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  • Melissa Sims

Circle of Influence

It seems like the world is in chaos lately, and it feels hard to find the light with so much darkness. It is easy to become distracted, and even consumed, by all of the events around us.

I make it a habit to NOT watch the news. I will read articles here and there, as they have a lot less emotional sensationalism attached. And the articles lately are pretty grim. I am finding it hard as of late to feel a lot of positivity with what’s been going on in the world. It’s difficult at times to focus on my seemingly small life (in the big picture) while there are so many suffering. It actually hurts my heart. But then I remember I am here, and it isn’t affecting me personally, so I must move forward.

So how do we function normally when nothing actually feels normal anymore? I have been re-reading one of the books that we recommend in our book club, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and while the book is mainly focused on creating positive change and habits, one of the lessons in it really hits home for me right now.

The lesson in the book is about our Circle of Concern and our Circle of Influence, which is a model of compartmentalizing our worries. In a nutshell, we all have a circle of concern, which are things that we worry about in the ‘bigger picture’ and they include a wide range of issues, from world peace, nuclear war, the economy as a whole, environmental issues, etc. - and are caused by outside factors. Factors that are out of our control. When we can create a Circle of Concern, we can distinguish between those things in which we have no, or very little control over, from those that we do have power or control over.

The worries and concerns we have that we can control would fall within our circle of influence. What this entire exercise is about is to allow you to understand where your worries are depleting your energy, assessing whether those concerns something that you can affect, and honing in your focus on the those things. Using the Circle of Influence model, you may better understand what you have control over and decide what to do about it.

If we focus too much on the circle of concern, our circle of influence gets smaller, because we are spending too much time and energy on things that we cannot control.

We can’t control the economy, threat of a future pandemic, religious war, or even the future of our environment. These are big issues that one person cannot realistically fix. This adds to feelings of stress and helplessness, resulting in negativity.

I like to use social media as an example of people who live in their circle of concern. These are people getting worked up and lashing out about things that they really have no control over - politics, war, religious debate, etc. They are reactive, and their efforts are futile; they are spending so much energy on that circle that there isn’t much left to focus on the things they can control…and thus the circle of influence shrinks.

Instead, shifting our focus to the things we can control allows our circle of concern to just become a perimeter, with an awareness that it is there, the empathy for the things within it, but the realization that our true concerns live in our influence. People who are focused on this inner circle are more proactive, working on their health, their families, friends, and work. Proactively managing your circle of influence can reduce stress, increase happiness, and increase self-worth - because you are making a difference and influencing change. And working on that circle can indirectly influence the Circle of Concern, as your small changes can create a bigger impact elsewhere. For example, focusing on your own environment, say, through recycling or not littering, could have an impact on your community environment, which can impact the environment on a larger scale.

This can be applied to your job, not just your personal life. If you can focus at work on those things that you have involvement in, the things you can influence, you can truly make a difference in the bigger picture. But your focus remains on the direct influence you make, not on all of the things in the 'perimeter.'

I would love to solve the problem in the Gaza Strip - I am devastated for everyone directly or indirectly impacted by this ongoing tragedy. I would also love for the economic crisis to be over, and the government to be fair to everyone, and for our country to get it’s values in line with my own, and for racism to cease to exist. None of these are things I can control directly. I am just a small cog in the wheel and worrying daily about these huge issues does me no good. So I will choose to focus on that which I know I can make an impact with - our clients (you), my children, my contributions to the environment, showing love and kindness to every human being. Maybe my small influence will inspire another to do the same and eventually, we can indirectly tackle those bigger concerns together.


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