Sphere of Influence

On a recent walk through our neighborhood, I noticed a newly-planted tree featured in the center of a raised garden, circled by rough-hewn landscaping stones.

Aesthetically appealing, it brought to mind how each of us — like the tree — has a sphere of influence; people — similar to the colorful flowers — whose lives we influence whether we intend to, or not.

It might be an active influence (what we say, things we do, places we go), or it might be passive (what’s left unsaid, what’s left undone). Either way, it has an impact.

“Never underestimate the influence you have on others.” — Laurie Buchanan

Who are you influencing?

© Laurie Buchanan

Find me on Twitter @TuesWithLaurie
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81 thoughts on “Sphere of Influence

  1. I begin each day with the intent to send positive messages to all I meet. Today it will be my husband, my Pilates gang, someone at the grocery store, my blog friends. I have a neighbor in need I must visit. Other days it is the two-year-olds at church and my grand-children.

    My mother’s influence is on my mind because of her recent death. Many spoke of how she affected their lives at the funeral, but there were many touching home visits too: Two families from Chicago whose lives were forever changed through New Life for Girls, a Vietnamese woman who as a refugee benefited from her ministrations, an estranged daughter-in-law to whom we gave some mementos. I could go on.

    Great post, Laurie. I like your pointing out both active and passive influences. Nice distinction.

    • I found that my perspective changed and widened after each of my parent’s death with regard to who they were as people. I could see them more clearly, more fully, more objectively and in many ways, appreciate them more.

    • Marian – I like the way you launch your day! And please know that even though I’d only “known” your mother briefly through your blog, reading about her had a wonderfully positive impact on my life as well.

  2. I’ll pick up on the passive influence idea, since it stirred a memory. I decided I wanted to be a teacher when I was in the sixth grade. We only had one teacher in our Mennonite church congregation, and he was a man, so my goal was not a well-worn path among my active influencers. I enjoyed watching the male teacher in church, noticing how well behaved his children were during the long sermons and wondering what he did to encourage them. When he and his family chose to leave our congregation, I felt almost betrayed. He could never have known how important his example was to me and how much I missed seeing him.

  3. “Sphere of Influence” seems like a good title for a much larger story!

    In the grander scheme of things I am influencing who I am. Who I am through the relationships with the world around me. In turn, I influence those around me, intentionally or not.

    I was reminded of this just a few days ago. I had attended a new friends art exhibit while there she introduced me to her family, as soon as they heard my name exclaimed, “Oh you’re that guy who writes that amazing blog!” I was thrilled and a bit taken aback. Who knew.

    PS: I just received my first newspaper photo credit this morning!

  4. Just the other day myself and other members of my family received a surprising email. We all had to take a second read and were taken aback. It was a short piece of writing, a memory written with great clarity and insight. It was from my brother, who does not usually write. He wrote about a memory that was very important, a family member who influenced him and his first memory of an uncle in Germany. He said I had inspired him to try his hand at writing something, by the blog I have and the writing I do. It was a great feeling to know I influenced him with coming up with something that was truly meaningful and moving.

  5. I recently received an email from a young single mother in Kyrgyzstan who wants to come to this country to learn English. She reads my blog and wishes to communicate with me – perhaps I have a wider range of influence than I thought.

  6. I once read a statistic, Laurie which said we have 200 people in our sphere of influence at all times. I tested that out by backtracking how I got from square A to square B and so on. What I found pretty much confirmed this to be fact. . . seeing how one connection, led to another and on and on showed me how the influence of just one person precipitates a chain reaction, leading one forward to the realization of a goal, which was once little more than a day dream, with no conscious idea how to make it manifest. There’s no weak links in the chain, that’s for sure. We all make such a difference. Thanks for your insight.

  7. I always look forward to watching you paint a picture for your readers and artistically draw us from an outward view to an inner view. You’re a master! Your sphere of influence spills over in ever widening circles!

  8. Your question is difficult for me to answer Laurie and the reason comes in some of the answers you received from those who have lost parents and heard at the funeral how much someone had been influenced by that person. We sometimes learn who we HAVE influenced but to be aware of who we ARE influencing is harder to determine. We need to make some assumptions I think. If we have a relationship or a connection, no matter how small then we are influencing another. If we act on this assumption then we easily recognize our responsibilities – that smile at the clerk in the supermarket becomes more genuine. We might even say hello. We write a longer than usual birthday note to one of our children even if we know they know they are well loved. We take the time to softly touch the arm of our life partner for no reason at all. We answer the comments in our social media platforms with care and respect as if it were our physical life neighbour who is visiting with us as we work in our garden by the street. In this way, we can comprehend our sphere of influence and then be surprised by those we had no idea even knew we existed. A great question Laurie!

  9. Thank you for this thought-provoking post, Laurie. And I agree. We often don’t how or who we influence. That’s yet another reason why we should take time to wisely choose our words and actions.

  10. I’ve learned over time that influence is less about “telling and selling” and more (as many of your responders have noted) about “being and listening and involving.” I’ve often been surprised by those who have mentioned my influence in their life in one way or the other.
    On the other hand, I have been an activist on several social justice fronts and have been one of the pebbles which contributed to a national avalanche of new laws and safeguards. I’ve learned that contributing my pebble towards positive (in my view ar least) change can make a difference.

    • Audrey – Your comment brings to mind the ant. It may look small in appearance, but it can carry up to 50 times its body weight. Your pebble-sized actions have contributed to tremendous positive outcomes. THANK YOU!

  11. Interesting question. My first reaction being no one… well, then when I think about it, maybe my kids, my family, but I suppose like the people who influence me (many — including everyone from people who work at the grocery store to online people like you who) I begin to think that maybe we each influence far more people than we think we do on first thought.

  12. Not the person I should be influencing judging by an unsavoury conversation I had last night! Seems that everyone but moi is influencing the person in question, and Wolfie is paying the price for these obnoxious characters with too much of the wrong kind of influence! 😉

  13. Intriguing thought, Laurie, no one leaves their house in the morning with the thought, ” I’m going out there today and influence someone or bust!”. Well, maybe, if your campaigning for something or someone and that’s another story for another day. However, you can leave with an open heart and open mind, willing to take people as they are, give them a smile, a kind word, a friendly gesture. I set the tone of my day during my morning meditations when I ask the Creative Genius of the Universe to let me be a Blessing to someone today….With Out Being Aware Of It. I am asking to be a tool, to not be able to look back and say, “Well, didn’t I do a really wonderful thing today for old So-and-So.” and strain my arm patting myself on the back. I am conscious of wanting to be praised when I do something beyond and above the norm, so I’m still working on that.. What ever influence I have on others, I can only hope for it to be a good one!

    • Sandi – I’m on the “receiving end” of you on a regular basis, and I can say with all honesty that you are an amazing positive influence in my life that I not only look forward to, but count on!

      • Ted, no one ever said we had to be normal to be influential, but you are highly entertaining and have been a tremendous influence on my life, I knew if you could fight that hard to live…then so could I. I figure we are both winners and hopefully influence many more people than we’ll ever know about.

  14. Here’s a wee story about just this influence you are talking about: When I was in first year at university, we would run to the other dorms and serenade each other on Sunday nights. One of the 3 women’s dorms was across a main east west highway. Often several long distance truckers would be on the highway and would stop to let the singing group cross the road. Some would honk or flash their lights…then they got tired of the parade except for one red 18 wheeler who always stopped and I believe actually stayed to hear us sing. Years and years later I was teaching career planning at the community college (3k miles away) and there was a older man in my class who needed to stop driving truck due to a back injury. He turned out to be the fellow in the red truck who stopped to listen. He was sure he could not find a new job that he liked as well. When we figured out our connection, I started singing to him his homework assignments – and all the other students got caught up in helping this fellow find a new job/career he loves as much as traveling the roads…..he became the coordinator for the state”s school districts music share program, making sure that music teachers and band directors could get the music that their school programs needed for upcoming events. Part of the job description was keeping copies of other schools recordings, which he listened too while he worked. You just never know sometimes…
    Music and song are huge at influencing and motivating….
    Once again Laurie splendid thoughts found here which influence the readers thoughts
    Thank you for sharing

  15. Hi Laurie

    I do my best to be a positive influence at every level – family, neighbourhood, town, district, nation, planet, and all sentience (human and non-human – earthbound and beyond).

    And it is a strange analogy to me, because I tend to see forests as mostly battles to the death, just fought out on a timescale that is many times a human lifetime. So while trees tend to look peaceful on a human timeframe, they don’t look at all peaceful to me – I see them battling each other for light and nutrients, just at the scale of humdreds and thousands of years.

    So for me, the tree analogy does quite work, as I see the need for genuine cooperation at all scales if we are to meet the potential that is undeniably present.

    I want my sphere of influence to be one of cooperation, not competition.

    I want to work with, not against, the environment, other people, other life forms.

    • Ted — Once again my hat is off to you. You have been such a strong, positive influence in my life. I’m grateful to be in your sphere of influence. I love that you:

      Want your sphere of influence to be one of cooperation, not competition.

      You want to work with, not against, the environment, other people, other life forms.

  16. I see/interact with so few people now that I am retired by choice pretty much. However; when I was visiting my son in AZ. this winter I noticed how everyone waved & made eye contact or nodded to me when I drove by in my son’s neighborhood near South Mountain in Phoenix (outside city in horse & farmland). That peaceful connection between passing strangers was unusual to me but delightful!
    When I came home to Zion (in Illinois along Lake Michigan & Wisconsin border) I started purposely trying to engage/make eye contact/greet/smile & wave to those I pass on streets here at home…….people do not respond as often here, most of the time they don’t even look, but I’ll keep on trying!
    Live well, laugh often and love much-

  17. I like to think I have influenced my son Laurie . He moved to his first house with his girlfriend a month ago…I miss him but happy he is happy.
    By the way we still haven’t moved to our half house . The question is where will the christmas tree go up??? Crossed fingers and toes
    For half house.

    • Cherry – FIRST, I am thrilled for you son and his girlfriend. Good for them! SECOND, I’m laughing at your “speed bump” in the road of life: “Where will the Christmas tree go?” I have every confidence that it’s going to be absolutely lovely no matter where you decide to put it, even if it’s on the island in the middle of the kitchen! 🙂

  18. I love how you make the every day special Laurie. You touch us gently to get our attention and then open up our world and our hearts!
    May your ripple of influence keep expanding 🙂
    Val x

  19. Had to scratch my head and think about this for a while… I suspect my sphere of influence centers on my family. It surprises me how often my adult children, all in their 30s, turn to me for advice and how valued that makes me feel. Now that both my parents have died I miss turning to them, but also feel their sphere of influence gave me enough stored wisdom to carry me through the rest of my life as I ease into the role of family matriarch. Thank you, Laurie, for giving me something to reflect on this morning!

    • Barbara – And if I’m not mistaken, you becoming a grandma either just happened, or is just around the corner. I betcha a dollar to a donut that you your wisdom will be tapped into even MORE regularly once baby arrives:)

      • Just around the corner, Laurie. 🙂 We leave on Friday for North Carolina and unless the little one arrives early we should be there in good time to welcome her into her family!

  20. This “spherical” influence was the topic of one of my past novels. As my husband put it: it’s the ripple effect he learned from a nun who asked him, as a young child, to place his finger in a bowl of water and try not to disturb it. She illustrated that this concentric impact is the impact of our lives on others — our actions ripple out and touch everyone around us, even if we think we have not made a single wave.

  21. Well Laurie, the very nature of my vocation – school teacher- screams out at such a framing, and I’d like to think that in a number of ways I am doing at least a fair share that will be remembered and will help set in motion some lasting habits and interests. Funny, but last night we all watched the 1939 GOODBYE MR. CHIPS with Robert Donat and Greer Garson for my 60th, and though I have seen it so many times in my life I am always moved to my core by Donat’s extraordinary performance -he well deserved the Oscar he won despite serious competition that year from Stewart, Olivier and Gable – and the conviction that one man made life-altering impact on so many people. Lovely post here!

  22. A good question, Laurie. At some points in my life and career I’ve been almost scared of the number of people I knew I was influencing…lots of responsibility to ensure I gave the best I had in those situations. I can only hope I did. And I have great respect for people who have influenced me, and gratitude/admiration for many of them. Now my sphere is smaller, much more comfortable…both ways. Like the little tree…

  23. Hi there, Ms. Laurie! Hmm, good question. I suppose at times I’ve influenced many folks. Maybe influence is like the game of dominoes. One small action may set off a chain event. Other times maybe it’s as gentle as the breeze. I feel your influence resonating everywhere. 🙂

  24. What a beautiful home! Walking a neighborhood like that would be a pleasure… When it comes to influencing others, I think I operate both passively and aggressively. LOL I’m in Marketing, so from a professional standpoint, I’m constantly working to positively draw in new clients with the messages I produce (visually and verbally). From a personal standpoint, I believe there are more subtle influences going on. Some I might not even be aware of….maybe most, because I don’t often hear, “WOW! Because of what you did/say, I’ve been influenced to….” It’s a nice thought, though…

  25. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Tuesdays with Laurie is a blog where you might not find all the answers but you will certainly find some great questions to ask yourself. On the Internet you will hear the word ‘Influencer’ bandied about and those with the label applauded for their global impact on others. However, we can be influencers within a much smaller circle than that. Mostly for good and of course there are the minority to use that particular tool for evil reasons too. I am a firm believer in taking your eye of the big picture that seems overwhelming and focus instead on those in the immediate vicinity. If we all did that then gradually that influence would spread and make a difference. Thank you Laurie for asking a very good question.

  26. Great post–it really made me think. I, too, like the distinction you made between active and passive influence. I suspect many people have had those moments (I hope) where someone has told them of something they did that had such a big influence on them. Sometimes all it takes is listening to someone or giving them a smile.

  27. those of us that tend to stay isolated from others sometimes like to believe that our sphere of influence is miniscule, but your post is a good reminder that even when we are not actively exerting influence, we are still impacting the world around us

  28. Hopefully actively influencing my fellow Americans to become aware of the plight of our corrupt and broken social, economic and political “system”. May we all live in peace and freedom. Keep up the your amazing lightwork Laurie, you’re the best. 🙂

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