Hi, my name is Klara, and I’m addicted to external influence.
That’s a weird thing to admit, isn’t it? But it is what it is. When there’s a gap in my life, I look externally, rather than internally, to find a way to fill it. I’m the person who can be convinced to form an opinion or even change my mind on something by reading one convincing article. My entire parenting philosophy is probably based on a small handful of cleverly written pieces on Scary Mommy. Back when I worked full time, I would listen to Hamish and Andy on the way home and they were sponsored by Chicken Treat, so there were regular Chicken Treat ads interspersed throughout their show – and it regularly made me buy Chicken Treat. Advertiser’s dream right here. Just watching the Carhartt pants ad makes me want to pack up my life and move my family to a house in the woods so that my kids can run ballistic all day in the great outdoors.
Things don’t just inspire me. They influence me. They make me yearn for big, crazy changes that don’t actually align with who I am and what I truly want in life. Nobody moves to the woods after watching an ad for pants, right? Well I totally would! It’s times like these our modest income is probably a blessing.
But no external influences have ever been stronger in my life than during the years of adulthood when I couldn’t work out what to do with my life.
Let me tell you some big career decisions I made during that time:
- The movie The Perfect Man made me want to make cakes for a living… so I applied for a job with a renowned Perth cake artist. I got through to the second round of interviews too. But luckily I didn’t get the job, because shortly after…
- The movie Music & Lyrics made me want to write music for a living… so I studied a Cert II in Electronic Music and learnt how to write and record. But then…
- The second season of Master Chef made me yearn to be a chef, so I started researching culinary schools and even wrote an entire application for Master Chef season 3 and almost sent it. Almost.
- Re-watching Gilmore Girls Season 4 and seeing Rory embracing College life at Yale made me want to go back to university, so I started a degree in Primary School Education
I thought that I loved approaching each new year with no real sense of direction or idea of what I wanted to do as an adult; I was so keen to be influenced by the next thing. But in reality, that just left me open to a ton of external influences that only led me in a bunch of wrong directions. Not to mention all that wasted time and money!
Rather than treating all these ideas as direct influences in my life, I should have simply used them as inspiration. Instead of watching a movie about song writing and going full-ball into a whole new life path, I should have gone “Cool. I like song writing. I should practise it.” Instead of watching an episode about a young girl at College and throwing myself into a degree purely for the sake of being back at university, I should have gone “Cool. I want to keep learning.” Treated as influences, each of these things produced pretty shaky, short-term results. Treated as inspiration, they could have simply made up a small part of the fabric of my life.
Here’s the way I see it:
Influences demand a call to action and affect change in your life.
Inspiration is collected over time, subtly integrates into your sense of self, and offers a rich tapestry to draw from when making decisions.
Influence negates our sense of self. Inspiration gives it substance. Sure, when it comes to small things like buying Chicken Treat on the way home thanks to a barely-clever ad on the radio, influence isn’t dangerous. Unless you do it every day. But leading a life in which you chase and succumb to influence long-term does nothing to help you. At best, it will keep you busy. At worst, it will leave you feeling empty and frustrated.
So my advice? Chase inspiration. Chase it so much. I adore inspiration; it fills my heart, it excites me and it adds to my sense of purpose. But if you feel that inspiration tipping over into influence, take a step back. Breathe. Question it. Remember who you are and what you stand for. Don’t allow influence to sway you.
Such an important distinction … great article Klara xx
Klara Donovan says
Thanks so much Jodie!!
Soumya Mohan says
I have been looking for a distinct difference between inspiration and influence from a long time
Thanks for this article.
This gives a clarity on both.
Klara Donovan says
I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂
If I have to choose between the two, I would go with inspiration.