Brexit, the new US President, the value of the pound, the FTSE 100 and 250, interest rates, average house prices, the Premier League, and let’s not forget the weather, are the main subjects that dominate the news and many people’s daily conversations. And, for the most part, they’re a complete waste of time and energy because there’s nothing whatsoever you or I can do about any of them.
Instead choose to direct your attention on the things you can do something about. Stephen Covey described this as focussing on the ‘Circle of Influence’ rather than the ‘Circle of Concern’. Let me explain.
Many years ago I spent a morning with Stephen and a small group of about a dozen of us who were early adopters and facilitators of his 7 Habits programme. He asked us to think about our priorities and to note whether they were ‘Urgent’ or ‘Important’ and it was surprising to realise how many of us were prioritising unimportant things because they appeared to be ‘Urgent’. He then drew a big circle on a flip chart and a smaller one inside it. On the outer rim he recorded all the things we were concerned about and again, whilst some of them could be addressed by us individually, most were out of our control. However, when he asked us to think about the things we could do, the things we could influence which he wrote up in the smaller circle, it became apparent how many of our concerns can be alleviated.
For example, take the prospect of rising interest rates as a concern. Can we do anything about it? Unless you’re Mark Carney then the answer is clearly “no”. But what you can do, by applying your influence, is to review your mortgage and other loans and opt to refinance with a fixed rate over 5 years to remove the need to think about rates and repayments for half a decade. (That’s what I’ve just done with a property I’m buying by the way). Similarly health. Whilst we don’t know what’s in store we can improve our odds through diet and exercise and by adopting an abundance rather than a scarcity mindset as a healthy mind is at least, perhaps even more important than a healthy body.
Although I’m not a fan of ‘The Secret’ (as I fear many people believe that just by thinking about something it will magically happen) the book does make one very key point – what we focus on becomes important. And I’d like to ask you to consider what you’re going to think about and focus on this week. As I see it there are broadly two options – you can focus on all the reasons why things are hard or alternatively you can direct yourself to take positive actions, even the smallest steps, towards your desired result. My experience is that by taking positive actions, by focussing on your Circle of Influence, then your concerns will diminish, even disappear.