Recognizing Factors that Influence You

Both internal and external factors influence everything you do. Internal variables are very personal and include your values, goals, emotions, needs and wants. Your personal priorities, the comparative importance you place on each of these factors, may influence you as well. External variables, including family, friends, and other factors, also influence you.


Your values show what is important to you, the principles that you want to live by, and the beliefs that really matter to you. These include ideals such as honesty and dependability, material things such as prized possessions, accomplishments in a career, or personal relationships with family and friends. You learned some of your values from your family; some you learned from friends or from life experiences. Other sources of values include religious organizations, schools, television and other media. Sometimes these sources have conflicting values. In general, however, people agree on the basic issues of right and wrong. These are an established part of society and change very little over time.

While values are usually viewed as positive, values can also be negative. Positive values make your life and the lives of others better. They are not harmful to you or to anyone or anyone else. Negative values are harmful to you as well as to others. People who value only their own needs, comforts, and desires and have little or no regard for the needs, feelings, rights, or property of others show negative values. Such people may not take care of the things they borrow. They may destroy the property of others causing them financial difficulty and pain. They may even steal without giving any thought to the anguish they cause.

Character is a set of behavior traits that define the sort of person you are. Moral or ethical qualities include honesty, courage, integrity, trustworthiness, respect,, responsibility, caring, and compassion. People of good character gain respect and trust from others. To check your progress in developing a positive character, answer these questions:

  • Are you able to look at problems and situations from all angles?
  • Are you able to control your strong emotions and find ways to express them constructively?
  • Do you act without expecting rewards or acknowledgement?
  • Are you able to delay personal pleasure or reward when needed?
  • Do you show your dependability by keeping promises?
  • Do you admit your mistakes and not make excuses for yourself?

Your values guide your thinking, your decisions, and your actions. They affect how you behave, what you read, how you use your spare time, how you treat others, what you buy, and which career you choose. Learning to live by your values takes time, effort, and practice. Values that receive only “lip service” are meaningless or false. True values direct your actions. Learning to act on your personal values provides you with a strong foundation for your life.

Becoming aware of your values is an important way of getting to know yourself. Identifying your values and prioritizing them is hard. As you make decisions, compare how important each value is to you and rank them in order. You may find that some of your values conflict with one another. This may occur when your values differ from those of your family, peer group, school, or community. Conflicting values make decision-making more difficult. The more certain you are of your personal values and of their priorities to you, the more confidence you will have that your decisions are right for you.

Every day you use values to help you make decisions. Deciding to have healthy lunches every day and not soft drinks and candy bars shows that you value good health. Choosing or creating a special gift for your grandmother shows that you value family relationships. Your values serve as guidelines for making decisions. Without values to guide you, making decisions will be more difficult.


                Before you can make good choices, you will need to know what you want. A goal is something you want to do and are willing to work for. When you set a goal you are placing value on it. The goals you set and the steps you take to reach them show what is important to you. Goals can help you recognize what you want and show the steps necessary to reach them. By setting goals and working to meet them, you are likely to do more and achieve more success and satisfaction in life. Think for a moment about what you accomplished yesterday, last week, and last month. What progress have you made toward the goals you set for the year? Have you accomplished all you planned?

You can complete some goals, like completing a class assignment, quickly. These are short-term goalsLong-term goals, like earning a college degree or buying a house, need more time and effort.  To reach long-term goals more easily, break them into smaller goals first. For example, buying a house will be easier if you first set goals to earn enough money for a down payment and to get the good credit rating required for a mortgage loan. Once you meet these goals, related goals might include determining how you can afford to pay, and listing your housing needs and wants. Then you are ready to select a realtor and start looking for the right house. Both short-term and long-term goals help you gain a sense of accomplishment.

People often share goals with other members of a group. For example, your family may decide to plan a family reunion. Working together on the necessary details ensures the event is a success. You may share goals with other groups to which you belong such as a sports team, club, or work team. What are some goals you share with your family or another group?

When you work with others on common goals, you can do more. In some groups you will be able to help set goals; in others, the goals will already be in place. Any group you join will expect you to do your part to reach the group’s goals. Keep in mind that achieving group goals may mean that you cannot meet some of your personal goals. How might you benefit from working cooperatively to reach group goals? What challenges might you face?

Parents, friends, and others may influence your goals, However, you must set goals that show what you want, not what others want for you. This is especially important for career goals. To meet any goal, commit to it so you will work hard to meet it. You will also need to make sure that your goals are realistic and potentially achievable. For example, many young adults aspire to play professional sports or to become a millionaire. The chances of achieving these goals are very slim. Lofty dreams may lead to disappointment. If you want to try to do something extraordinary, just remember that unrealistic goals may not work out. When setting goals, you may have to choose between your dreams and reality. Ask yourself: Do you have the skills and resources necessary to meet your goals? Is your goal realistic and worthy of the time it will need? If your goal is especially lofty, do you have a backup plan?

Once you have set meaningful, realistic, achievable goals, the following guidelines will help you meet them:

Keep your goals in mind. Like a New Year’s resolution, you will not meet a goal if you do not keep it in mind. To do so, create a mental picture of your goal. Write it down and read your goal daily. Share your goal with trusted others and ask them to check on your progress.

Pursue your goals actively. Wishful thinking isn’t enough to meet your goals. Break your goals into smaller ones. Set deadlines for achieving each goal. Take the actions required to reach each goal. Check your progress regularly. Revise your plans and review your commitment, if needed.

Show determination. Expect to meet some obstacles on your way to success. Tackle these with confidence and enthusiasm. You often benefit as much from working toward a goal as you do from achieving it. Determination will help you face the challenges and overcome the adversities you meet in life.

Needs and Wants

As you make decisions, your needs and wants will be a strong influence. Needs are things that are essential for your health and well-being. You have physical, emotional, mental, and social needs. Your basic physical needs are food, clothing, and shelter. Your basic emotional needs include affection, security and safety, independence, belonging or acceptance, and achievement. Intellectually, you need to learn and experience the world around you. Socially, you need positive relationships with other people. Wants are things you wish for even though they are not essential for your health and well-being. Sometimes you will find it difficult to distinguish between your needs and wants. For example, you may want to go skiing with your friends, but do you need to go skiing? When distinguishing between needs and wants, be honest with yourself.


Emotions are feelings like love, hate, fear, guilt, happiness, and impatience. Mature people take charge of their emotions, and not letting their emotions be in charge. Remember that your emotions can make your life exciting, but they can also make life difficult.

You are probably influenced by your emotions far more than you realize. Sometimes, your strong feelings make it difficult to be logical. When it is necessary to make decisions in an emotional situation, avoid regret by being aware of the effect your emotions may have on the decision. For example, a decision made when you are angry may be very different from the decision you would make otherwise. Do you sometimes respond to your emotions in a way that is harmful to yourself or others? How do you typically respond to your emotions? Can you think of situations where your emotions affected your ability to make sound decisions?

Family, Friends, and Other Influences

In addition your internal influences, you are subject to influence from family, friends, and others. The impact of these external resources may vary from one to another and from time to time. Your awareness of these influences will make it easier test your values, set goals, make decisions, solve problems, and manage your life.

Family. When you were a child, your family had the greatest influence on your life. It provided the basis for the values you developed. Your family probably set goals for you and for your future. When you were young, they made decisions for you. As you grew older, more and more decisions became your responsibility. Your family was probably eager to help you learn to make good decisions by providing advice and information. Your signs of readiness and ability to handle new challenges determined when the time was right. As you move into adulthood, you may still want to seek advice and information from family members. Families have a strong influence on decisions, even when they are not providing direct advice. You will likely rely on what you have experienced and learned in your family as you make decisions for yourself.

Friends. As you grew older, you probably turned more often to your friends for help with decisions. Note, however, that your friends often have no more knowledge or experience than you do. Some may even want to influence your values, goals, and decisions for their own reasons. You can listen and learn from your friends, but, in the end, you must choose your own values, set your own goals, make your own decisions, solve your own problems, and manage your own life.

Other Influences. The things you read, see, and hear from other sources also affect your values, goals, and decisions. This is especially true of advertising which is carefully crafted to influence how you spend your money. In addition, newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television shows, and movies provide information about the world and the people in it. From these you may face other ways of thinking and living. Religious training and education may also play a role by laying a foundation for your values and beliefs. They can also influence the decisions you make every day.

Which factors have the most influence when you make decisions?

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