In between these logistical reminders to myself, I’ve been thinking a lot about influence–specifically on the influence we have over other people. Some influence we take for granted; if I were to tell you that my husband and I are huge influences on each other, I doubt you would be surprised. But when I think back over my life so far, I can come up with a list of names of people who have had a strong impact on me. Not all of them are related to me. Not all of them did I ever get to know well. Not all of them am I still in touch with today.
Some of these people have no idea of the role they played in my life. They may not even remember me. They are like stealth actors who dropped in to teach me something I really needed to know or show me another way of living before moving on. Some of them even died before I was born.
This is useful to remember when contemplating creating a life that allows us to teach, influence, change the world, increase awareness. We never know who we might reach. We never know when we might say the exactly right thing that gives another person an “aha!” moment. Sometimes we won’t learn of our own impact until years after the fact, or perhaps not even then. Many times we’ll have accidental influence–we’ll have no idea that someone will have taken our casually spoken words to heart. We won’t realize that by hearing about our lives, someone else will decide to do things differently. We just can’t always know. But the not knowing doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
We all yield influence, whether we’re aware of it or not. So the question becomes not if, but rather what we want our contribution to be. And since we can’t always be aware of it when it’s happening, an even bigger question is this: how do we live our own lives in such a way that we can maximize our positive influence? I don’t know if I have a complete answer to that question yet, but it’s something I plan to think about in the upcoming weeks.
In the meantime, I feel a deep sense of gratitude to the people on my list, both because of what they taught me and because they’ve helped me realize how important every individual can be.