“As long as we are working in our Circle of Concern, we empower the things within it to control us. We aren’t taking the proactive initiative necessary to effect positive change.” Stephen R Covey.
We all live in two circles, one lying within another. The outer circle is called the Circle of Concern and contains everything we know about and which has an influence on our lives in the sense that things happen in it that relate to our existence. It includes things like the weather, international politics, the economy and this morning’s commuter traffic. Within that circle is the smaller Circle of Influence, which contains the things over which we can exert a little or even a lot of control. It includes our behaviours, our home environment, the way we drive our cars. The Three Resolutions lie within the inner Circle of Influence.
The idea of successful living is to spend as much time in the smaller circle, dealing with things, events and circumstances over which you can exert influence – making things happen, and making them happen the way you want them to happen. At the same time, it means spending as little time as possible on the outer circle’s content because you can’t influence them. They are there but you can’t do anything about them.
Living in the Circle of Influence means not whining about things that you can’t do anything about, AND trying to do something about the things that irk you. Thinking like this, you can bring some of the ‘Concern’ circle into your ‘Influence’ circle through engagement in focus and protest groups, relevant industry bodies and so on. That is a great way to execute on the Third Resolution. But if you aren’t willing or able to get involved, don’t spend any more time dwelling on the matter.
The press – my favourite punch-bag – seems to exist solely to anger us by winding us up about things we are not willing to do anything about and which, in the main or most of the time, do not directly influence our time or our behaviour.
This morning, Oxfam has declared that soon, 1% of the Earth’s population will own 99% of the planet’s wealth. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it. You might be someone who is in a position to address this apparent inequity. Or you can think, “Well, that’s Oxfam’s job, to make us feel guilty about having money while others don’t.” The truth is probably somewhere in between your experience and the focus group’s perception. The objective of the newspaper headline, if not the Oxfam report itself, is to vilify the wealthy because they aren’t happily giving away all their money to those who can’t earn it – and to those who won’t.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about tax evasion, about rich people using clever accountants to help them avoid paying income tax. Not one of the reports ever questioned the arguable fact that in a perfect world we wouldn’t pay tax at all. It is, after all, legalised theft. The state decides how much of what you earn it is going to take, and you have one vote twice a decade to decide if (in the UK) 1/600th of the people stealing your money should keep on doing so. You have as much influence over what they spend it on. (Or you can leave the country – rarely a viable option and it just changes the tax regime in any case!)
I’m not suggesting tax is wholly evil, just wondering why no-one ever questions why a millionaire not paying £1,000 in tax (through evasion) is such a big story when s/he probably still pays £400,000 of every £1m s/he earns – s/he earned – because the government decided that they needed/wanted it. It’s not as if you get anything more for your money than someone who pays nothing at all, is it? They get the same roads, street lamps, defence – and they take credit for the international aid your work paid for, too.
And perhaps this reminds me of my point.
I can’t do a lot about the government’s tax raising regime, and my one vote won’t make any difference at all. So I shan’t spend any more time worrying about Oxfam’s report because I don’t care and cannot influence it, and the newspapers won’t change that.
I’ll focus today on what I can do something about. Writing this blog, 1,000 pages of another book, and looking after my family.
You do what you can do, and don’t worry about what you can’t.