Under the Influence

Learning how to motivate and enable others to change their actions may be the most important skill you will ever acquire. It’s not merely curiously engaging (and it is); it also sits at the centre of what pains us most. The lion’s share of the challenges that truly bother us do not call for additional technology, theory, philosophy, or data (we are drowning in that already!). The crux of our most looming problems centre around the ability to change what people do. And when it comes to this particular skill, demand far exceeds supply.

The biggest barrier to successfully changing behaviour is not a lack of willpower, but the false belief that willpower is essential for change. In reality, skills can be learned that you can use to improve your ability to successfully change your behaviour. Many sources of influence prevent people from altering their habits. However, people who can learn to use their minds to think differently, can basically change anything. When you are asked what you are thinking about, you can normally answer. You believe you know what goes on in your mind, which often consists of one conscious thought leading in an orderly way to another. 

However, that is not the only way the mind works, nor is that even the typical way. Most impressions and thoughts arise in your conscious experience without your knowing how they got there. You cannot trace how you came to the belief that there is a lamp on the desk in front of you, or how you detected a hint of irritation in your spouse’s voice on the telephone. How did that annoying song get stuck in your head? And how did you manage to avoid that threat on the road before you became consciously aware of it? The mental work that produces impressions, intuitions, and many decisions goes on in silence in your mind. Your mind is far more powerful than you can begin to imagine.

Good thinkers are always in demand. A person who knows how may always have a job, but the person who knows why will always be his boss. Good thinkers solve problems, they never lack ideas that can grow an organisation, and they always anticipate a brighter future. Good thinkers rarely find themselves at the mercy of ruthless people who would take advantage of them or try to deceive them. In most cases, those who want power probably shouldn’t have it, those who enjoy it probably do so for the wrong reasons, and those who want most to hold on to it don’t understand that it’s only temporary. However, those who develop the process of good thinking can rule themselves – even while under an oppressive ruler or in other difficult circumstances because good thinkers are successful from the inside out.

“Your point of view creates your reality, reality does not create your point of view. What if you could shift your point of view so you could have a different reality?”  

— Dr. Dain Heer

The Universal Law of Mentalism

“The ALL is mind; the universe is mental.”

Hermetic law (and now science) tells us everything is energy and energy is everything. The ALL – the substantial reality underlying all the outward manifestations and appearances we know under the Universe – is a universal living mind. Everything that happens is the result of a thought or mental state that proceeds it. If there is one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: Change your thinking – Change your life – Change the entire universe. Your mind is infinitely powerful; use it wisely.

It is impossible to overstate the value of changing your thinking. Good thinking can do many things for you: generate revenue, solve problems, and create opportunities. It can take you to a whole new level – personally and professionally. If we can learn to recognise and evade the biggest errors in thinking, we can experience a leap in prosperity on all levels. We need no extra cunning, no new tools, no unnecessary gadgets, no frantic hyperactivity – all we need is less irrationality. Here’s what you need to know about changing your thinking:

Changed Thinking is Work

Unfortunately, a change in thinking cannot happen on its own. Change is not possible unless we are aware that it can happen. Begin by paying attention to the thoughts you have every day. Write them down. Is there a pattern to your thinking? Good ideas rarely go out and find someone. If you want to find a good idea, you must search for it. If you want to become a better thinker, you need to do the work. And it’s so worth it because, once you begin to become a better thinker, the good ideas keep coming. In fact, the amount of good thinking you can do at any one time depends primarily on the amount of good thinking you have already done.

Changed Thinking is Difficult

When you hear someone say, “This is just off the top of my head,” expect dandruff. The only people who believe that thinking is easy are those who do not habitually engage in it. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein, one of the best thinkers of our time, asserted that “Thinking is hard work; that’s why so few do it.” Because thinking is so difficult, you can differentiate yourself from the majority who would rather take the comfy, easy path simply by doing it. Do not settle for being spoon fed when the age of information provides you ample opportunity to verify information from multiple angles. Use anything you can to help improve the process.

Changed Thinking is Worth the Investment

Napoleon Hill observed, “More gold has been mined from the thoughts of man than has ever been taken from the Earth.” When you take the time to learn how to change your thinking and become a better thinker, you are investing in growing yourself. Gold mines tap out. Stock markets crash. Real estate bubbles can burst. But a human mind with the ability to think well is like a diamond mine that never runs out. It’s utterly priceless.

“Change Tactic: If you interrupt your impulses by connecting with your goals during crucial moments, you can greatly improve your chances of success.”
― Kerry Patterson

7 Step Process to Become a Better Thinker

Do you want to master the process of good thinking? Do you want to be a better thinker tomorrow than you are today? Then you need to engage in an ongoing process that improves your thinking. Your mind is the most powerful tool you will ever own. It has the power to keep you healthy and the power to make you sick. It has the ability to block your potential or to allow you to soar to possibilities beyond your wildest dreams. The quality of your thoughts determines the quality of your life. It takes hard mental work to become aware of your programming and interrupt your repetitive thoughts. Sometimes it’s even harder to become aware of what others are saying and choose your own path in spite of what they say. Having the courage to change your perspective and the way you see yourself in the world is one of the greatest gifts you can give to humanity, and it gives others permission to do the same.

1. Quality Input

Turn off the news. Commercial news reports are mainly negative and continue to perpetuate a state of fear and uncertainty. Choose to feed your powerful mind with quality information because it will be stored in your subconscious. Good thinkers always prime the pump of ideas. They look for inspiration to get the thinking process started, because what you put in always impacts what comes out. Read books, review articles, listen to podcasts, and spend time with good thinkers. When something intrigues you – whether it’s someone else’s idea or the seed of an idea that you’ve come up with yourself – keep it in front of you.

2. Write it Down

Put your idea in writing and keep it somewhere in front of you to stimulate your thinking. Cognitive psychologists have provided mountains of evidence over the last twenty years that memory is unreliable. And to make matters worse, we show staggering overconfidence in many recollections that are simply false. It’s not just that we remember things wrong (which would be bad enough), but we don’t even know we are remembering them wrong – doggedly insisting that the inaccuracies are true. The other reason to write it down is that you don’t really know anything clearly unless you can articulate it in writing. As you shape your thoughts, you find out whether an idea has potential. You also learn some things about yourself. The process of shaping of an idea is a fun process because it embodies:

Humour: The thoughts that don’t work often provide comic relief.

Humility: That moment when the magnificence of it all astounds you.

Excitement: The fun of playing out future timelines.

Creativity: That flow state where you are unhampered by reality.

Fulfillment: Your purpose is to create whatever you can imagine and to offer your creations to humanity.

Honesty: Turning over an idea in your mind helps you discover your true motives.

Passion: When you align a thought with what truly matters to you, boundless enthusiasm fuels your success.

Change: Change follows thorough thinking.

3. Expose Yourself to Good Thinkers

Spend time with the right people. Sharp people sharpen one another, just as iron sharpens iron. If you want to be a sharp thinker, be around sharp people. Seek out and choose to spend time with those who challenge you and stretch you with their thinking and behaviour. Those who are growing and learning are naturally good thinkers.

4. Choose to Think Good Thoughts

To become a good thinker, you must become intentional about the thinking process. Regularly create space to think, shape, stretch, and land your thoughts. Make this a priority because thinking is a discipline. We cannot say enough about floating. A float tank is a sensory deprivation chamber providing the gift of ‘thinking time’ as well as stress relief, pain relief and a host of other benefits. You may want to do something similar, or you can develop a schedule and method of your own. We also recommend anywhere outside in nature because the natural world balances you. No matter what you choose to do, create the space to receive and process the thoughts, then watch your mind expand.

5. Act on Your Good Thoughts

Ideas have a shorter shelf life than ripe avocados. You must take action on a good idea to ground it into physical reality. World War I flying ace, Eddie Rickenbacker said it perfectly, “I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through, then follow through.”

6. Allow Your Emotions to Create Another Good Thought

To start the thinking process, you cannot rely on your feelings. In Failing Forward, John C. Maxwell wrote that “you can act your way into feeling long before you can feel your way into action.” If you wait until you feel like doing something, you will likely never accomplish it. The same is true for thinking. You cannot wait until you feel like thinking to do it. However, once you engage in the process of good thinking, you can use your emotions to feed the process and create mental momentum. Emotion is energy in motion. Emotion is valid. You won’t get movement without emotion, which is why enthusiasm is so attractive.

7. Rince and Repeat

One good thought does not make a good life. The people who have one good thought and try to ride it for an entire career end up either unhappy or destitute. They are the one-hit wonders, the one-book authors, the one-message speakers, the one-time inventors who spend their life struggling to protect or promote their single idea. Success comes to those who have an entire mountain of Pure Gold that they continually mine from, not those who find one nugget and try to live on it for fifty years. In order to become someone who can mine a lot of gold, you must repeat the process of good thinking.

The Right Thought plus the Right People in the Right Environment at the Right Time for the Right Reason = the Right Result

This combination is unparalleled. Like every person, every thought has the potential to become something great. When you find a place to stretch your thoughts, you find that potential. The real power of an idea comes when it goes from abstraction to application.

“You can talk about results all you want, but they remain nothing more than ideas until you decide exactly how you’re going to measure them.”
― Joseph Grenny

Most Influencers are NOT Influential

Leadership circles are buzzing about influence. Who has it? Who lacks it? Why people need it? Influencers are emerging everywhere. Outside the visual format of Instagram, influence is more about “thought leadership”. The time and energy it takes to market and merchandise “influence” is beyond the interest or capacity of most people who matter. If you are the CEO of a global bank, you don’t have time or permission to post pictures of your meeting with the Prime Minister. If you are speaking at Davos, you probably don’t need the status lift of a tweet with you on stage. Anna Wintour is unconcerned with her influence.

The metrics of online influence are generally desired only by those people who care more about this than anything else, (look at me! look at me! look at me!) or because their livelihoods depend on it. Online influencers are generally only influential about online influencing (to those who want to be online influencers). They have mastered the art of follow-backs, buying likes, retweets, giveaways, Photoshop, and using bots. People with authentic influence would never dream of this low-grade behaviour. It’s the non-members who take pictures at Soho House and infrequent fliers who “check-in” to First Class lounges. Influence is the same. When you are influential, you do not have to announce that you are influential – you just are. All else is ego, not influence. 

“The ego is the false self-born out of fear and defensiveness.”
― John O’Donohue

The Ego: Comfortably Numb & Staying Stuck

Ego is made of six primary ingredients that account for how we experience ourselves as disconnected. By allowing your ego-mind to determine your life path, you deactivate the power of the mind and your power to effect significant change. Briefly, here are the six ego beliefs to be aware of. Are they sabotaging your growth and expansion?

  1. I am what I have. My possessions define me.
  2. I am what I do. My achievements define me.
  3. I am what others think of me. My reputation defines me.
  4. I am separate from everyone. My body defines me as alone.
  5. I am separate from all that is missing in my life. My life is disconnected from my dreams and desires.
  6. I am separate from God/Shiva/Allah/Buddha/Yahweh/Mazda/Source. My life depends on my higher power’s assessment of my worthiness.

No matter how hard you try, the power of the mind cannot be accessed through ego. When the supremacy of ego is weakened in your life, and you shift from fear-based to love-based thinking, you can then maximise your potential.

“At the end of the day, what qualifies people to be called “leaders” is their capacity to influence others to change their behavior in order to achieve important results.”
― Kerry Patterson

Leadership is Influence

Leadership calls for changing people’s behaviour. Influencers are those leaders who understand how to create rapid, profound, and sustainable behaviour change. Influence is the ability to bring people together to make things happen. Today, we can’t do everything by ourselves. As much as we’d love to be independent, most business demands require us to work with someone else. It’s not more communication devices that we need, but people who can communicate effectively and influence progress.

These are the tenacious leaders who have added to an ever-growing knowledge of how people change and who are restoring hope, inspired action, and making it possible for each of us to amplify our influence to change the world for good. To lead is to influence progress, motivate people and accelerate decisions. Behind these abilities, it is your communication skills that help you secure and realise opportunities. Opportunities wait for no one. Not improving your current situation is an opportunity cost. If you’re stuck at the level you are now, it may cost you a golden job offer, the people you love to work with, or even the dream client you’ve always wanted. So don’t wait. Do something today to progress your situation.

“You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyse your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success, or are they holding you back?”

— Clement Stone

3 Keys to Influencing Change

Influencers do not randomly succeed at creating impressive and lasting changes in human behaviour. The good news is that if they did rely on chance, we wouldn’t have any idea of how to replicate their efforts. Luckily they don’t rely on chance. The book Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change outlines three keys to success. Keys that all influencers adhere to and keys that you can use for your own benefit:

1. Focus and Measure.

Influencers are crystal clear about the result they are trying to achieve and are zealous about measuring it. They clearly articulate the vision. They know that fuzzy objectives are the enemy to influence. Equally important, they know that clear, consistent, and meaningful measures ensure that they’ll actually track their efforts and genuinely hold themselves accountable. This act alone sets them apart from the crowd. In fact, most influence attempts fail at the outset by neglecting this first key. Unsuccessful agents of change make one of three early mistakes that undermine their influence:

  1. Fuzzy, uncompelling goals: You’d think that if people only got one thing right when trying to create a change, it would be the way they define their objective. People fall down when they begin with only a vague sense of what to achieve, such as “Empower our employees,” “Save the children,” or “Build the team”.
  2. Infrequent or no measures: Even when they have a somewhat clear result in mind, such as, “Develop a culture of open and candid communication”, people often leave out this step – not on purpose – but because they think they already have a firm grasp on the results they care about. Unfortunately, they do not. Their conclusions are based on anecdotal evidence and gut impressions rather than reliable measures.
  3. Bad measures: Even when they do take measures, they drive the wrong behaviour by measuring the wrong variable. Or allow people to maximise performance against the variable without actually doing the desired behaviour.

2. Identify Vital Behaviours

Every year over 3,000 Americans drown, many of them in public pools. This problem remained unchanged for decades until a team of tenacious leaders from the YMCA and Redwoods Insurance became serious about influence. It wasn’t long before they had reduced the portion of those deaths that happened at YMCA pools by two-thirds. How did they do it? They studied tragedies and successes until they found one vital (high-leverage) behaviour that made all the difference. Traditional lifeguards were spending much of their time greeting members, adjusting swim lanes, picking up kickboards, and testing pool chemicals. However, when lifeguards do 10-10 scanning, drowning rates drop immediately. This means that a lifeguard stands in a special spot and scans their section of the pool every 10 seconds, then offers assistance to anyone who might be in trouble within 10 seconds. Simple. And it yields incredibly high leverage. Change vital behaviours, and soon you’ll achieve the results you have wanted all along.

3. Engage All 6 Sources of Influence

The third and final key to influence lies in finding a way to get people to actually carry out the vital behaviour you identify. You’ve identified what you want. You know what behaviours it’ll take to get you there. Now you have to get people to adopt the new behaviours. These powerful sources of influence include:

Source 1. Personal Motivation As you watch others repeatedly doing the wrong thing, ask: Do they enjoy it? In most cases (particularly with deep-rooted habits) this source of influence is an important factor in propelling and sustaining behaviour. 

Source 2. Personal Ability Motivation isn’t everything. When trying to understand why others don’t do what they should do, ask: Can they do it? Just because individuals enjoy something doesn’t mean they’ll succeed. They have to have the skills, talent, and understanding required to enact each vital behaviour or they’ll fail.

Source 3. Social Motivation Examine the social side of influence by asking: Do others encourage them to enact the wrong behaviour? Unless your peers value this particular behaviour, you’re unlikely to value it yourself.

Source 4. Social Ability Others not only provide a source of motivation, but they can also enable vital behaviours. To examine this important source of influence, ask: Do others enable them? Comradere can brighten the darkest day, whereas a toxic company culture spreads like ravenous cancer.

Source 5. Structural Motivation Most change agents think about both individual and social factors, but they leave out the role that “things” play in encouraging and enabling vital behaviours. To check for this source, ask: Do rewards and sanctions encourage them? There is a reason rewards and recognition is a booming billion-dollar industry.

Source 6. Structural Ability “Things” can either enable or disable performance. To examine this source, ask: Does the environment enable them? When your office is dismal, your technology antiquated, you have a hard time focusing on revenue for the company.

“The path of least resistance is the path of the loser.”
— H. G. Wells

Don't Confuse Tinkering with the Real Deal

Leaders who attempt to influence a massive organisational change cannot use the half-hearted “Let’s try a couple of things and see what happens” approach. If you fail because you didn’t try very hard, you’re doing it wrong. Whatever the rationale for tinkering, the cost of putting forth a tepid effort can be extraordinary. In addition to the fact that addressing profound problems with trivial solutions doesn’t create the changes you desire, you do create a reputation for not being able to effect change. On a personal level, repeated failures can lead to a loss of self-confidence. Eventually, you stop attempting to make the world a better place and work on honing your coping techniques instead. At the community level, repeated failures can harm your reputation. Soon, your latest change ideas are tagged “program-of-the-month” or “another one of those crazy ideas!” When you slip to this state, as you invent new notions, others ridicule your plans, offer no help in implementing them, and wait for them to fail. Which inevitably they do.

Your influencing-change challenge “should you choose to accept it” can be likened to facing six hulking behemoths. These monsters are each pulling on one side of a rope. What hope would you have of pulling them in a new direction by sending in a 5-year old child? Your only hope would be to remove the forces pulling against you and add forces pulling for you or – even better do both! In short, you become an effective influencer when the sources of influence you have amassed exceed the sources of inertia resisting the change, making change inevitable.

“The world changes in direct proportion to the number of

people willing to be honest about their lives.

— Armistead Maupin

Influence is Not a Given

In these tumultuous times, when upheaval, change and uncertainty are the new normal, humanity needs truly influential leaders to step up and answer the call. Leadership isn’t just about motivating people to do their best. It’s about communicating a clear, authentic vision for the future and holding true to that vision no matter what. Your title may mean people report to you, and it may give you the power to tell them what to do, but leadership influence is about producing results and creating change. In today’s world, that probably means massive irrevocable change. As a leader, you have the ability to impact people’s character and behaviour – a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly. If you are busy using your intelligence to impress people with what you know, you are missing the mark. While mental prowess is a very important part of influence, the brain only validates what the heart already knows.

Without actual influence, you will not be able to inspire action or drive success no matter the scale of change. While ‘hard’ technical skills can contribute to your ability to influence change, soft skills are what separates good leaders from truly influential ones. As an agent of change, you can gain more influence by tapping into the “heart” of those you want to affect. You may have been given a title of authority, but truly being a leader of influence is all up to you. What are you made of? To lead humanity into a brighter future, we need fewer title-driven leaders and more influential leaders. Fewer inflated egos looking for the popularity vote and more courageous visionaries to inspire, speak and lead people from the heart. Are you brave enough to authentically show up and answer the call?

“Step out of your comfort zone. Comfort zones, where your unrealised dreams are buried, are the enemies of achievement. Leadership begins when you step outside your comfort zone.”
― Roy T. Bennett

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