Updated: Feb 7, 2020
You can begin leading right where you are through your Circle of Influence. (Even if it's just leading yourself away from the breaking point...)
"I can't hear myself think with you two kids yelling at each other. Stop it. Stop fighting over the Legos. You have enough for the both of you. You are making me so mad right now. Why should I have bought you all these Legos if you are just going to fight over them? You are driving me CRAZY!" Sound familiar? If your house is anything like mine, it does.
When these intense moments of parental (or other life) frustration hit, first of all, I typically am not logically processing the event. If I would, I would clearly be able to see that no one can make me crazy, and that between the stimulus and response, I have a choice. Or at least that's what Stephen Covey has told me. I have always found great value in the work of the late Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People among a host of other books, most of which I've read throughout the years. His audio training series accompanied me for my long commutes my during graduate school years, and I've even taken his books with me to the salon while I was getting my hair done. Strange, I know, but I guess his writing was my way of relaxing, possessing both comfort and concrete challenge. Secondly, even if my intellect failed me in my frustration, I could have turned to Saint Francis's well-know "Serenity Prayer": "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." This prayer of pro-activity sounds so simple in theory but, nevertheless, can be so challenging to actually live out. Today, in the middle of February when cabin fever, restlessness, scattered Legos, and weather frustrations hit hard in the North, I am circling back to basics: my Circle of Influence.
Circle of Concern: Depleting our Own Energy
Stephen Covey's model explains that I can view events and choices in terms of two circles, The Circle of Concern and The Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern represents everything that might be on my mind. What happens when I spend my time in my circle of concern? I am frustrated, angry, worried, or defeated. Worse still, this doesn't actually get me any closer to solving the problem. It's like riding an stationary bike and expecting a change of scenery.
Circle of Influence : Gaining Traction
The alternative becomes focusing on my Circle of Influence.This circle embraces everything that I actually have control over. For my situation, this is seeing misbehavior as not an intentional ploy to drive me crazy but as an opportunity to teach and reinforce positive behavior. This may include me needing to leave the room or, as Glennon Doyle suggests in Carry On, Warrior, putting a paper bag over my head to avoid the overwhelm of the moment. I actually tried that once, and the kids were so confused at my response, they stopped fighting. Magic. Whatever the tactic I use to get to my Circle of Influence, the act of controlling my response in proactive language is important for me and for those people around me. As Stephen Covey explains,"When you focus on your Circle of Influence and it gets larger, you are also modeling to others through your example. And they will tend to focus on their inner circle also." In order to raise responsible people, I need model the human ability to be "response-able."
“When you focus on your Circle of Influence and it gets larger, you are also modeling to others through your example.And they will tend to focus on their inner circle also." Stephen Covey
Listening to My Language
I am revisiting then the strategy of monitoring my language to make sure I am operating from my Circle of Influence. It's so easy for me to intellectualize this concept and not actually practice it. Who's with me?
1. Identify a problem in your work or home life.
2. Describe it to someone else or journal about it, using language in your circle of concern. Convince someone that this problem is not your fault and you have no control in the situation.
3. Describe the same problem focusing on the Circle of Influence. What can you control? Convince someone that you can make a difference in this situation.
4. Reflect on the difference in the two descriptions. Which one is closer to your normal pattern when talking about challenges? (no judgment here, people. I am working on this one too!)
In what areas of life has this made a difference for you? How have you used it? Do you find it effective? I'd love to hear about it. Go, girl!
Resources: Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence