Many attempts at self-improvement can fall flat due to the various influences in our lives. If you’re ready to make changes to your life, reduce stress and recover from adrenal fatigue, one of the first steps is addressing those influences, which can be either good or bad.
The best way to begin is by increasing your awareness of these influences, which is why it’s a good idea to write them down. Take a sheet of paper and divide it into two columns with headings “Positive Influences” and “Negative Influences”. Begin with people or places that have made you feel positive, upbeat and empowered. Next, write down the people and places that have made you feel weak, worthless, and depressed.
How The Positive Influences Matter
The next step is to examine why these items on your list affect you the way they do. Carefully examine why you put certain events, cultural practices, places or people in the “Positive Influences” list. Did they teach you something? When you think back on these items, do they bring a smile to your face? Do you feel rested? Enabled? Inspired? These are the things that have shaped your positive attitude and your feelings of self-worth.
However, just because someone taught you something or listened to you when you needed it once or twice doesn’t always make them a positive influence. Sometimes it’s difficult to sort out the various people in your life. Some people may always have your back if you need to borrow money, for example, but will never let you forget it. These people are difficult to categorize. Try to think about how they make you feel the majority of the time.
How The Negative Influences Matter
The people, places or things you put on the negative part of your list may make you feel emotionally drained, leave your self-esteem in shreds, and create an overall feeling of sadness and low self-worth.
Certain people, for example, are commonly hostile and dissatisfied with life. Others are impossible to please, and the more you try the less they appreciate your efforts. Some people try to minimize your dreams by showing you how impossible they are or by showing you that you can’t live up to the requirements to make them come true.
Some people are manipulative and try to use you to further their own purposes, making their ideas or goals more important than yours. Then there are those that refuse to forgive a mistake, making you pay again and again if you’ve made one.
One of the worst negative influences may be your own self-talk. Most people are overly self-critical and can actually talk themselves out of pursuing their own dreams and goals.
Invite More Positive Influences Into Your Life
Recognize why you put the items on the “positive influences” list. What, specifically, made you feel good about being in that person’s company, being part of that culture, or being in that place, for example? Was it encouragement, a can-do spirit, a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself, a sense of community? Examine these entries one by one to determine what your values are and what makes you happy. Then you can start to seek these things out.
If you feel empowered by being around upbeat people, find more of them or increase the time spent with those people. If your hobbies or interests fill you with a sense of calmness and wellbeing, then increase your time participating in these practices. If looking out on the ocean or walking in the forest has always brought you peace in your life, then spend more time there.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the more positive you become the more you will exude happiness and peace. As this happens, more people will seek you out for company and influence.
Reduce The Negative Influences
You can’t do anything about the negative influences of the past, except recognize how they influenced you and make a positive attempt to overcome them.
Sadly, people we know and care about can be negative influences. The key isn’t to kick them out of your lives, but to reduce your exposure to them. React to the negative things they say or do with some sort of counterbalance, even if it’s unspoken and completely internal. Train your mind to resist the negative bombardment with self-affirming words. If they are too hostile or depressing, then don’t be afraid to walk away, just as you’d do with any other potentially dangerous situation.
This can be extremely difficult if the negative influences emanate from your family, friends, or even yourself. Once there is outward resistance to the status quo, there will be increased pressure to restore it. Do not give in. Prepare an internal script to deal with the negative influence and recite it over and over if necessary.
It’s also very difficult resisting aspects of your culture. It is not betrayal to suggest that something you believed to be true before no longer serves you.
Start Making Changes
While you don’t have control over what has influenced you in the past, try to find new ways to look at those events and people, and re-imagine your response. In the present, surround yourself with people, places, or practices that enhance your happiness and well-being. Retrain your inner voice not to accept the roles imposed on you, even if it’s at first only in your mind.
Most importantly, recognize that you have an element of control over the people, places and things that surround you. If there are certain parts of your life that are making you unhappy, remember that it is within your power to change them. Start the process today by writing down a list of the positive and negative influences on your life.