When we think about influences we tend to think about teens being influenced by peers.  But the influence game isn’t limited to teenagers.  Throughout our lives we are pulled in directions by influences impacting our circle of life and decision.  Because we aren’t always considering how others affect our thinking, we can get some bad habits.  Here’s some quick advice.

all the sameDon’t listen to all the same kinds of people.
If you’re a Baptist don’t have only Baptist friends.  If you’re a progressive, don’t just talk to other progressives.    If you’re a dreamer by nature, don’t have only dreamer friends.  When you are constantly around people with the same thought process there is a certain mind unity that develops.  It’s not really groupthink, it’s different than that.  When your friend group is all exactly like you, the balance is broken.

In a mixed group of politically minded people, conservative, moderate and progressive, there is balance and debate is common.  If the group were all conservative, the balance moves right and creates an exaggeration of conservative opinion.  The opposition can be mocked and their opinions caricatured.  In every peer group there are those who push the limits.  When the group is homogenized those limits become dangerous or ridiculous.  This applies to so much more than politics.  Baptists might trivialize Catholics.  One race might mock another race.  Surround yourself with varying points of view, ethic groups and personality types.

Don’t read one kind of book.
Being influenced by a single book type is an easy one to spot in public speakers like pastors.  If a pastor only reads commentaries, odds are good that their illustrations are weak or non-existent.  Expect dry sermons that encourage sleep more than anything else.  If they read history, biography, non-fiction and fantasy (in addition to their Bible) odds are really good that they are interesting and creative.  Every great speaker that I’ve heard was an avid reader on a variety of topics.  No exceptions.

This applies to anyone, interesting people read or watch shows on a variety of topics.  The most boring people I’ve been around are one dimensional.  In middle school and high school aged kids the video game addict is repugnant and boring  In adults the traditionalist who only listens to a single point of view are droll and lifeless conversationalist.

Remove the negative influences
There are people who insert themselves in our lives who actively search for things to complain about.  They are the people who never have a good waitress and incessantly return their food.  They are people who look for things to be disgruntled about.  They complain about the volume of the music at church.  They voice displeasure at a new idea.  They judge others harshly and whisper their disgust.

It is easy to fall into this mindset with them, because things go wrong all the time.  But these negative influences distract and exaggerate the bad, thus encouraging you to lose focus on your goals.  If possible get rid of the negative people from the decision making process or from your life.  Look for encouraging or honest people to fill in your peer group.  They don’t have to always be ultra, unrealistically positive but they should be truthfully encouraging.

Written by Ron Cloer