Picture your family and friends. Now picture yourself walking down a high street. How many factors could influence you? Every day we are subjected to an array of external events that can affect our decisions. From human interactions to digital stimuli, there is an almost endless list of scenarios that can influence us.

In any country, industry, family or friends, there are certain individuals who can be referred to as “influencers”. Sometimes this is earned through impressive accomplishments such as setting up a global initiative to protect an endangered species, or perhaps just by being a charming human being. Other times, the celebrity culture can engender new “influencers” who are perhaps far less worthy of this position. From a business sense, harnessing the power of these individuals can greatly help with sales and marketing. However, from our point of view, taking the time to establish why we relate to an individual can help us avoid making potentially undesirable decisions.

So who or what influences us? Occasionally it is something motivating us to start a new hobby or become more dedicated to our craft. Other times perhaps the opposite can be true as we feel a million miles away from what someone else has achieved. Unfortunately, comparing ourselves to others can lead to a perceived negative self-worth as we picture an unattainable ideal. However, someone else is most likely thinking the same thing when they look at us. As such, this cycle reaps few rewards and can trigger many negative emotions. The important part is to accept the factors that we cannot control and focus on those which we can. Personally, as my hairline increasingly recedes, I have been guilty of casting envious glances at men with great hair and comparing myself to those with slightly lower hairlines. Although hard to imagine many doing the same to me, I feel confident this cycle is repeated throughout the world for a host of scenarios. This also helps to refocus my mind on things that are either more important or that I can positively affect.

From a scientific point of view, the decision making process we experience will often boil down to the interactivity between the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Research suggests that when we are faced with a decision which has a potential reward, dopamine is most responsible. However, in moments where the focus is on potentially negative outcomes, serotonin is more influential[1]. Unsurprisingly, stress and fatigue can deplete our levels of both neurotransmitters, rendering us more vulnerable to external influences and poor decision making. As such, our day-to-day energy levels, focus and even mood can have far-reaching effects on our choices, and vice versa!



“You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”

Maya Angelou


[1]  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3055502/