Accepting Influence. Accepting influence is a very challenging task. At our very core each of us wants to be the leader of our own lives. We all have our own opinions, beliefs and ways in which we would like to go about life. In this way, we all seek to forge our own path with as little influence as possible from external sources. It’s not that we don’t like the opinions and beliefs of other people it’s just that living our own little life is to be done in the way we want to do it.
Sometimes we don’t have a choice and have to accept influence from other people in our lives. This can first be seen in our early childhood’s when we are conditioned by our parents to behave in certain ways and perform certain activities to make our way through each and every day. For many of us this can be a very scary thing as we don’t have control over who our parents are and how they act toward us. Some parents have the capacity to act in very abusive and neglectful ways and are not in the best interest of the child.
Not having a choice then shifts to various other caregivers and teachers as we make our way through the early childhood years. We begin to receive instruction from those that have been given the power and authority to do so. Again, we have to perform daily functions and meet certain requirements to make our way through each and every day. This reality is the very beginning of efficaciousness (a concept we discussed earlier on) and how competent we are and feel about making our way through each and every day. External influences such as other caregivers and teachers become the judges of how well we carry out daily tasks.
You can see how we have to accept the influence and judgment of others as we make our way through our lives, particularly early on in our developmental years. This pattern continues as we make our way throughout the rest of our lives. When we enter high school and post-secondary education we again see that the decision-makers above us have the ability and duty to judge us and grade us on our performance and how well we understand certain concepts. They are gatekeepers to the next levels of our lives and get to tell us if we get to ‘go’ or have to ‘stop’. Sometimes criteria have not been fulfilled and movement to the next level cannot be permitted.
It’s not that we’re being controlled but the decision-makers are influencing the next steps of our lives. If a gatekeeper is saying ‘stop’, there likely is a reason for it. And bear in mind that the decision makers above us are not trying to limit us (at least in most cases) but they are trying to protect us. Think about it, if an individual does not understand a certain concept then it may not be a good idea to permit them to study advanced concepts of mechanical engineering, aerodynamics or chemical engineering.
Some people are suited for science and engineering programs while others are more suited for social sciences programs. And there is a whole gamut of other programs to choose from and explore at various levels of the educational curriculum. There isn’t a one or the other in terms of educational programs. These days there tends to be an unlimited selection to choose from and ultimately make a decision toward a career path.
Nevertheless, along the way external sources will continue to influence us and we have to accept those influences to successfully make our way through life. There is no other way. We must accept influence in various shapes and forms even if we think in the moment that it may be inappropriate or unwarranted.
And the acceptance of influence doesn’t stop there. In our family life we again have parents, brothers and sisters, step-brothers and step-sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts and various other family members that shape our lives from very early ages. Not only that, we develop close personal friendships with people outside of our nuclear and extended family. Our close personal friendships develop us in significant ways that leave a great and noticeable impact on our lives. We grow through the pains of adolescent development with our close personal friends, sharing many of our biggest disappointments and successes.
Later on in life, some of our close personal friends may become our peers in the workplace and this will significantly change the dynamic of the friendship. It’s not uncommon for some of our close personal friends to become our bosses or our subordinates. This reality has undeniably complicated implications as feelings related to rank and order become very intense, affecting our thinking, feelings, actions and judgments. We may find ourselves acting in cruel and unusual ways if given a position of power and may feel we are being treated unfairly if put in a subordinate position.
Either way you cut the cake, feelings will be involved and it will be a significant challenge to juggle them as we again ponder what it means to be influenced by other people and how influence from other people is effecting and shaping our lives.
As stated earlier, we all tend to want to be the leader of our own lives. We all have certain ways that we like to get things accomplished. Along the way, though, we have to satisfy demands from external sources and external people. These are the people are circumstances that are influencing us and shaping our actions. This reality can frustrate us as we believe we have the ability to navigate our own lives, performing daily functions in a successful and productive way. If you were given a compass to go in the proper direction(s), would you constantly want to consult other people on how to use it and find the right direction or would you like to be able to operate the compass all on your own and charter your own course?
This may be an unfair question, I know. No one wants to sail the voyage on their own as the waters can become very lonely. At the same time, however, no one wants to be overthrown and capsized by a plethora of captains that are attempting to sail the ship in a multitude of directions. Perhaps we all want to be part of a crew that is on a voyage or a journey. It’s just that along the voyage we want to be able to perform our daily activities with as little interference as possible from external sources. A little bit like being part of a team without having to accept excessive influence from any one member of the crew. We have to remember, though, that external sources and external influences often have practical advice and tips to offer us. Input from outside parties can help us in invaluable ways and provide us with solutions that we may not have been able to arrive at on our own.
There will always be gatekeepers and ‘correctors’ for those of you who might hail from the country of Pakistan. They are often there to help us and protect us from things we cannot see or may not understand. They are good people to have as part of our crew as we may be faced with a daily task that is beyond our comprehension and execution. It’s not that we’re shucking responsibility but we’re diverting a task to a higher power that may well have a greater ability to reason and solve a problem. Each member of a team plays their part and one team member may have a greater mechanical prowess than another. We all have different talents and we all have to figure out how our talents contribute to the completion of tasks to make the vessel steam ahead as smoothly as possible.
You as the individual have to figure out how you will become part of the crew and contribute on a daily basis. In the process of doing so you will have to figure out how you will learn to accept and incorporate influence without losing your cool. At the same time, you will develop and flourish as an individual, becoming the leader of your own life and forging your path in only the way you know – perhaps free of any other influences if only for an infinitesimal amount of time.
It’d be great to hear from you,
Matthew R. Polkinghorne