Reality Check: Your own influence

In my last column, I discussed the influence of Dr. William Glasser. His books and the training that’s offered in choice theory and reality therapy has an impact on folks all over the world.

However, it’s not only world-renowned authors, psychiatrists, or speakers who have influence! Each of us, through the actions we choose, has influence.

Long ago, well before I had heard of Dr. Glasser or reality therapy, I remember spending coffee break bellyaching to Ian, a fellow instructor. “Is all this extra work that we do worthwhile? Do the students or their employers know? Does going the extra mile to prepare this workforce really matter?”

Young Ian, who was wise beyond his years, responded with this observation: “We are seldom aware of our own influence.”   That is, the work ethic we demonstrate, our concentration on doing a job well, influences those who choose to look, whether we are aware of it or not.

Ian’s remark stayed with me, and it’s enhanced by my interest in choice theory. While we can’t control others, how we act—the choices we make—certainly have an influence on others.

You know that if you choose to smile and be friendly, you are more likely to get smiling and friendly responses. If you choose to be angry, aggressive, or defiant, there’s a good chance that you will have hostile interactions.

In a sense, it is by our actions that people know us. Through your choices, you may be influencing others. Someone may choose a behaviour because of what they have seen you do, heard you express, or watched you learn, struggle with, or overcome. You may never know.

In addition to behaviour, the attitudes you demonstrate can also have influence. For example, consider a child who interprets mom’s attitude toward schoolwork as, “If mom doesn’t think it’s important, why should I?” Contrast that with a perceived attitude of, “If mom believes that I can succeed, then maybe I can.”  There’s no more effort required (on mom’s part) for the latter, but which is more helpful?

Do you think that you have no influence? You may be surprised! You don’t have to be declared a “role model” to be an example. Although you may never be aware, someone may be learning from you. They may be learning how you respond to difficulties or how you solve problems, and using that information to help them live a more satisfying life.

And while you are not responsible for the actions that someone else chooses, if you are living a bitter, unsatisfying life, someone may be learning from that, too. The lesson they may learn is that life is too hard, that it’s impossible to have a satisfying life. Is that the influence that you want to be having? 

So here’s my suggestion: Don’t discount your own influence. Recognize that when you are living a satisfying life with good relationships, you are a “model” for those who choose to learn from it, whether you are aware of it or not.

Do you think that your actions influence others? What do you think that influence is?

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