A woman spoke of her terrible childhood to a psychologist, to which the doctor replied, “That’s just ‘so what’.” Then, as the woman waited in anticipation for his empathy and compassion, the psychologist continued: “The real ‘what’ is what are you going to do about it now?” In this way, the psychologist was encouraging his patient to think about spending time and energy creating new thoughts and actions, in order to remedy her victimized viewpoint. By taking responsibility for her future, the patient was taking back the power than had been surrendered to her perpetrator a long time ago.
We cannot change the past, we cannot change others, nor can we change certain circumstances that may befall us. We can, however, change our responses to these things. Choosing to respond in a way that moves us toward our goals is an effective use of our time and energy. This is taking personal responsibility—response-ability is another way I like to write this concept, meaning that you have the ability to choose your response.
Considering all that has happened in our lives, and given the circumstances which are beyond our control, how do we choose to respond? Are we spending our time and energy blaming others and pointing fingers, or are we taking responsibility, choosing our response, and therefore, from this point forward, directing our own lives? This is truth—that we have the power and control to govern our own lives.
We all have concerns. However, in dwelling on them, speaking of them, and spending energy trying to change the unchangeable, we feel stuck. We waste energy that could be spent making positive changes toward a future we decide upon. This is represented by the “Circle of Concern” in the diagram below.
The outer Circle of Concern represents all the concerns we have, and the inner Circle of Influence represents concerns that we have control over.
By spending our time and energy within the Circle of Influence, it expands. We take back our own power and become more influential.
At the centre of the Circle of Concern, there is a Circle of Influence, which represents that which we can do something about. Spending our energy in the Circle of Influence is how we take back our power. For example, we can do something about our attitude, and learn to see problems as opportunities rather than obstacles. We can strengthen our ability to create solutions and influence ourselves and others. The more we think and work inside the Circle of Influence, the larger it grows. We become more influential by designing and acting on creative solutions to our challenges.
If I said to you, “In one hand I hold a dream, and in the other hand I hold an obstacle”, which option would grab your attention? Influential thinkers would gravitate toward the dream, whereas concern thinkers would gravitate toward the obstacles. In which Circle do you want to spend your time and energy?
The key to mastering this skill of choosing your responses takes time, patience, and practice. Don’t react—choose to respond, and use your power in a creative and efficient way.
Enjoy March, because we have one more month of winter left, whether we like it or not. Make it a great month; enjoy the beautiful white snow, cold weather, wind, and sun, and all that March brings.
You can visit my blog to read about how young people in the Middle East Revolution have taken back their power.