As the weather has turned colder, I’ve spent a bit more time this week reading, and particularly re-reading some of my favourite books that I recommend to my clients. I think it’s important that I make sure that I refresh my memory every so often, if for no other reason than I am always learning and growing and it’s important that I make sure that I still agree with the core premise of what is being said.
Each time I re-read these books, something resonates in a new and important way. This time, it was in a section on influence.
The basic premise was that one of the most important factors in being able to influence others is to be open to influence in return. This stuck with me on my (extremely bracing) early morning runs.
I think there’s something about running in the mist that really lets your mind drift off in interesting directions. As I was wishing that the tip of my nose was rather less exposed to the elements, it occurred to me that I was trying to choose which parts of myself are open to influence. I was happy for my torso to be under relatively thin layers, as I tend to stay pretty warm through the exercise. My poor nose, however, doesn’t seem to get any of the benefits of my elevated heart rate or increased blood flow.
The thing is, I know that I want to experience all of the aspects of running outdoors in the cold. I love seeing the mist. I feel elated when I see a frozen spider’s web sparkling in the sunlight. I even love the fact that it’s not quite light out when I start my runs now. And, no matter how much I might wish I didn’t, I need that feeling of a frozen nose to remind me how hard my body is working for me.
This is very much the same principle as being open to influence in the rest of my life. Knowingly opening yourself to influence; saying “this is what I think right now, but I’m actively looking for you to offer me a different suggestion”, is often difficult, and sometimes even painful. It means putting down your existing beliefs. It means being ready to say that you were wrong. It means silencing that competitive voice in the back of your mind that replies with “yes, but” almost reflexively.
I value humility and my belief in continuous learning is both deep and genuine. I still have to put in a little mental effort to stay open to influence. In many ways, that reflexive “yes, but” voice is a valuable reminder that I still work every day to embody my values. Because, it’s easy to say “you have to live your values” but the reality is that it’s an ideal. I get as close as I can to that ideal every day, but I’m still alway striving. For me, taking stock every day and making sure that I am giving others the chance to influence me as much as I seek to influence them is my cold nose while I’m running. It’s a reminder. It’s a way of measuring my progress. I wish it was easier, but I’m grateful that it’s there.
As a coach, I want to influence my clients and I know how much you all influence me. It really is only when we both come together with open minds and willing to listen and adapt and change that we can make a real connection. And making that connection is absolutely key to getting my clients the results they want.