Pay attention to what you pay attention to. This is the best advice that I could give a young person today, or even an old person for that matter.
Some believe in free will. That I am fully in control of every choice that I make. That I am an independent being who alone is responsible for my experience of life. If I experience success, it is my doing. If I experience pain and misery, it is again my doing. I am empowered fully to live the life that I will choose to live.
Some believe in destiny. I am not in control of my life and there is a bigger plan for me. Everything happens for a reason. I simply may not know what that reason is but trust that it is there and that it is right. My job in life is to follow the path that is shown to me. There is a greater universal power that is really in control of my experience of life.
I share these two beliefs as they are at different ends of a spectrum. It is to prompt a reflection for you, about where on a spectrum between free will and destiny you currently are. It may also be the case that you are unsure, like me.
What I do believe though is that I am the product of my environment.
I am the company that I keep. And that my environment just might have a greater influence on my experience of life than any control through free will or of any surrender into destiny.
When I pause for a moment to reflect on all of the people that I know, that I care for and that I feel a connection to, the list is long. Parents, siblings, relatives, friends, coworkers, peers, teachers and more. The list is endless it seems and I can’t help but think about how much I’ve been influenced and inspired by all of them. Knowingly and more likely, unknowingly.
When I pause a little longer to reflect on the many people that I know of but do not know directly or personally, the list again is long. I think about the leaders in society, politics and business. Artists, athletes, authors, celebrities and entertainers. The people who work at grocery stores, hospitals, restaurants and coffee shops. These people all undoubtedly have an influence on me, be it by sharing an inspiring idea online or a warm smile at the counter.
And when I pause just a little longer to reflect a little deeper, I realize that the work of so many people has influenced my experience of life. The warmth that I feel in this moment is from the invention of electricity by someone. The comfortable clothes on my body were manufactured by someone. The chair and desk was built by someone. The building was designed by someone. The internet, car, cell phone and more. The work of others has a tremendous influence on my experience of life.
With this understanding that other people, including those that I know, those that I know of and those that I will never know, are all responsible for my experience of life, a desire arises to be more intentional about the company that I keep.
The people that I interact with. The physical spaces that I spend time in. The digital spaces where my attention goes. The type of media, conversations and activities that I engage with.
All of these people and choices quite possibly have a greater influence on my experience of life than any free will I try to excerpt or any belief in destiny that I have.