Society has changed, and there’s no going back to normal. The only question now is where we will emerge. I’m constantly hearing people prophesise over what the future will bring – like they are bystanders watching an event outside their control. In our vast world, we are used to feeling powerless about the future of our societies.
Acceptance and passivity are arguably a useful response. However, we must not let our acceptance on the societal level, translate into passivity on the individual level. Let’s not be bystanders in our own lives. Realise that you do have a degree of influence over your new-normal – even if your societal influence is minimal.
Your Circle of Influence
Let’s explore this using the Circle of Influence model, developed by Steven Covey (author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). Many important things are affecting you that you cannot control. For instance, you have little to no influence over whether a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic emerges what the government measures will be. These elements lie in your Circle of Concern.
But you can control some elements of your new-normal. Will you wear a face mask in your office? Will you volunteer to take a pay cut and work fewer hours? Will you spend more quality time with your loved ones? These elements form our Circle of Control.
Where it gets complicated is when we introduce what lies in between: the Circle of Influence. Here lie concerns we can’t actively control but can influence. When governments lift restrictions, will you ask your manager if you can keep working from home? If you care about our planet, will you email your leadership to request that international meetings remain digital? When you think critically and creatively, you might find you can bring many elements of your Circle of Concern into your circle of influence. This gives you greater control of your life and the environment around you, enhancing your ability to live the life you want.
Let’s put this into practice.
Grab a pen & paper. This should take you about 15 minutes.
1. Draw a large circle. This is your Circle of Concern. Write down everything you are concerned about, inside the outer edges of the circle. I found it’s a very liberating way of releasing everything that’s currently worrying you. My concerns included travelling back home to see family, gathering safely with friends and my ability to do in-person workshops again.
2. Draw a small circle in the centre. This is your Circle of Control. Look at your concerns and see what actions you can take to respond proactively to these worries. Inside this circle, write down these actions. For example, I can’t control whether COVID measures allow me to do workshops in-person, but I can focus on adapting all of my sessions into virtual formats.
3. Draw a circle in between the other two. This is your Circle of Influence. Take a few minutes to look at elements inside your Circle of Concern that you might be able to influence. For example, I can’t control how my friends choose to behave in social gatherings with me, but I can ask them to socially distance, or suggest meeting outside. As a bonus, next to your diagram you can write down detailed SMART actions for how you will expand your Circles of Influence and Control.
You can also do this exercise with your teams. Sharing your concerns helps to build empathy, solve problems and enhance confidence. You might realise collectively that you have more control than you initially thought.
Be aware that these circles are constantly changing. It’s important to reflect regularly on what elements you can control or influence. I recommend daily journaling and meditation.
Creating your future
I hope this exercise empowers you to take control of your future. In fast-changing times its normal to feel anxious and stressed. I’ve certainly worried about my business, with the difficult economic times ahead. But the only thing I can do is focus on the things I can control. I can adapt my workshops for online formats. I can keep sharing my ideas digitally. I can still coach people via Zoom.
Remember, society is just a large group of individuals. We all have a degree of influence of where this all leads. If we each craft new-normals that make us better individuals, it will eventually add up to a better society.