Insights: An Attitude Changer

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Frustrated at how difficult I was finding the final accent of hiking Mt Baldy last weekend, I started to wonder if I should just give up hiking mountains and use the excuse that I’m just getting too old.

However, my attitude got an adjustment by two people when I reached the top.

The first was a woman who shared with me how grateful she was for being able to climb mountains at the age of 77. So age was really no excuse for me; I still have many years to go before I am even close to being too old.

It made me stop and appreciate the fact I can hike mountains. She motivated me to remember and appreciate my ability, as one day I may be not be able.

Second, and even more shocking to me, was a guy in his 30s who came over because he recognized me from the hiking club. We had hiked together many times several years ago. He was so excited to see me, and enthusiastically shared about a hiking trip to Everest base camp, Nepal, he was planning in two weeks. It was a hike I had often thought about but never set out to complete.

As he shared his excitement for this trip, he thanked me for being the inspiration for reaching his goal. Two years ago, I was training for many a hike and he was so impressed with what I was doing that he started to set goals, including beating me up Mt Baldy one day–which he had in fact done that day.

I was so shocked to hear his story. Who knew I would be such an inspiration to someone whose name I could not remember!

While hiking down the mountain I thought about how all our choices in life have an influence on others, either positive or negative. There really is no neutral in our behavior and how it affects others. What is important to note is that we are mostly unaware of how we influence people.

Our brain responds to others behavior by something called mirror neurons. Even though we are still trying to understand the full extent of mirror neurons, at this point we believe that we tend to emulate others. So whom we choose to be around has a great influence on us, and us on them, even though we may not realize it.

Just think about how your mood can change by being around someone upbeat or depressed. We can’t help but influence or be influenced.

As I shared this story with a friend of mine, her eyes became watery as she shared her own story of how when she was going through her divorce a woman she hardly knew had an amazing affect on her. My friend was surprised to hear that she too had influenced this woman’s life as well.

What is also fascinating is what we get back from our choices of behavior. After my conversation on the top of Mt baldy, it left me with a feeling of contentment and happiness that I had had a positive influence on someone. It also made me really think about how my choices can and do affect others.

As Plato notes, “Human behavior flows from three main sources; desire, emotion, and knowledge.”

My addition to his quote: use all three wisely and thoughtfully, as they are, even without our awareness, influencing others behavior and choices.

Dr. Shelly Zavala can be contacted at or [email protected]


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