In the classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey advises readers to become more aware of how we’re focusing our time and energy.
This diagram is Covey’s Circle of Concern – all of the things that catch our mental and emotional involvement. Within this Circle of Concern, there are some things we can’t control and others that we can do something about. He suggests that we should focus our efforts and time on those things in the latter Circle of Influence.
Pro-active people focus their efforts on things in their lives that they can have power over. In contrast, merely reactive people waste their energy on other people and circumstances that they have no control over. This frustrating mental trap just results in
blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink. (83)
Well, sure. Anyone suffering from any degree of anxiety knows how pointless and self defeating it is to get trapped in the never-ending fretting over things you have ZERO CONTROL over. So while I appreciate Covey’s breakdown, I’m still working on managing my efforts appropriately. How can I re-route cyclical and negative thinking back into something productive and positive?
Example minor disaster:
I needed to write today and move forward with my dissertation. It gives me incredible anxiety to not write and almost as much anxiety to write. But an enormous headache and bout of pregnancy-related sickness made it close to impossible to work productively today. In the heat of the panic, I could not think of a new plan to focus on things in my Circle of Influence (I feared my physical ailments pulled most things out of Influence-able territory). The rest of the evening was spent in a fruitless mental loop of “OMG STRESS” and “WOE IS ME….(barf)” and then “OMG STRESS.”
I’ll write about it tomorrow!