Empowering Ourselves by Living Within Our Circle of Focus

Times are difficult. Everywhere we turn; it is more and more bad news. There is talk of hyper-inflation, double dip recession, stagflation, and the “apocalypse” that is the oil spill. And it only seems to get worse. Some politicians say the recovery is just around the corner and we are over the worst of it. Other politicians thump that the worst is yet to come. And all with eyes firmly on November.

Now more than ever, I am drawn back to the teachings of Stephen Covey. Dr. Covey, to me, is like that guru sitting on top of the mountain dispensing sage words of advice. At times I think he has a direct line to that source of all wisdom.

Of his many teachings, one principle has always stuck firmly in my mind. It is the circle of concern and the circle of influence. The concept is so simple, yet, is it not true that most great concepts are simple. Profound it may be, simple it is. Thank you, master Yoda.

We all have a very large circle of concern. I am most concerned about the oil spill and its impact on our country and this world. I am most concerned about the pervasive and increasing levels of mercury and other metals in our ocean life. I am exceedingly concerned that my young daughter will not receive the level of education that I received in our educational system. I am alarmed that the current job creating engine is the federal government and not the private sector.

As I look at all my concerns, and I have more, there is a common thread. That common thread is my inability to influence any of it, directly or indirectly; which brings us to the circle within the circle. Within the circle of concern is my circle of influence. My circle of influence is all that I can touch, move, and affect both directly and indirectly. I cannot set the curriculum for the high school where I hope my 6 year old daughter may one day attend. I cannot really control what the she learns in elementary school.

I can help her with her homework. I can tutor her. I can engage her and give her the freedom to grow intellectually and spiritually. I can influence that. I can influence my personal dependence on oil. The neighbor might be blasting their AC 24/7 but I can minimize my family’s use of electricity.

But even more profound than living in my circle of influence is concentrating on my even smaller circle of focus. Of all that I can influence, I may not want to. I do not doubt that I can write letters and lobby for “better” education. Perhaps I can even influence some people at the local PTA meetings. But I rather focus on my daughter and her development.

By raising my daughter to be an intelligent, compassionate contributor to our society, I am convinced that will be my lasting contribution to this world.

And frankly, spending more time than is absolutely necessary worrying about all the issues of world that is beyond our influence is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually draining. Better to start where we are and radiate out. We are better spending our time in our circle of focus inside our circle of influence inside our circle of concern.

And for some people, they may find that in time their circle of focus grows to fill their circle of influence. And in time, their circle of influence grows to fill their circle of concerns. Imagine that happening to you – could not have happened to a nicer gal (or guy).

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