Life can get really crazy. It seems that there is always something to get stressed out about. In fact, 77% of the population reports that they regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress and 48% of people feel their stress has increased over the past five years. When you think about this along with the fact that 85% of the population suffers from low self-esteem, it seems like we need to have some sort of mass intervention!
I don’t think it’s coincidence that stress levels are on the rise as technology increases. Advances in technology have truly been life-changing. In many ways it’s simplified daily life. But technology is becoming so complex that it also, paradoxically, is complicating daily life.
I don’t know about you, but because of technology I’m now able to do the work that five or six people used to do—and that’s being conservative. You and I have had to change and adapt to how we do things at a very rapid pace. When a lot of change shows up, fear and uncertainty show up. And when fear shows up you begin to react to your life rather than allow yourself to just live it.
Advice That Is An Oldie But A Goodie
When I feel the craziness of the world closing in, I think of Stephen Covey’s advice on how to reduce negativity and reactive patterns by moving attention from the Circle of Concern (things you can’t control) to the Circle of Influence (things you can control). As a rule of thumb, what you focus on tends to get “bigger” and by continually paying attention to things you can’t control or don’t want, you attract and increase more of the same.
The Circle Of Concern
Ironically, having a large Circle of Concern is something you need to be concerned about. As stated above, the more attention you give to things outside of your control the bigger it gets.
The more time and energy spent in the Circle of Concern, the smaller your Circle of influence gets. A large Circle of Concern causes you to live a small life. And the bigger your Circle of Concern gets, the bigger the possibility that you will slip away and disappear in it.
The Circle Of Influence
Stephen Covey’s Circle of Influence encourages you to spend time and energy on things you can do something about. By focusing on what you have control over, you increase your personal power and influence.
As you increase your focus on what you can directly change, you decrease the focus on things you cannot change.
When you shift energy, attention and focus away from things you cannot change, they have less control over you. Hallelujah!
Once you get used to eliminating things you don’t need to focus on, then you can allow more of what you do want to focus on into your experience. This is what I call “Going Wide”. Your not only limited to increasing your feeling of personal power. You can also start to increase your feelings of well being. Going wide gives you a stable emotional base to operate from.
What are things that make you calm down and feel good? What makes you laugh and feel appreciation? Make a list of things that are easy to love and appreciate in your life that you can include in your Circle of Influence.
When you find yourself caught in a stressful situation, get in the habit of referring to the things that instantly make you feel better so you can break out of reactive patterns more quickly.
A Simple Plan For Keeping The Circle Clear
1. Go From “Have” To “Be”
You can get out of your Circle of Concern by converting “have” statements into “be” statements. For example, go from “I’ll only be happy if I have the perfect job” to “I can be the kind of person that people want to work with”. Be responsible for what you focus on. Your behavior is affected by what you decide.
2. Create A Plan
This doesn’t have to be elaborate. Simply draw out your circles like those above on a piece of paper and write down what you want to include in your focus. Make sure to eliminate what you will no longer put your attention to. If you don’t feel like drawing the circles, you can download them and print as many as you like.
3. Practice The Plan
Once you’ve written out what you will include in your circle of influence, put it in a place where you can review it often. When you find yourself in the outer Circle of Concern, refocus on your Circle of Influence and get back to what really matters. It takes practice!
As you practice this way of focusing, you become the curator of your emotions. You may find yourself becoming very frustrated when you discover you are once again thrashing about in the outer Circle of Concern.
While it doesn’t feel good, it’s actually a sign that you aren’t a match for the negativity and reactive patterns caused by focusing on what you can’t control. Don’t worry, just stop and refocus on your Circle of Influence. Listen to what your emotions are trying to tell you. They are there for a reason and one of the reasons may be to get you to focus on what you do want instead of what you don’t want!
Start to pay attention and practice feeling good more often. And always remember to go wide.