I’m surrounded by people who inspire me. A friend owns several successful restaurants. Another has released her own CD. A third displays and sells her artwork throughout the county.
Other folks inspire me in less tangible ways. My sister volunteers at her local library. A neighbor showed incredible courage as she battled ovarian cancer.
The behaviors and choices of these men and women infuse me with positive energy that stirs me to do good things in my own life.
It’s not as if I have a low self-esteem. I’m generally pleased with who I am and what I do. Nor do I feel in any way competitive with these achievement-oriented acquaintances. Their actions excite my own passions. But for the most part I have little desire to follow directly in their paths.
Instead, I like to observe others’ philosophies or lifestyles and try to incorporate aspects of them into my own. Sometimes those characteristics have serious ramifications. I may be inspired to take a certain political stance or to volunteer for an international relief organization. Often they are light-hearted, even frivolous. A friend may encourage me to wear vintage hats or use cloth napkins that don’t match.
Most of the time I share my enthusiasm with those who have ignited my flame. It’s a great way to cement relationships. And all of us enjoy hearing we’ve had a positive impact on someone we care about.
But inspiration also sneaks in below the radar. I see something from a distance and think to myself, “Hey, I can do that.”
In a flash it becomes part of my repertoire, while the donor remains hidden in the shadows. The vast majority of my friends offer me some type of inspiration. It’s that very zeal that appeals to me most.
My approach pays big dividends for my mental health.
Research shows that our friends and the choices they make directly affect us. We absorb what they do as if by osmosis. When they do well, we increase our own chances of success. When they do poorly, we are equally likely to follow suit. For instance, having one obese friend increases our likelihood of becoming obese by 57 percent.
Of course, we can’t handpick everyone in our lives. There will always be folks whose behaviors are less than stellar. Co-workers may cheat on their boyfriends.
A brother-in-law may refuse to pay child support to his ex-wife.
When confronted with these situations, it’s best to steer clear of the troublesome issues and direct conversations toward topics of mutual interest or, at least, of neutral content. We can also limit the time we spend together while reinforcing manners we want to avoid at all costs.
My friends aren’t the only ones who’ve inspired me. I’ve been influenced by countless historical and contemporary figures over the years. Still, I’ll continue seeking the majority of my motivation close to home, from those I encounter on a daily basis.
Increase your chances of success
Want to surround yourself with inspiring people? Here’s how:
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com