“We can’t choose our relatives, but we can choose our thoughts – which influence us much more.” (Anonymous)
Seems appropriate that a quote the diminishes the value of the influence of relatives should come from “anonymous”. After all, Who would want to take credit for saying that their mom wasn’t the biggest influence in their life?
When I was young, my thoughts and opinions were greatly influenced by the people with whom I spent the most time. My mother, my teachers, my godparents and my siblings all had a hand in shaping my early thought patterns in life. As I grew into an adolescent, and then into an adult, the people who influenced me continued to grow. More teachers came into my life, and I began to interact more with my peers in an intellectual way. When I got to college that accelerated as I studied the thoughts and opinions of people throughout the world, and throughout time.
Along the way I assimilated what I learned, and my own patterns of thoughts and opinions grew and evolved. Eventually I had my own unique way of seeing things that wasn’t completely aligned to any one, or any set of people. And yet, those earliest influences were, and still are, a part of my pattern.
As a middle-aged man, I have over a half century of experience assimilating the influences of thousands of people in the world. My thought patterns are a complex mosaic of all that I have learned and been exposed to. And yet, there is still a strong influence from those earliest sources. My children and wife will tell you that they can see my mother’s attitudes reflected in me on a daily basis. Sometimes I embrace those patterns as a link to my roots. Other times, when they are a bit more quirky, I want to uproot them and change my outlook.
I can consciously change my thoughts, and that has a great influence on my behavior, but it is very difficult – possibly impossible – to completely break the patterns that have been etched into who I am. And, I am not sure I would ever want to completely erase and re-write those patterns. The results of those early, family influences are an essential part of who I am. To re-write them would be to turn my back on my own history, and that isn’t something I want to do.
I always see myself as a work in progress. Every day there are new inputs, and new experiences which add to the mosaic, and over time my thoughts and attitudes about the world evolve based on those influences. Sometimes it happens with forethought and intention, and other times it happens more organically.
This past week I have thought about, and written about seeing the world with a happier attitude. I will tell you that some moments that is easy to do, but other times the patterns of my thoughts are so strong that it is nearly impossible. Any change like that takes a long time, great effort and a lot of patience. To make a change I have to be willing to invest that time and effort. In the case of seeing the world with a happier lens, the result is absolutely worth the effort.