Every Saturday morning we’re in town, my wife and I do two things without fail: we buy our weekly groceries at the local farmers market, and then we spend an hour at the French pastry shop Tout de Sweet drinking coffee, eating scones, and talking. I call it my Candice time, and it is the one extended period during the week we have to focus on the week ahead and—more importantly—on bigger issues that are on our minds. When it comes to Saturday mornings, empty nesting has its privileges.*
This past Saturday as we discussed the impact of stress on our lives, Candice asked me what was on mind. I realized (with her help) that I had begun to focus on things I couldn’t control. Reflecting later on that conversation took me back to a book I first read in the early 1990s, Stephen R. Covey’s classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. “Be Proactive” is the very first habit, and early in the book Covey notes that we each have a wide range of concerns—“our health, our children, problems at work, the national debt, nuclear war.” He suggests we separate those from things in which we have no particular mental or emotional involvement by creating a “Circle of Concern.”
“As we look at those things within our Circle of Concern, it becomes apparent that there are some things over which we have no real control and others that we can do something about. We could identify those concerns in the latter group by circumscribing them within a smaller Circle of Influence. By determining which of these two circles is the focus of most of our time and energy, we can discover much about the degree of our proactivity. Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on things they can do something about.”
Covey writes that those who focus on things they can influence radiate positive energy, causing their Circle of Influence to increase. Reactive people, however, focus on things they cannot control or influence with results that include blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization.
There are so many things that concern us on a daily basis, and it differs for everyone. I realized that the first thing I could influence was where my focus was trained. It was helpful advice more than 20 years ago, and I’m glad it came up again during this week’s Candice time.
Have a good week.
More to come…
* I realize that with Andrew living at home while he builds experience and saves money for conservatory we aren’t “technically” empty nesters. But having a 24-year-old who manages his own schedule and helps out with all types of chores around the house is even better than empty nesting…and we don’t have any more early Saturday morning swim team meets!
Image: Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence (credit: Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing)