If you yourself don’t choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will…

The entire quote is from several thousand years ago… Epictetus supposedly said “If you yourself don’t choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will, and their motives may not be the highest.”

Stoicism has featured prominently in my recent reading/listening habits. And this phrase in particular is one that resonates with me. You may be wondering what this has to do with investing, growing and leading teams, businesses, etc. The answer is pretty simple. Your ability to impact yourself, anyone else, or a team, are directly related to who you are and how you behave. And those two things are a straight line from what you choose to consume.

I have also gone down a “free will” rabbit hole recently with some Sam Harris writings and podcasts. His work is really thought provoking. Whether one buys into it or not, if you are open minded he will make you think. For me, it seems largely to be semantics, and I am sure Sam would probably disagree. That said, for the sake of this post, I am going to assume that we indeed do have the ability to choose what we expose ourselves too. At least over the long term.

However, the real point I wanted to make here was more about the other side of this equation. By that I mean, what energy are you exposing others to? In your writing? Your emails, texts, meeting notes, etc.? In your conversations? In your contributions in meetings, at lunches, in the hallway? On a Zoom? On the shop floor? You have precious few moments to consume the right kind of thoughts and images, and even fewer precious moments to provide thoughts an images to others in the hope of nudging or directing them forward. Toward a focus, a goal, a better place. If you approach your own actions in that way – as a rare opportunity to be the thoughts and images someone else consumes – your intentions stand a better chance of hitting home and possibly making a difference. If you are a leader, or a manager – or a friend, spouse, or family member – use your opportunities to intersect others with energy with intention and precision. You won’t always hit the mark, and you will often wish you would have done it differently. But over time, if you are intentional, you can make a difference to yourself, and to others.