The last few months I’ve struggled with discouragement. There’s plenty of rough things about having a mom and and wife who is lying down the majority of the time in a 24 hour period and completely reliant on others for much needed food. I’ve had loads of time to think myself into dark places: about my lack of abilities, the burden everyone else has to carry, not doing fun things as a family, watching Andrew shoulder 99% of the household responsibilities and taking care of children in addition to school and work, having to let go of exercise completely after being in incredible physical condition right before morning sickness hit, not working on the goals I set at the beginning of the year and was making good progress on, seeing our house become a disaster zone and not being able to do anything about it. It goes on and on.
Then there is the things that I worry about pregnancy. Group B strep positive? –> antibiotics and maybe c. Diff or a c-section? Can I deliver without tearing? Will a doctor I trust be on call? Pain from SPD kicked in at week 6, how bad is it going to get? Will morning sickness end eventually or will I be sick the whole pregnancy (a valid question at 17 weeks…)? What else could possibly go wrong – if I got c. Diff last time then anything is possible.
As you can imagine I’ve been loads of fun to talk to the last few months.
Two weeks ago while I was chatting at the playground about my latest thoughts, my friend mentioned, “Well all that’s in your circle of concern.” Ding ding ding!!!
In your circle of concern, a concept from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, are things that you care about, are important to you, people you love, problems at work or home – things that you are concerned about. Unfortunately many things in that circle we really have zero control or influence over. Those items stay in the outer edges of the circle of concern. Inside the circle of concern is a smaller circle, the circle of influence. In this circle are things that we can influence or change. Wherever we spend our time, in the circle of influence or the circle of concern, makes that circle bigger. A positive proactive approach enlarges the circle of influence by focusing on what you can do and choose. A negative reactive approach enlarges the circle of concern by focusing on things you cannot change or influence. I was spending all my time in the circle of concern.
My friend got a phone call so I grabbed the paper plate next to me and began writing out all the things in my circle of concern. I then wrote a short list in the circle of influence: whether I read scriptures and pray, how I speak to the kids, whether I eat, if I spend time on social media or read a book, if I work on crocheting the baby’s afghan, and if I smile. My friend assured me I’d find things to add as time goes on, but I was skeptical.
And liberated. I knew what I could do. I had a list and a clear view of my choices. The rest of the week if I was starting down a negative path in conversation or thought I said, “That is in my circle of concern!” and let it go. After two, almost three weeks of this practice I’m spending most of my time in the circle of influence. I feel calm and I’m seeing my circle of influence grow.
For example, a few days ago I had spent at least an hour just scrolling through social media early in the evening. I was feeling super miserable but didn’t want to go to bed yet for fear of waking up at 2am. The next morning I woke up still disappointed about the wasted time. After reading scriptures I had the thought that I could try the family search app out. Now I try to replace lots of mindless scrolling with reviewing primary source documents and attaching them to my ancestors.
I think one of the biggest blessings of this sick phase has been first learning to let go and surrender control of everything, and second learning what I can and should hold on to that are my choices to make.
What’s in your circle of influence?