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I have taken to wearing a little badge. Here is a picture:


I have been asked if it is an RAF roundel, since I served in the RAF Police.


The original badge is actually supposed to represent the Mod music genre, but that is not why I wear it, either.

I wear it because it represents (to me) one of Stephen Covey’s primary philosophies, that of the Circles of Concern and Influence.

(“But wait! There are three circles,” I hear you observe. Read more.)

In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey wrote of two circles. An outer circle, called the Circle of Concern, which contains all those things we concern ourselves with, but don’t, won’t or can’t do anything about. Environment, politics, international treaties (!), gravity, and so on. They affect us, but we accept we can’t influence them. I’ll call that the Blue Circle.

There was then an inner circle (here, it is white) called the Circle of Influence, which contained all those things that matter to us about which we can do something. Our work, our families, our goals, and so on.

In the Seven Habits book Covey stopped there, but in his later book, First Things First, he and his co-authors introduced a further, inner circle called the Circle of Focus, which is where we spent as much of our time as we could if we were to succeed in getting the results in the Circle of Influence that we wished to achieve.

It was never again mentioned, oddly, and I don’t know why. But I still recognise it, and in m’badge it is the red bit in the middle. I want to spend my time there, achieving my goals and not, ultimately, wasting time on the things outside my Circle of Influence.

Cue controversial bit.

Two days ago, 39 bodies were found in a trailer in Essex. At that time they were believed to be illegal immigrants (refugees, economic migrants or others). In Parliament that same day, the Prime Minister said his ‘thoughts and prayers’ were with their families, who at that stage he didn’t and couldn’t have known, and I cringed, as I often do, at the expression ‘thoughts and prayers’, which to me now represent a meaningless cliché trotted out when, in truth, we don’t really care – but have to pretend we do if we don’t want to be criticised for a failure to be actively compassionate. (And knowing that some who trot it out are atheists makes it even worse.)

That’s not to say it isn’t a tragedy, horrific, a poor reflection of the fact that organised crime takes advantage of people. That’s a fact. But I find it hard to care about that fact.

Please – don’t consider me heartless. I shed a tear whenever I see programmes about those who died fighting in wars, and when I was recently with friends at the Mennen Gate in Ypres when the (daily) Last Post was played I had to hold it in. And having loved my father, Mike and the Mechanics song ‘In the Living Years’ is a killer (even though I never left anything unsaid). But I have an emotional, professional link to those who served, and to my family. Their loss means something to me. I have no such link to dead Chinese in Essex.

There are people out there who do hold responsibility for keeping immigrants safe, and I delegate my ‘concern’ to them. I am grateful they are there, doing what they do so selflessly, so that I can focus on ‘my’ Circle of Influence.

Unfortunately, in our world of immediate news, with graphic pictures and an endless stream of people who want us all to care about what they care about, we have started to forget that if we start to care about things too much, we get anxious and depressed about them when, and precisely because, they are outside our Circle of Influence – we can’t do anything about it except ‘raise awareness’ (ugh) or give money to charity.

So, with a sincere heart and clear conscience, I say this – put your heart and soul into everything in your Circle of Influence that serves you, your family, your workmates and the wider community. Do what you can about what you truly care about. Do it well.

But don’t get caught up in ‘circle of concern’ societal mourning, virtue-signalling, false grief and ‘thoughts and prayers’ – if you want to stay happy and focused.