We all have influence. Every interaction, every piece of advice we deal, shapes others in ways that forever change the course of history. From a polite greeting to a bad deed, our choices impact others, transforming life for better or worse. It is in these unforseen moments of kindness and cruelty that we touch and transform the reality of our peers. A single word or gesture can make or break a person’s resolve; we can edify or destroy free will with our opinions, interest and indifference.
As a child, I realized every word spoken and heard shaped my personality and reality as we all knew it. Living in a capital city, where drugs, poverty and racism were rampant, my mom took pride in teaching us that the choices others forced on us or made us take forged the character traits that would make us both successful and nearsighted. In general, adults didn’t know what they were doing. Many hurt others out of ignorance or bad judgement without realizing the damage caused by their wake. Divorces. Moves. Hidden feelings and agendas. Subtle put downs and let downs. Lies or half truths about money, beliefs, or gender norms and identity. Addiction. Abuse. Selfishness. We could only be as great as the environment allowed. Safety was an illusion. We had to learn to distinguish opinion from fact, and build our own truth. Not every kid was blessed with such transparency; not every kid could handle it either.
Karma. The Butterfly Effect. Nature v nurture. Luck. The forces of influence act in mysterious ways creating inequity and inequality. No one is immune to this fickle mistress. Probability notwithstanding, every action has an equal an opposite reaction; an invention or an idea written down as a social media post, can travel at the speed of light and reach many users, all at the push of a button, thousands of miles away. This ability to know it all and share it all, unabashedly, is proof positive that we all matter. That collectively we can create and destroy, in a matter of seconds, someone else’s reality.
You don’t have to be Elon Musk or Kylie Jenner to convince others to support your cause, nor can self-professed influences attest that they are the only people who can control the masses and governments, bending them to their will. Manipulation in the media and through AI driven advertisements are a given, but they aren’t able to fully convince us to be anything other than ourselves. It is this evil side of influence that scares me because it amplifies our own vices, shortcomings or lack of discipline and will power. A computer or a person on the other side of the screen can’t cast a spell on you without your consent. You allow them to infiltrate your thoughts; you invite them in and give them agency where they shouldn’t have it.
Therein lies the subtle power of influence. Just as others succeed or fail in directing your decision making, you too can manipulate the outcome of their intentions. By buying a product you endorse corporations that may or may not have your best interest at heart; by following a person (lover, parent, friends, or spiritual leader) that may or may not align with your values and needs, you give them a heightened importance they may not deserve. No one and nothing in this world should move you to change your habits or goals if there is no benefit or growth stemming from it. Independent thinking is what make us human. Whenever we start letting others and/or material things rule over us we lose our free will.
Take a moment to write down the people, ideas and things that occupy your mind and time, those things that do not serve you anymore. Release yourself from their influence and allow yourself to reorder your priorities to avoid falling into the traps of societal expectations and fads. Own the road you are traveling and be deliberate about your choices. Don’t give up your freedom for a perceived sense of safety and comfort. Follow your intuition because the universe does tell you what’s right, and it’s never easy.
Always think before you act! Your actions may very well – directly or indirectly – change the course of my destiny…