Some people come into our lives and quickly go away. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same – Unknown
Inspiration is contagious. It is an act of giving without the intention of receiving that touches people at their core and helps them move forward towards being better, stronger people. When I take stock of my life, my behavior, my attitude, beliefs and feelings, I often discover that other people have contributed greatly to who I am. When people have contributed in a bad way, I say that because of them or something that happened with them, I got stuck in a bad place in my life. In a sense, I am blaming them for being part of my life. When they have contributed in a good way, I say they have inspired me or encouraged me to reach where I am now. I am grateful and happy that they have been part of my journey.
Early Influencers: Parents and Siblings
It is not by accident that when people see a psychologist to figure out something that bothers them in life, they end up talking about their parents or siblings. These people are major contributors to who we are. Regardless of our relationship with our own families in the present, our parents, brothers and sisters influenced us mainly because of the many years we spend together, often through critical times during our life (read Divorcing Your Parents and people’s comments and you will find out how many parents have failed to inspire their children who are now adults). My mom and dad influenced me in different ways, because they were totally different people. As a kid, I had lots of criticism towards them. When I started my personal growth experience at the age of 16 (lucky me, I was young), I changed the question from “How did they screw up my life?” to “How did each of them inspire me?” It is amazing how many great answers I have received. My inspiring dad: My dad grew up in a very chauvinist society in Iran, yet my dad is an inspiring social justice advocate. At home, he cooked, cleaned, did art and needlework. He can use a sewing machine and likes to make silk scarves. I always thought this was very special, but when I asked myself how it had influenced my life, I realized that I was very much like him and that he is a wonderful inspiration to me. My dad inspired me in many ways – I learned from him to work hard, to be creative and to manage my money well. My inspiring mom: My mom, on the other hand, is the Chauvinist in the family. She grew up in a household that thought boys were more important than girls, so in our home, she used to give my brother (we were 4 girls and one boy), discounts in terms of chores at home, while my dad said, “No, he should wash the dishes too”. So my mom was not an inspiration when it comes to gender equality and social justice. But she is an inspiration in other areas. My mom never went to a proper schooling system. She migrated from Iran and left school in 4th Grade. For years, she had challenges writing and made millions of spelling mistakes. At the age of 50, she decided to go and complete her schooling. She got into her head that if she studied how to read and write, she could get a driving license. She failed the written test 5 times, but did not give up. She used to sit for hours and study the signs over and over again. She took 9 driving tests until she passed and I still remember the pride on her face when she drove herself to work. Whenever I think, “It’s too late” or “I’m too old for this”, I remember my inspiring mom learning to read and write at the age of 50 and I realize it is never too late and I am never too old. Make a list of things that your parents have inspired you to do, think or believe.
Big Influencers: Close Relationships
Even if we do not like to admit it, other people in our life have a lot of influence over us. When they are very close to us physically or when we have a strong emotional connection to them, their influence is even greater. Sometimes, it is something they have said, or could never say that defines us. Sometimes, it is something they have done or could never do that affected our life greatly. It could be an experience we have had together that has shaped us. Every interaction has the potential of contributing to our subconscious thoughts and actions. When going through personal development, it is important to find out how we have formed our feelings, thoughts and actions and to identify the people and circumstances that have brought us to where we are. When we go through this task of finding those who have influenced us, it is critical to find those who have helped us move forward and those who have “made” us move backwards (I am very careful about the word “made”, because I believe they have not done anything to us, but our interaction with them has caused us to go backwards in order to avoid pain). Remember, as long as the final list has more people that have inspired you, you are in a good place. Sometimes, you can be inspired by someone to move forward, even if the interaction with that person is not pleasant. For example, you have a close family member that experienced something bad (drugs, divorce, betrayal, etc) and you are inspired not to allow your life to take that path. I have met many people in my life whose close relationship with me has inspired me to change, to be strong, to go forward, to try, to take risks and to believe in myself. The close relationship influencers are great additions to your inspiring-person list and you can search for them in the following groups:
- Family – When you think of family, it does not have to be people that are older than you are. They can be younger as well. My own children are an amazing inspiration to me. For example, they all played musical instruments and I had never learned to play a tune in my life. One day, I asked them to teach me how to play the piano. If I thought that playing an instrument was hard, after trying to play piano with two hands, I now admire them even more.
- Extended family – It is funny to say, but the person that inspired me the most from my extended family was Gal’s mom, who died about 5 years ago. For a major part of my life, she was an inspiration to me. Her life story, her strength and her courage were very important to me. When she died, I felt like something died in inside of me with her.
- Childhood friends
- High school friends
- Friends from your adult life – One of the friends I had in Singapore was a very colorful woman. While I was very conscious about what I wore or the way I dressed, she used to dress very differently. One day, I asked her why and she asked, “Why not?” I realized I did not have a good answer for this. Since then, I have allowed myself to take more risks. When I see someone doing something unusual, I ask myself, “Why not?” and am more accepting of myself and others thanks to her.
- Colleagues – In the last 5 years, I have been the QLD state director of a non-profit organization called Together for Humanity, which runs cultural diversity programs at schools. This organization is full of inspiring people who are doing something most people avoid doing, because diversity is not an easy subject to deal with. Every person in this organization is an inspiration to me in some way. One of them, Kathleen Gordon, was the director before me and the person who introduced me to the organization. Spending about a year with her has changed my life, because many of my ideas about humanity and kindness have changed thanks to her. Kathleen always said she did not belong to any faith, but her true religion was “Kindness”. In some strange way, hanging around her has greatly helped me shape my own philosophy about life.
- Family friends
- Teachers – It is well known that teachers have a strong influence on most people. If you search all your schooling experiences, you can find the teachers that have left a huge impression on you because of something that has happened between you two. I always say that if you have 3 inspiring teachers in your life, you are a lucky person. I have a strong negative memory of my 4th Grade teacher who made my life hell in primary school. However, I also remember a teacher and a guidance officer in middle school who helped me a lot and an inspiring teacher, who never thought me personally, but was in charge of our school council when I was in it in 11th and 12th Grade. I had one teacher who taught me that good teachers can even teach physics to people who fail physics (having failed this subject, I had 7 lessons with her and got 94% on my physics exam). I consider myself lucky, because during my special education studies, I had 5 of the most inspiring teachers in the world. Two of them were math teachers, one was a psychologist, one was the head of the Special Education department and one was my Special Education mentor for a year. I know exactly how each of them contributed to who I am today.
- Bosses – When I worked at an early childhood center in Texas, my boss was an amazing woman I considered as a mentor. I was 27 years old and she was about 20 years older than I was. She was such a kind woman and she loved everything I did. Whenever I had any doubts, she encouraged me to try again. I think that helped me believe bosses are not enemies but enablers.
Make a list of all the close relationship you have had in your life.
Each of us represents a star in Heaven. Sometimes we shine with the rest, sometimes we twinkle alone and sometimes, when we least expect it, we make someone else’s dreams come true – Unknown
Other Influencers: Special Strangers
Sometimes, you can be inspired by people you do not know personally, but you hear about them from other sources. It can be a person someone close to you knows, it can be a celebrity or a role model that you do not really know, but reminds you of what you want to be, do or achieve. I had John Lennon’s song Imagine written on my wall and the words of the song were carved in my mind. From the age of 16, I have been involved in social justice and in my high school yearbook, when I was asked to write a quote that defined me, I wrote, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one. Some day you will join us and the world will be as one”. I was 18 with no clue that one day I would be the state director of an organization doing just that. My list contains many “strangers” who have inspired me. I never knew Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, the Dalai Lama or Nelson Mandela, but they inspire me still. They do not even have to be alive to inspire me. Make a list of all the people you do not know personally but something they have said, done or written has encouraged you or inspired your life.I believe strongly that people come into our life for a reason. Each of them possesses a lesson we need to learn to move forward and grow. If we do not know why someone is in our life, we need to keep searching for the lesson. Every person touches us in some strange way and afterwards, we can no longer pretend they were not there, for good or bad. If we take what we can from that relationship, grow and evolve, then regardless of where they are at any given moment, we take them with us everywhere.
Reason, Season, or Lifetime
People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person. When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty; to provide you with guidance and support; to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant. – Unknown
How to make a list of inspiring people
- Go over your life from childhood until today and consider all the people you have known
- For every person, ask yourself, “What do I remember about them? How have I been changed by our interaction?”
- For every person, ask yourself, “What do I do, have or believe today as a result of the relationship with this person?”
- Decide if that person has taken you forward or backwards. Remember it is possible that the same person has helped you move forward in one area of life and backwards in another
- When you are done with the list, count and see if you have more forward-moving people in your life or more backwards-moving ones
- If you can, hang around forward-moving people more. It is likely that your subconscious links them with success, happiness, courage, inspiration and other positive thoughts and feelings, which means you will “allow” them to influence you even more
People do not attract that which they want, but that which they are – James Allen
- If you can, stay away from people who take you backwards
- Generally, try to meet new people as often as you can. You never know which one of them will inspire you to do things or be someone you have always wanted to be
Above all, ask yourself if you are carved in someone else’s heart as an inspiration. Have you contributed positively to their journey through life, helping them become better, stronger people and an inspiration for others?
Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Happy and inspiration list making, Ronit
This post is part of the series Make a List:
- Make a list: List Making
- Make a list: About Myself
- Make a list: Friends and Friendships
- Make a list: My Lifetime
- Make a list: Things I am Happy about
- Make a list: Childhood Memories
- Make a list: Ways to say “I love you!”
- Make a list: What I like about me
- Make a list: Things to ask for my birthday
- Make a list: Improve My Life
- Make a list: Things to tell my parents
- Make a list: Beliefs about Money
- Make a list: Feelings I Want to Feel
- Make a list: If I Could Live Forever
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids cont.
- Make a list: Events that have shaped my life
- Make a list: Ways to be kind
- Make a list: Be More Productive
- Make a list: Mistakes (and what I can learn from them)
- Make a list: Expectations
- Make a list: Beliefs about Traveling
- Make a list: Rules I Follow
- Make a list: Good Parenting Qualities
- Make a list: Excuses
- Make a list: Quotes to live by
- Make a list: How to use my time better
- Make a list: If I were Santa Claus
- Make a list: If I had one year to live
- Make a list: Things that Make Me Happy
- Make a list: Movies I loved
- Make a List: My Fears
- Make a List: Find your Happy-ism
- Make a List: Inspiring People
- Make a List: Books that have changed my life
- Make a list: Inspiring Movies
- Make a List: Things to be Grateful for
- Make a List: Ronit’s Gratitude List