Anyone, anyone please,
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
(Adapted from the Serenity prayer)
Picture this; a colleague of mine, Roger, pokes his nose through my office door –
“Hey Pete, have you heard the news, we’ve got a new CEO”
“No I hadn’t heard that, I was flat out with the Employee Evaluations and helping people establish their development plans for the coming year.”
“Well, good on you mate, I’ll have to do that sometime soon I guess. It’s due next week.”
Roger continues “The new CEO’s a change agent apparently. They reckon she’ll turn the place upside down and leave no stone unturned. She’s starting at the top and working her way down, like an avalanche, taking out everything in her way.”
“Really, who told you that?” I enquire.
“They’re all talking about it, everyone knows about it, even my team’s talking about it now. They’re all unhappy and I don’t blame them.” He says with an air of so there.
“But who’s they.”
“It’s them, everyone, you know. I don’t get involved myself of course, I just listen.”
“What are you going to do about all this?”
“What can I do? I’m going to knock off and go home early. This place is a joke.”
No news is good news and that’s not news to anyone
I am not much of an evening news watcher to be really honest. It’s just plain depressing. In Melbourne (Australia) the TV news goes much like this:
- We headline with a sportsperson who has pulled a muscle and has two weeks out of the game recovering;
- followed closely, but with less priority by a national or international catastrophe or two;
- then a whole bunch of crime (murder, theft and general mayhem);
- one very light weight, good news pet story; and then as soon as we can,
- back to the sport, before getting on to the weather and how that will impact the sport.
Bad is best – bring it on
We all know those people who love a bad news story. It validates their pessimism. Are you one of those people? I’m not suggesting any of us should display less interest in the many troubles that face the world, our countries, cities, communities, corporations, cultures and so on. What I want to talk about though, is your ability to focus on where you can have an influence – a positive influence. Now, for most of us mere mortals, our circle of influence is a little less than global, or national. But our impact is no less important. It is, after all, the sum of many parts that make the whole, so don’t under estimate the importance of your individual effort.
There are many things that concern us, and many less we can actually influence. However, it is by focussing on the things we can actually influence that we can make a valuable contribution to our own personal and professional development. It is by focussing on the things we can influence that we provide more valuable and positive outcomes for our family, friends, communities and work.
One of the tools that I find really useful for dragging yourself out of the mire that is your many concerns, is Steven Covey’s Circles of Concern and Influence.
Here is your opportunity to enter the inner circle my friend
“Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern–things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather. Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies in is a giant step in becoming proactive.” (Stephen Covey 7 Habits)
A key habit of highly effective people
Steven Covey’s the 7 Habits of highly effective people. It’s an oldie, but a goodie, with principles that stand the test of time and justly deserves the reread I am giving it. Covey said we spend our time either focussing on our circle of concern or on our circle of influence. Clearly we want to be focussing the majority of our time in our circle of influence.
Don’t just wander around in circles, unless they are those of influence
When we’re being reactive, our actions are governed by our response to external stimuli like the news, other people’s comments and behaviour, what’s happening at work etc. Here is a breeding ground ripe for pessimism. We shape our view of the world and our subsequent actions based on the stimuli to which we are exposed. We apply the impact, the feelings, emotions etc. of the one bad event, on all similar possible future scenarios tainting our picture. Pessimism and reactivity seem to walk hand in hand as a fairly unattractive couple.
When we are being proactive we are setting our own agenda. When we’re being proactive we are more often having a positive influence on our own destiny and that of those to whom we’re connected. We are more focussed toward how things can be in a positive light. There are times when we can’t measure the influence that we may have but we need to have faith that what we’re doing is of value. We can’t have certainty over the outcomes of everything we do.
Here’s some ideas to challenge yourself to grow your circle of influence
Your challenge is to actively grow your circle of influence and shrink your circle of concern. In order to do this, you must become very self-aware. Check out my article on self-actualization.
- Print out a copy of the attached PDF Circle of Concern Diagram. What’s on your mind right now, what’s occupying your thoughts? Make a note of where they belong, in which circle.
Make some simple changes like:
- Plan your daily To Do so that you prioritise your actions based on the areas you can really influence, rather than those of concern.
- Tough as it seems, avoid the naysayers. Believe you can achieve and remove the obstacles. The naysayers are always a big hurdle.
- Make sure you’re always learning something new. You’ll be of more value not just to yourself, but to all of your connections.
- Be conscious of your talk. Focus on presenting a positive image. Change the “I can’t” and “I don’t”, to “I can” and “I do”. The right people are drawn to the positive and together, you have significant influence. Don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic. Make sure you are Daring Greatly (Brené Brown).
- Appreciate that you can’t always measure your influence, but believe it is material.
- Turn off the bad news News.
Last and by no means least, update your circles, regularly.
Of course this is a huge subject and I look forward to writing much more about it in future posts. Please leave your comments and thoughts below.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post. If you have, please share it with your friends and connections on your favourite social media. I am always very grateful for your sharing. Pete