Circles of Influence

Summer is at last upon us, and I don’t know about you, but every week simultaneously feels like an instant and a million years. There is so much going on all around us, and if you’re one of the lucky ones not feeling overwhelmed by it all, go out and buy yourself a lottery ticket, because it would seem you’re one of the very lucky ones!

I heard a brief talk recently that explained one way that a person could find peace in this extremely chaotic time. The idea wasn’t new per se (in fact, I think it was first referenced in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) but helpful nonetheless. The speaker talked about two circles: the circle of influence, and the circle of concern. The circle of influence, he explained, was the circle of your immediate life: your self, your family, friends, neighbors, and so on. The circle of concern encapsulated all of the “big issue” things that concern us: our health, financial status, relationships, society at large, etc. It’s called that because those things concern us, and we are concerned by them. The trouble is, though, that a lot of those things that concern us are things that we ourselves have very little control over, and when we sort of blur those circles together, we tend to fall apart. His solution? If you want more peace in the chaos, focus your attention on your Circle of Influence more than your Circle of Concern.

Now, that makes very logical sense to me, but I can see the challenges with this that would easily pop up in my own life, mainly through social media  Because my news feeds and all of that content is shared by people I (mostly) know in real life, it can become overwhelming to sort through the things I can change vs. the thing I can’t.

Does this mean that we can’t affect change on a broader scale? I don’t think it does! I think that it means that the actions I choose to do will, I believe, work outward. I can’t “fix” (or my personal favorite, “control”) really large things that affect millions of people. But I can do my share. And I know that it sounds little, and small, and silly, but hey, something is better than just worrying about how terrible things are and how no one will ever be able to fix them. My effort, and yours, and everyone else’s, can grow and can change things.

But it’s really difficult. It’s not easy to look at our lives and figure out what we can change.  It’s really hard to think outside ourselves. But we can do it, even if we fall short.

I heard a story once about an American woman who read about Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta, how she used to help the utterly poor and those near death, the ones that no one in society wanted anyone to do with. And, in her zeal and inspiration, this woman traveled to Calcutta, met up with the Sisters of Charity, saw with her own eyes the desperation and the pain and the degrading poverty, and…she just couldn’t do it. She couldn’t help. She had read about it and thought she knew what it was going to be like, but she saw it with her own eyes and just couldn’t move – she was too overwhelmed by it. One of the sisters who worked with Mother Teresa saw this woman’s struggle and didn’t kick her out, didn’t send her back to America. She just asked her to come with her and to help her do the work that needed to get done. Even that little help was enough.

Mother Teresa had that famous line, “Find your own Calcutta.” She knew that there are people in our own lives that suffer immensely, even if it’s not from material poverty. If we stayed home and did that, that would be enough.

It all feels so loud out there. So overwhelming. So in the next few days, try to figure out what your circles are – write them down or draw them out, if you would like to! And see what you can do for your own circle of influence. I hope some peace comes from that both for you and for those who will feel it coming from you!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

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