Stop! Being Influenced. Start! Getting Inspired.
There are two external factors we are going to discuss today. These factors can affect your personal, professional, and academic lives. These factors are Influence and Inspiration. I’ll be honest, the word influence makes me cringe, it is in my top 5 most disliked words. Let me explain. When I am mulling over a topic, I tend to discuss my thoughts with as many people as will entertain potentially lengthy, deep discussions. I am particularly annoying in this way. Those close to me know when I am trying to figure something out. The last few weeks it has been this topic. I have discussed both influence and inspiration with a handful of people and have found that I am not alone in my dislike of the term influence.
One of the definitions of influence is “corrupt interference with authority for personal gain.” Another definition from Merriam-Webster is, “the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.”
So, why do I hate the term influence? I understand influence to contain an analysis of the consequences of decisions prior to acting, thus altering the decisions we make to avoid a certain result. Here is an example:
I have an 8 year old stepdaughter. On a handful of occasions, she has come to her mom and I in tears because she is “different than the other kids.” To be honest, she is. I absolutely adore her for it. I admire how someone so young could have such a genuine personality. Try as I might, I could not figure out a way to convince her that being different is good. Standing out, being your own person and being a natural leader who follows their own heart instead of “going with the flow” has an incredible amount of power to it. This poor girl at 8 years old, feels influenced to act and be a certain way. In her young mind, there is a set behavior that is expected and desired in order to be liked, popular, and appreciated. Any deviation from this behavior has consequences. In order to be influenced, an analysis of conditions is prerequisite. If the conditions determine our behavior, in regards to our personality, we are being influenced. Conditions such as: being called weird, crazy, silly, or “not normal.”
I was browsing on Amazon this last February for gifts for her eighth birthday. I came across a shirt that said, “Why fit in when you were BORN to stand out?” I instantly fell in love and knew this was the gift I wanted to give her. I was trying to inspire her to be herself.
If an 8 year old can be influenced this powerfully by her peers, what about the rest of us? How do we counteract the barrage of influence bearing heavy consequences that are shaping us into beings of the “norm?”
Influence changes our decisions and behaviors to achieve a result more “fitting” to the one deciding the conditions.
What about Inspiration? How is it different than Influence? Inspiration can also shape our character, but not because we fear the negative impact of pre-defined conditions. Rather, inspiration behaves in an opposite way. In the same way influence changes our behaviors because of the fear of the consequence, inspiration alters our behaviors in order to obtain a desired output.
What inspired you to start your own business? What dreams do you have that you wish to accomplish? When you need help, do you seek for influence or inspiration?
I want you to reflect on a person you greatly admire. What is it about this person you love? Chances are, this person is not one who alters your decisions by controlling the consequence of your choices for personal gain. In some way, they inspire you. Perhaps it is the way they speak or the way they treat others. Potentially, they did or said something that resonated with you in a deep, personal way that has since inspired you to become a better person. That is the power of inspiration. Once inspired, you then seek to inspire others in the same way.
In October of 2006, lives were forever changed when Charlie Roberts shot and killed 10 young girls at an Amish School in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Afterwards, he turned the gun on himself and ended his own life. Charlie’s mother, Terri was shocked by the news. She wanted nothing more than to move away. She was even more shocked when she was visited that night by the Amish in the community and asked to stay. Members of the Amish community, including some of the victim’s families even attended her son’s funeral. One family, who lost two daughters at her son’s hand attended the funeral. Their hearts were full of heartbreak and anguish, but they did not lash out in anger. As difficult as it must have been, they were quick to forgive and mourned with Terri who also lost a child that day.
I remember when I heard this story. I remember feeling foolish at the silly things I was holding in my heart, refusing to offer forgiveness. I remember being inspired to become better at that moment. Inspired to forgive because holding on to my anger was not worth it. I let go of my grudges, and walked away a better person. This is the power of inspiration, we all have the power to be an advocate of being positive and to inspire those we encounter to become better than they were yesterday.
As a business owner who regularly deals with customers, if we focus on improving and becoming the best we can, we can inspire others by our work. I have always been amazed at the power of small business owners, particularly my Mother. She is the owner of Jan’s Style Shop and has worked a small business out of her home for as long as I can remember. I remember being confused seeing some clients giving her a hug before leaving. She has shared laughter, tears, heartache, and joy with her clients. She treats them like a person, not a number. In turn, she has many repeat customers.
Quality time and genuine care go a long way. When I am seeking a service, I want to go where they know my name. They know my likes and dislikes. My favorite restaurants seems to be the places where I have a personal relationship with the owner and employees. I feel at home and know I will be taken care of. These incredible examples were one of the seeds that began the garden of Creative Business Guru. We were inspired to spread the powerful lessons we have been taught by business owners with the world.
Join us on our journey and together, we will go far.