The Influence

One of the most powerful factors in turning my financial situation around was the impact of the other people in my life.

My wife, Sarah, is first and foremost in that. She’s at least as committed as I am to keeping spending under control. We talk about financial concerns all of the time and are generally on the same page with everything after we discuss specifics.

However, the rest of my social network has a lot to do with it, too. The other people in my life provide inspiration for sensible financial behavior in many different ways. They’ve found small business success. They have strong careers. They’re committed to debt freedom.

I can invite a circle of my closest friends over and we have a lot of things in common. All of us are in our early to mid-30s. All of us own our homes and have no debt – not even mortgage debt. All of us are building multiple streams of income so that if our primary career path doesn’t work out, we have something to fall back on. All of us are intending to be “retired” by the age of fifty or so.

If you want to see a certain behavior in the people you spend time with, you have two choices. You can either change your social circle or you can start exhibiting that behavior yourself and hope that it rubs off.

Why does this matter? Like it or not, we are strongly influenced by the people we spend time with. Our ideas and thoughts and behaviors are constantly swayed in subtle ways by the people we’re around. If we see our friends and loved ones doing certain things, we’re often swayed on some level to do those things ourselves.

If you want to be financially successful, seek out relationships with people who are financially successful. Lean back on the relationships with people who seem to always be broke or who can’t stop talking about the latest thing to buy, and lean in on people who focus on other things in their lives.

For me, I find it useful to regularly meet new people and cultivate relationships with those people that inspire me to improve myself. I participate in community activities and groups and I try hard to find people who inspire and impress me by exhibiting the behaviors I strive to have. Sarah and I have built several friendships doing just that.

Even better, focus your public behavior and actions on these areas. Don’t spend your energy talking about the latest and greatest purchases or about trivial celebrity news. Talk instead about useful things, like a great low-cost recipe or the things you’re doing yourself so you don’t have to hire a repairman or, in professional circles, resources you’ve found to help your career out.

The interesting part here is that the people in your social network who are actually interested in improving themselves will be the ones who engage with these things. You’ll quickly figure out who’s interested in swapping recipes or helping each other with tasks. You’ll also encourage others who might be on the fence to engage in such positive behaviors, too.

As a parent, this is doubly important.

I have three children in my house that are constantly influenced by me, both directly and indirectly. I see them mimicking the things that I do all the time. It’s natural – they’re children and they’re learning every day how to be an adult.

The best way I can be a parent for them is to show them behaviors that will result in a successful adulthood. I let them see me focused on my work. I take them shopping with me and let them see how I plan my purchases carefully and don’t buy unnecessary things. Around the house, I make a point to re-use things – I’ll mention how many times I’ve played this particular game but I’m enjoying playing it again, or I’ll tell them that I’m re-reading a book that I already own and have already read.

Each one of those things is a tiny thing, but it’s the culmination of those tiny things that will help shape their behaviors in the future. Yes, they’ll be distinct people and yes, they’ll rebel, but they’ll retain an awful lot of the little things that I teach them right now.

Influence is all around us. Sometimes, it guides us to better choices and better behavior. Sometimes, it guides us to worse things. It’s up to us to decide what influences we’re going to be exposed to.

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