Captive Audience

mowingSince writing about Influence by the Inch, I’ve been watching to see how my habits affect the people around me. It turns out that the person I influence most is…me.

If I drink coffee late in the day, I’m the one counting sheep in the middle of the night. If I waste an evening watching television, I’m the one rushing around the next day catching up on my work.

Most significant is the influence of my inner dialog. While part of my mind is thinking whatever pops into my head, a different part responds to those thoughts with scoldings or pats on the back. For example, when I’m mowing the lawn (not my favorite chore) unhappy memories arise. I berate myself for my past mistakes. But then I start to remember how other people have made mistakes too —mistakes that have hurt me. That’s when I give myself comforting pats on the back. After all, I’m the victim. Don’t I deserve some sympathy? Not surprisingly, my thoughts tend to dwell on other people’s mistakes much more than on my own.

Dwelling on resentments serves an ulterior motive. It works up my emotions into such an a state that I feel justified in taking a break from mowing while I calm down. Calming down usually requires a high calorie snack. How’s that for being a bad influence on myself? First, I encourage destructive thoughts. Then I use those thoughts to excuse laziness and unhealthy eating.

Next time I mow the lawn, I plan to try an experiment. When my thoughts drift in a negative direction, I’ll say, “Ah-ah-ah! None of that!” Then I’ll seek out a happy memory to replace the bad one. If I have to redirect my thoughts a hundred times, I’ll do it.

As for the unhealthy eating: I’ll prepare a nourishing snack ahead of time so it will be waiting when I finish mowing.