Where should you focus?

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”

Epictetus

It isn’t comfortable not being in control. If we aren’t careful we can drive ourselves crazy worrying about the things we can’t control instead of focusing our efforts and energy on those things that we can. Whenever I lose sight of this I find the following scripture both grounding and uplifting.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:6-9 ESV

At the end of the day I know that whatever it is that I am worrying about is far less impactful than the challenges and persecution faced by so many. When I spend my energy worrying I am putting my effort into things that don’t impact the lives of others and don’t honor my Savior and what he has blessed me with. When I remember to think and reflect on this, everything comes back into focus.

Thrive vs. survive…

“You have power over your mind not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” 

Marcus Aurelius

Where does your mind go when something happens that is outside of your control? Do you feel attacked? Are you likely to frame your response in a negative or positive manner? All of this is within your control.

It brings to mind Viktor Frankl’s quote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”I wrote about this one last July here.

Recognizing that you have the power to control your mind, and how your mind then directs your response to any situation is incredibly powerful. It is, I believe, what separates and distinguishes those who thrive and those who simply survive in this world. What habits of your mind do you know that you need to take control of?

Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control…

“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.” 

Paulo Coelho

Forgive the long post but this topic is something that I am really passionate about… I am a huge fan of Dr. Stephen Covey’s classic “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It has been one of the most impactful books that I have read and studied in my life and each of the Habits are incredibly powerful. It is certainly a must read ((In fact, thinking about it now I am due to reread it again soon…) and one that I highly recommend.

One of the things that resonated so much with me the first time I read the book was the concept of the “circle of concern” vs. “circle of control.” Proactive people tend to live a life focused on their “circle of control” while reactive people tend to live a life that is reacting to things outside of their control.

I bring this up in context with this quote because the weather is a great example of “circle of concern.” We can’t control the storms, the sunshine or how the weather changes our plans. But we can control how we react to the weather. We can make decisions to wear different clothes, make different plans, put an umbrella in our car.

This is such a great metaphor for life. If we choose spend our energy focused on reacting to things that are in our “circle of concern” instead of being focused on the things with in our “circle of control” we will always be reacting, always be unhappy, always be unsettled.

It is hard to do at times but I try to run everything impacting my life, and those around me, through this filter and ask myself the following questions.

  • Is this thing/event/circumstance within my circle of concern or circle of control?
  • Circle of Concern:
    • What decisions do I need to make regarding how I will act/react to it?
    • What is within my control that will influence how this impacts me/others?
    • Where can/should I have made different decisions that will/would have impacted the impact on my world/environment?
  • Circle of Control:
    • What can I do to impact this?
    • Where should I invest my effort and energy to make a proactive change?
    • What can I do differently?

Take a look at this picture below. I think it does a tremendous job outlining the difference in how people react to the Circle of Concern vs. the Circle of Control.

Pause… And think…

“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you, that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.”

Warren Buffett

Take a deep breath…  Pause…  Will how I react now to whatever this situation is carry more impact a year from now than the actual situation itself?

I want that tattooed on the inside of my eyelids.  (no, not really) But having a “pause & think” button would a great skill to further develop.  When I think of the times when I have reacted more emotionally, or when I see others do it, it seems to happen when people “need to be right” as opposed to being focused on “doing what is right.”

Perhaps working to always separate yourself from the need to be right and only focusing on doing what is right can be the “pause and think button” we need in life and leadership.

 

How do you choose to invest your energy?

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”

Lee Iacocca

Victor Frankl wrote that “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” The easy thing to do is to get angry, be emotional, put blame on circumstances beyond your control.  The hard thing, but much more important, is to look inwards and say “what can I do to change the outcome, to overcome?”

Choosing to invest the energy into something positive means getting past your own flawed beliefs and frustrations and seeking ways to do something, instead of just having something done to you.  It is a complete game changer in regards to how you see and respond to the world around you.  

Dwelling on what we can’t control requires an energy investment as well but it is an investment with negative returns.  Is this how you’d choose to spend your precious energy and time?

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