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I am an amateur writer, just getting my feet wet. Blogging for me will be a launching point to get some solid writing done leading up to the eventual completion of the book that hides inside of me.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Learning to Let Go

There comes a time when there is so much going on: work, home, kids, school, sports, finances, bills, extended family etc. that we can feel overwhelmed. We want to control it all, put everything in its own compartment and deal with it ourselves.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be responsible for your own life. To want to handle your own problems with no outside help. But when that thought process causes stress, mood swings, depression and/or eating disorders you see where it can truly be unhealthy.
So what to do?
Take a step back and reassess priorities and learn to let go.
Sound easy? No, not at all. But could it be? Yes! With practice.
Several years ago – more than I care to mention – I was made to attend classes based on the popular work model and teaching series by Franklin Covey “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. At the time I was bored out of my skull! Learning catch phrases such as “Think Win-Win”, “Put First Things First” & “Circle of Influence vs. Circle of Concern”
When I attended the classes I was strictly focused on job/career goals and once the classes were over much of what I learned evaporated like water on a hot sidewalk. Or so I thought.
Recently, due to issues in my life, I have found that some of those classes were not actually wasted time.
That’s where this handy dandy chart comes in.

Circle of Influence vs. Circle of Concern. The content of everyone’s circles are different of course. But, everyone has them. You will notice the Circle of Influence is much smaller than the Circle of Concern, and for good reason. Let me explain with some personal insights of my own.

Within the last few months I have had several (translated meaning more than two), so called friends make it pretty clear to me that I am not worth their time or effort to continue our friendships.
One was my best friend from high school. We had met up again after (ahem) more than 10 years. We met a couple of times for dinners, reminisced and seemed to hit it off all over again. The last time I saw her we made plans to get together for a night of beer and shooting pool. I have not heard from her since even after several attempts to contact her.
I had another friend who I was walking with on a fairly regular basis, we tried for twice a week but life got in the way and we were lucky to make it once a week. She left on vacation and promised to call me when she returned and we would continue our walks, maybe even meet for dinner. Yep, you guessed it, not a word. It’s been two months. I left her a message that was never returned and thanks to social networking I know she’s back and having plenty of fun with other friends.
I have other examples of people that have not felt compelled to continue including me in their lives due to circumstances that I have not been privileged to know. One going so far as deleting me as a friend on FB (I wonder if that will ever stop sounding juvenile), without as much as a goodbye. When I contacted them to see why I received the standard “It’s me not you” response. Which may be true but stings none the less. And all this in about a three to four month time span.
So, what do I do? At first I pout, feel sorry for myself. Wonder what it is about me that seems to repel people. I get angry at the inconsiderate behavior of supposed adults not to mention supposed friends. But then I stop and remember what I learned all those years ago. These situations are not within my Circle of Influence. These people have minds of their own, consciences they have to live with, and circles of their own to deal with. Yes, they are (or were) in my Circle of Concern but at one point in my wallowing I mistakenly thought they fell under my influence. That I could take control of the situations and change them somehow. Wrong! Yes I cared, too much in some instances, but no amount of caring could change any of their minds. Thus, no influence. I had to let the situations go for my own sanity sake. So I focus on where I do have influence which is within myself, knowing how I treat people, and being sure I treat them as well if not better than I want to be treated.
My children are another example. When they were younger they overlapped both my Circles of Influence and Concern. Bedtime, bath time, when and what to eat, on and on. I cared and was able to influence their lives. But, as they get older they literally get too big to be in my small Circle of Influence. They will never be out of my Circle of Concern but as they start making their own decisions my influence wanes and lessens. My concern becomes the hope that when I did have influence I helped them be able to make wise choices.
I cannot tell you how freeing this way of thinking has been for me. When I can look at any situation that comes up in my life and ask, “Can I influence this in anyway?” and make my decisions based on that answer, it changes everything!
So why are the circles so different in size? Look at it this way. If you have a big heart, you are going to care about so much in the world. But in reality, there is usually very little you can do to influence most of it. Yes, you can help, but the final outcome is not within your control. You do what you can, but let go once you have. You will find after time that we don’t have as much influence in our lives as we might think we do. And while we don’t give up on the things that concern us, when push comes to shove, we can choose to focus on the things we have actual control over.
That is what I have chosen to do for me.

Sources: www.franklincovey.com


  1. I've actually had a sister in law delete me from Facebook without any explanation whatsoever. When I see her in person, she treats me like a sister in law, ya know? But obviously I'm not in her Circle of Concern..she made that pretty damn clear! Sorry if that came out harsh, but it stung when she up and deleted me for no reason at all - But then again, she's not in my Circle of Influence so if I'm not good enough for her then so be it! I didnt mean to come here and rant to you, but I know what it feels like to be burned by people I've considered family/friends. Not a good feeling at all.

  2. Rant anytime Nicole. This actually started out as one and morphed into what it is here. LOL.

    It sucks, to be honest, to have who think are "friends" that are literaly there one day and non-existent the next. Especially if they aren't willing to tell you what you did, if anything, to cause the falling out. I hate the feeling of being punished for their shortcomings. Because in the end it is THEIR problem not yours or mine.

    See? No problem ranting, I totally get where you're coming from. :)

  3. Fascinating concept with the two circles. Yes, I suppose the wise thing to do is realize that when something in out of your hands to just let it go.

    I'm not a Buddhist, but there is a lot in Buddhism that can help a person find peace of mind in situations like what you've described up there. Mainly not taking the actions and decisions of others so personally.

  4. Thank you so much for commenting!

    I see your point Eric, and agree not taking things personally would be a huge asset.

    Unfortunately past experiences cloud our current reality and so I do tend to jump to "what's wrong with me?" as a knee jerk reaction. It is something that struggle with and maybe some day I will overcome that mindset. Wish me luck :)

  5. My brother deleted me from FB 2 yrs ago b/c he said the things I posted were too "colorful" and that he didn't want to be linked back to me as he looked for a new job. Interesting that his wife didn't feel that way nor any of my other relatives. So I understand Nicole's rant completely! If I am not in his Circle of Concern, and he's made it clear over the years I am not, then he is not in mine - family & friends are who I chose them to be! I've always felt there are people who come and go in our lives for a purpose - even if it's a negative one - always something/someone out there to learn from! And Elaine, I wouldn't say "What's wrong with me?" I'd say "What's wrong with them?"

  6. I love the way you think Nancy. I am sorry your own brother treated you like that. What is wrong with people?

    And, I also agree that people are put in our lives for a reason, but that doesnt mean they are meant to stay there. Good thing to remember. :)

    Thanks for the comment my friend.

  7. Influence is a bit transcendent. We never fully know how we're known. Maybe it's best we don't;)

    I live by whatever I have to offer to someone else is at their discretion to keep/toss. For me, I give...when I'm inspired or just wanna. From others, I take with a grain of salt. In the end, those who have stayed the distance are the ones who I'm most connected...whether family or friends. The number of those are irrelevant.


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