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Who and what are influencing you? 

Who and what do you not only allow, but actively enable to influence you? 

It’s true that there are entire industries devoted to influencing us. I often use the Dr. Glenn Doyle page to remind my readers that we are constantly under siege from advertisers, politicians, religious leaders, and others who wish to make us feel certain things, usually because they want us to do certain things. Buy products, vote for a candidate, attend or financially support their church, what have you. 

It’s also true that, in addition to those who are actively seeking to influence us, we allow and enable certain sources to get into our heads. 

We all make choices about what to read. 

We all make choices about what to listen to. 

We all make choices about what to watch. 

Very often, these choices are driven by our desire to be entertained, soothed, and distracted. And there’s nothing wrong with being entertained, soothed, or distracted. A lot of undeniably great art results from humankind’s desire to be entertained, soothed, and distracted. 

But in mainly seeking diversion from our entertainment, we sometimes forget that what we put in front of our faces, what we allow into our ears and eyes and heads every day, can also exert powerful philosophical, ideological, psychological, and maybe even spiritual influences. 

We don’t have to be actively listening to the lyrics of a song to get those lyrics stuck in our heads. 

We don’t have to be actively buying into the values systems of characters in movies for those values to lodge in our brains. 

We don’t have to be actively looking for role models to allow the behavior of characters in our entertainment to influence how we think, feel, and behave. 

We are shaped, inevitably, by what we pump into our brains over and over and over again. 

How much of that shaping are we conscious of? 

How much of that shaping do we take conscious charge of? 

One of my favorite diversions is the TV show that used to be on NBC, “The Office.” It’s a comedy that follows the average workdays of an office full of office supply salespeople and their assorted support staff. 

Anybody who is a fan of “The Office” can tell you, it’s a show that is easy to watch in long binges. It goes down easy. The characters are generally agreeable, easy to identify with, and the stories are usually lighthearted and fun. “The Office” is on Netflix, making it even easier now to watch episode after episode after episode. 

The thing about “The Office,” though, is that most of the characters on that show exist in a state of numbness, frustration, or boredom. It’s played for laughs, and the characters’ pettiness and oscillations between narcissism and low self-esteem are usually presented in such a way that no one gets hurt— I mean, it’s just a SHOW. 

But when I watch episode after episode after episode of “The Office” because it goes down easy…does my brain really register that it’s “just a show?” 

Two episodes of “The Office,” which are easy to swallow because they’re the TV equivalent of sugar coated, means one hour of putting people in front of your face who have kind of given up, people who have kind of settled for a life that they’re often manifestly unhappy with, people who are defined by their (comedically exaggerated) frustration and boredom. 

And trust me: almost nobody only watches two episodes of “The Office” at a time.

Understand, I love “The Office.” Which is why it was a bummer to realize that devoting hours to it, even in the background, means pumping a lot of influence into my brain that, in the end, may not serve me well in the motivation and focus departments. 

Influence matters. 

What are you letting into your brain, every day? 

What are you taking time to PUT in your brain, every day? 

Good influences aren’t going to worm their way into your brain by accident. Or, at the very least, we can’t COUNT on them getting into our brains by accident. 

Create time to put things in your brain that are useful to you. Decide what those things might be— self-help reading, reading your faith’s holy Scriptures, reading Pinterest or Tumblr pages of people and organizations that inspire you, listening to motivational stuff, perusing the YouTube channels of people and institutions that align with your values— and pencil into your day specific time periods when you’re going to expose yourself to them. 

Remember that ten minutes a day of exposing yourself to something means, at the end of the week, having devoted over an HOUR of focus to that thing. 

Also remember that even if you do devote an HOUR a week to an influence…there are 168 hours in every week. 

How many of those hours are working for you…and how many might be working against you? 

 

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