As a writing major in college (with a minor in being an idiot) I Googled many things about grammar, but there was one brain-buster I often went back to: What’s the difference between “affect” and “effect”? Thanks to this Grammar Girl article I finally overcame my idiocy and mastered what I eventually came to understand, is a simple difference. For those that don’t click on random links from strangers, here’s the abridged version:
Affect means “to influence.” Effect means “a result.”
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between affect and effect and I keep coming back to this thought: What is the effect of my affect?
Native Massachussetsian (it’s a word), writer, transcendentalist, and purveyor of nature, Henry David Thoreau secluded himself in the woods for two years and wrote a friggin’ book about it called “Walden.” It’s a dense, beautiful read about the rigors of life and mindful practice of appreciating each day. He says “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of the arts.” But when you are alone, what is your “effect” on others?”
I’m a strong proponent of working on self-care. But unlike Thoreau in the woods, we spend our days surrounded by people. People that have lives. Each owning a disparate tale of success and struggle. We consistently affect others whether we’re conscious of it or not. The reason why I keep coming back to the question “What is the effect of my affect” is because I strive to leave a lasting effect on others. Whether it’s leaving an interaction with someone laughing. Someone sharing with me a success about their work. Seeing my mom’s smile after giving her a hug. Those things are effects. How you get there is the affect.
Affect. What am I doing to affect others positively? How am I affecting people with my words? Am I being 100% honest? If I’m being affected by an external source, how am I managing this to make sure my affect doesn’t damage others? How do I affect?
And what’s the effect? Sometimes it is just a smile. Sometimes it leads to deeper understanding. Sometimes it helps people feel more confident about approaching others to resolve a challenge they’re facing. Those are the outcomes. But as psychologist Shawn Achor says, “Praise the process that leads to the outcome.” Affection is the process. Effect is the outcome.
I ask you to think, “What is the effect of my affect?” I’m grateful to be surrounded by so many people who affect me on a daily basis. The effects are numerous, often times unfathomable. Starting small, my goal this week is to continue practicing affect and being cognizant of what the effects may be.
Everything you do matters. What a beautiful thing.
Have fun every day,