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Do You Understand Your Influences?

Written by Stephen Scoggins

July 15, 2020

understanding your influences, journey principles blog

Your beliefs play a bigger part in your success or failure than most people often think. For example, if you don’t believe you’re attractive, gaining muscle mass probably won’t get you a partner. If you don’t believe your start-up idea will succeed, you probably won’t even get started. But where do our beliefs come from? The majority come from our influences – the people, places, and stimuli in our past and present. That’s why it’s so important to understand your influences.

Understand Your Influences

For years my upbringing defined my life. I followed the beliefs and behavioral patterns of my parents and refused to venture into any corner of the world that didn’t remind me of the impoverished environment I grew up in. 

Then I learned something that changed everything: Your past has nothing to do with your future. When I was younger I couldn’t choose many of my influences, but now I can. So can you. 

You can identify your self-sabotaging beliefs and tendencies by understanding where you came from. Then you can discover how your current surroundings are reinforcing those. Finally, you can make changes to your influences and shift your mindset. Let’s look at each type of influence so that you can gain this perspective.

The 5 Types of Influences

You can’t change what you don’t understand, so here we’ll break down the 5 different types of influences and how they’ve probably affected you. 

Parental

Your parents and/or parental figures massively affect your personality and worldview. In fact, they probably shaped you more than anything else. This category is the acorn – the seed with your DNA that emerges and grows over time. To understand your influences, you need to start here.

My biological parents were a pretty negative influence on me. Until age 19, they mostly weren’t involved. This experience gave me a huge fear of abandonment that I had to overcome. 

The bad news is that you can’t change your parental influences, but the good news is that you can change what you get from them. I encourage you to take 20 minutes to list 5 things that your parental influences did that were great, and list 5 that were damaging. Then focus on the 5 positive things they gave you and imagine the positive opposites of the 5 negative things. This will help you gain perspective and start shifting your mindset away from the worst aspects of your parental influences.

Environmental

This is the place you were planted. These are your roots – your frame of reference through which everything is filtered. 

There’s a saying that goes “Live in New York once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in California once but leave before it makes you soft.” Every environment will have benefits and detriments. Your job is to understand what your environment imparted to you early in life to understand your influences. Some will be good, and some won’t. Common traits shaped by your environment are your speech patterns, sense of propriety, and comfort zone.

Relational 

Relational influences are everything from your romantic partner to your peers and coworkers. Parental influences deserve their own category but could be included here as well. 

People around you will always be tempted to tell you that you can’t rise above your circumstances. This is because their circumstances are often similar, and if you can rise above it, that means they also can. Admitting this would shine an uncomfortable light on their lives and their actions. A lot of people would rather believe that they can’t have a better life rather than accept responsibility for being where they are. Attacking others who believe for better is a way of protecting themselves from despair.

When I formed my first business in the late 90s, my father tried to talk me out of it. He was focused on what I didn’t have. “You don’t have any money. You don’t have team members. Your equipment sucks,” etc. He had gone through the pain of starting a business that eventually failed, and in his mind he was keeping me from the same pain. In reality he was refusing to face the ways that he contributed to that business failing. As a result he was projecting his life onto mine and hindering my efforts to break through his ceiling.

Years later, after my business finally took off, my dad told me “I knew you could do it!” I don’t believe he was lying. I think deep down he always did know I could do it, but he wasn’t letting himself realize it because it would be painful in light of his own life.

“It would be difficult to exaggerate the degree to which we are influenced by those we influence.”

-Eric Hoffer

The bottom line with your relational influences is this: if you’re around people who mainly say “you can’t”, then you are in the wrong place with the wrong people. If these are your family, then you’ll need to set boundaries on the frequency of your interactions, what environments you’ll engage with them in, and what you discuss with them. For other relationships, you need to either do the same or remove them from your life. Once you understand your influences, you’ll know who these people are.

Situational

We all have triggers – things that set us off or particularly bother us. Triggers are when something subconsciously reminds us of a past event and prompts a negative emotional response. It’s unavoidable that we get triggered, but the reality is that if your environment is constantly triggering you, it’s unsustainable for you to be there. For instance, if you have a roommate whose very personality is grating to you, you probably shouldn’t live with them. If clubs make you aggressive and/or irresponsible, you shouldn’t go. If a certain place makes you sad because you used to spend time there with your ex, avoid that place and find a happier one. Situational triggers are key to understanding your influences.

Subliminal

Subliminal influences are the things that come through our eyes and ears. They’re the stimuli that programs us to want certain things and feel a particular way. 

Take my friend, Dwayne. Dwayne’s name isn’t actually Dwayne, but I’m calling him that here because he looks a lot like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Dwayne is a buddy of mine that I frequently see at the gym, and he’s one of the most positive and bubbly people I interact with on a regular basis. Whenever he enters the room, he walks up to me smiling and asks how I’m doing. His voice is happy and light. 

Then, Dwayne puts on his headphones to work out, and he becomes a completely different person. He starts scowling. He tenses up. He’ll swing weights around and swaggers across the gym. If you try to talk with him while he’s working out, he’ll bark at you. Nothing about this makes any sense unless you ask Dwayne to lend you one of his earbuds. Then you’ll hear the screams and electric thumping of death metal long before you even put it in your ear. This will make you realize that metal music morphs Dwayne from a gentle giant into a terrifying hulk of veins and bellowing.

This is the power of subliminal influences. Your music, shows, and social media are affecting you more than you think. If we want to be healthy, we must be very intentional about what we feed our eyes and ears.

Start Using Influences to Your Advantage

Amazing things can happen when you start to understand your influences and minding your terrain. This is why I started the Journey Principles Institute. I wanted to be a positive influence that will help people change for the better, and I want to do this for you.

One area I would recommend shifting first is your relationships. If you want help with next steps, check out our free e books and start transforming your life.

Click here to get your FREE RESOURCES

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