Have you ever asked yourself why it is that some people seem able to go with the flow and get things done no matter what the weather brings, while others get stressed and stuck? To put it another way: Why are some of us proactive and others reactive?
The truth is that though we may be inclined to react rather than take practical action in the face of adversity, these qualities are not set in stone, they are tendencies and such things can be changed.
In his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the power of developing proactive focus and introduces us tothe idea of the circles of influence and concern.
The circle of influence represents the things we can do something about for example: our lifestyle choices, diet, and attitudes; things that are within our control.
The circle of concern, represents external factors such as the weather, the environment, interest rates, other peoples behavior, these are the things which may concern us, but we usually have no direct control over them.
Covey invites us to look at where we are putting our focus, and the effect that our focus has on our life. If we are focusing on our circle of concern it becomes bigger and we can feel it pushing in on our circle of influence constricting and reducing it. But if we focus on our circle of influence and put our energy behind the things we can do something about, then our circle of influence grows as we work with what we can change and re-empower ourselves by making better decisions and lifestyle choices.
If we give our energy to external concerns they will restrict and oppress us and instead of growing we will be stunted.
By focusing on the circle of influence we become more effective in everything that we do.
What has this Got to Do with My Energy?
When we focus on external factors that we can't control we become stressed and we waste time and energy either railing against that which we don't like, or being blown about by that which we can't change. It's exhausting, both for us and for those around us.
No one likes feeling out of control and I don't know many people who like hanging around with stress heads. Shifting focus to the area where we can do something - even if it's a small something - is both energy saving and empowering.
Here's a quick exercise that can help you find out where you're putting your focus and spending your energy:
Exercise: Discover Your Focus
- Get a piece of paper and a pencil and draw a vertical line done the middle of the page from top to bottom. Label the left column "outside" and the right column "inside".
- Put some relaxing music - something about 3-5 minutes long. And for the duration of that music just sit with your pen and paper and list down your concerns dividing them into the left and right columns as you go.
- Keep your list growing and keep it simple. If you're not sure what goes where, ask yourself "is this something I can do something about?" If you can - it's internal. If you can't - it's external. You can get more into the details later, but for now, it's a simple process of what goes in the left column and what goes in the right.
- When your time's up, sit with your list and start looking for areas that you can work with to exert a positive influence on your life.
You have the power to choose where you are putting your energy and attention and you have the right to change it at any time.
Photo by C.P.Storm