What We Control
Written by James
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
- Viktor Frankl
In my last article, I discussed forces that influence why change happens.
My focus looked at the view of the person executing the change, but:
• what if you are the receiver of the change?
• what if you have no desire for change to happen and are happy with the way things are?
• What happens if you have no say and are forced into a situation of doing something you don’t want to do?
There will be many situations in life where this will happen to you. This week I experienced just that.
My neighbour joined to my home, built the biggest, ugliest shed you can imagine.
It’s a monstrosity stretching from fence to fence, taking up most his garden, blocks the pleasant view of the street and is positioned in a way of violating privacy.
I was furious!
After a night’s sleep, I was thinking more logically, recognising there was nothing that could be done about it – sure I could be petty and report them, something that size must need planning permission, but all it would do is escalate a neutral relationship into something worse, over something in the scheme of things doesn’t matter!
My neighbour’s decision was out of my circle of control.
Understanding your circle of control
For anything that happens in life whether it’s the media, the choices of others, something you did in the past you regret, or even the questionable taste of neighbours, the circle of control theory, helps you understand what isn’t healthy to focus on.
Imagine this circle is your life. There are things you can control, things you can influence and things that concern you (but can’t do anything about).
As you can see from my situation, my neighbour building a shed fell into the concern circle. My neighbour built the shed in his own backyard, he didn’t need my endorsement, therefore I had no control over the outcome.
Perhaps if I’d made the effort to build a relationship with my neighbour, he might have fallen into my influence circle and maybe changed his plans to appreciate my point of view.
The only sure way I could own the outcome in my control circle was if he asked to build in my own backyard!
Keep looking after yourself – focus on what you can control
The situation made me feel powerless, frustrated and sad – how dare he not consider his neighbours!
This isn’t practical and for the sake of my own wellbeing I focused firmly what was within control to make the situation better (fit a blind, plant trees, etc) and recognise what I would never be able to change and reacted appropriately:
• My neighbour now has no garden space – his problem.
• I can’t see a nice view – I’ll just have to deal with and recognise it for the minor inconvenience it is.
In the scheme of things, my problem is shallow and meaningless and not worth worrying about.
But with something bigger, like Coronavirus, this highlights how the Circle of Control can be applied to help you cope.
How the situation is covered in the media does make you feel hopeless and reading all the conspiracy theorists on social media makes you feel depressed.
When you reflect on your circle, you’ll realise this is something you can’t change, the media won’t suddenly start reporting optimistic news and these people won’t go away. When you do this, you’ve empowered yourself, not letting these sources leave you in a state of constant worry – avoiding if necessary.
Focus on your family who you can influence by supporting and reassuring them by acting as a leader.
On a personal level take full control of your own wellbeing, keep positive and take steps to look after your physical and mental health.
If you follow the circle of control closely your approach to life will be more pragmatic – you won’t let the outcome of politics rule your mindset.
The news will become merely white noise, a tool used to manipulate its people.
And when your favourite team loses… forget about it! You’re too focused on your own life, building wins and feeling positive because you know you have the power to improve your own personal situation.
And Viktor Frankl…?
I started todays article with a quote from Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived being held in a concentration camp.
He recognised that although his personal freedoms had been taken by the Nazis, they could never control his mind. He recognised found those who found personal meaning in this terrible situation were more likely to get through it okay.
I find both his teachings and the concept of the circle of control comforting ways to understand and deal with the challenges brought by Coronavirus.
Wherever you are in this world, I hope you can find ways of managing during these times.
Stay strong, stay safe.
I'd love to hear your feedback, please do contact me on Twitter to let me know what you think of today’s article.
Until next time,