours (judgemental people influence me)
- Hierarchies (my boss is able to stress me out and I don’t like it)
- History, habits, past stories (I always go to pub trivia with my friends and even though I don’t like it I still go out of some sense of attachment to history)
- Philosophies (I feel bad owning a car because my philosophy is to be environmentally friendly)
- Myself (I judge myself harshly for not doing a project well and then I don’t like doing that project any more)
- Particularly strong feelings of a certain flavour (when I don’t go to sleep on time I feel terrible the next day and now knowing that I will feel terrible tomorrow is a strong guiding feeling that I would rather go to bed than stay awake)
- Beliefs (I often feel like “I can’t be rude in social circumstances” and I don’t always like how I get stuck in boring conversations)
- Body senses (if I train too hard at the gym my body says no. This is a very strong influence and I wonder how else it plays out in my life)
- Thoughts (I have the nagging thought that I need to go shopping and it doesn’t stop until I do, I notice this is a powerful influence)
Once you have a list
- Identify which influences are objectively positive and negative influences on your life.
- Check the relationship towards each of the influences. (I have a strong family work ethic that makes me feel like I can’t have fun or relax but it does keep me striving for more income so overall I like it.)
- For the positive ones, consider what might make them go negative. (For example with my strong work ethic story from my family, once I already have passive wealth generating assets I would be working hard when I don’t have to, and might like to do other enjoyable things with my time)
- For the negative ones, identify their positive (or benevolent) intent. (For example the social slipstream is there to help me get along with my friends. This is a particularly benevolent force towards my other goals. If my friends were doing crimes I might participate, if my friends were making money I might also work towards making money)
- For the strong ones, consider if you like how strong they are.
- For the weak ones, do you want them to be stronger? How can you make them stronger? What if you listened to them more?
- Do any of your influences compete with each other or polarise against one another?
- For the tough influences, what makes you so influenced by them? Is it an emotion? A story?
We sometimes like to think of ourselves as single agents, where we can think of ourselves as an agent of constantly responding to different big influences in our life. Treading the space in the middle. A life with less “big influences” might feel more free or flexible, but equally might feel listless or ungrounded. At different times in our life, it may be useful to think about how much space we have between us and our big influences.
I specifically noticed this concept when I realised that I was myself one of the strongest influences on myself. In this instance by not applying pressure to myself, I was under performing because no one else was able to pressure me either. In some ways this was a win for autonomy and self leadership but a loss because it took me a while to realise that I was not getting many results because I failed to push the pressure on myself.
There’s nothing wrong with having any influences (uncomfortable as they may appear at times). Problems come when I don’t like the state of things, or I don’t like how I relate to an influence, or I am in some kind of bind where my influences fight each other.
Try it out and see what you find out about yourself.
(principles from Internal Family System therapy, Gestalt therapy, Holistic thinking, Systems thinking, feedback loops)
Cross posted to lesswrong: https://www.greaterwrong.com/posts/zmhrPrWWahdHkscnd/a-workshop-on-life-influences