I very much enjoy writing, but my writing tends to take on the cadence of whatever author I’m currently reading. I don’t do this on purpose; it just seems to seep in like rainwater under an old, cracked wooden window. (That last line, for example, would never appear if I wasn’t engrossed in a John Irving novel at the moment.)
This got me to thinking about how much of an effect others have on our daily lives. The people around us, whether they’re authors we read or TV personalities we watch or musicians we listen to or the literal human beings around us, influence us a lot. There’s no shortage of editorials on the idea that “you are the average of the people you’re around most.” This is true in general, and specifically regarding creativity this is essential information, as creativity thrives around more creativity and dwindles when met with judgement and inflexibility.
This can be a very good thing to keep in mind for two big reasons:
1) If you take on qualities of the people around you, you can steer more towards who you want to be by making sure the people you pick to be around you act that way.
Obviously in some situations (work, mostly) you don’t get to choose, but much of the time you do. Even places like social media, who you choose to follow can have a big impact. I know for a while I followed a few very negative people on Twitter, and their grumbling always brought me down. I swapped them out for some much more positive people and it has made a very large difference every time I log in.
2) You yourself are one of the “people around” to others!
Sometimes we get so caught up being the star of our own show that we forget we’re the support cast for everyone else. This knowledge helped change my attitude on multiple occasions, because I realized how big of an influence my responses were to the people around me. If someone was being negative, I had the power to guide things towards a more upbeat perspective. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it can lift a person out of a rut they’ve stumbled into.
Actual, useful action items: Take a look around you at who the people influencing you are. What kind of an influence are you being on them? Does anything need to change, on either side? We can’t control what others do, but we do get to made decisions for ourselves. Take the opportunity to see if it’s time to swap out a few people you follow on Facebook, or maybe take a few minutes to lift up a co-worker who is having a bad day. That’s the sort of power that’s in your hands this very moment.