The best business management lesson that Jen Thorson ever learned may well be a lesson worth learning for all of us – particularly those of us living with heart disease (or any other chronic and progressive diagnosis).
Early in her business career, Jen (now a 30-something mom, distance runner, heart attack survivor and blogger), took a management course called “Dealing with Difficult People Without Losing Your Cool” (and who among us has not signed up for such a course at work, usually with a verrrry specific person in mind?)
There was plenty of great content in that half-day session, Jen explained, but the piece that she has used over and over again — in work as well as in life — is:
“Always know — and always heed — your circle of concern and your circle of influence.”
Here are the basics as Jen describes them:
“Your circle of influence is what you have control over or the ability to affect. These are things like what you do, think, and say, how you spend your time, who you spend time with, tasks that are your sole responsibility, the decisions you are responsible for.
“Your circle of concern are all the things that affect you but over which you have no control. These are things like what others decide or how others react to a decision you made. Even though it might concern you, they are simply a concern. They are not yours to control.
“The problem is that we get stuck trying to control or change things in our circle of concern and we do not succeed. This creates a crazy-making vicious cycle of stress and discontent.
“But mostly, it makes you lose your mind”.
Whether at the office or at home in the kitchen, it’s important to know and remember these two circles. Jen believes, for example, that many people worry most about what concerns them and spend way too little time on what they can actually do, or influence.
Doesn’t this sound familiar to those of you who are living with a diagnosis like heart disease? Just so many concerns to worry about – it’s a full-time job feeling anxious about every scary twinge, and what might happen, or what might not happen.
Instead, Jen recommends that once you’ve figured out that you’re stuck in the quagmire of concern, start working on getting back into your circle of influence:
“In your influence circle, you can:
- Stay in control of your thoughts and actions; this is where your power lies.
- Keep others from having power over how you think, feel, and behave.
- Focus your time and energy on what you can control.
- Develop a new outlook on the problem.
“Of course nobody can simply ignore all the things that are a concern. You can still work to improve the situation, solve the problem, set the next goal. The value of identifying the circles, however, is in realizing that there’ s a reason it is so hard.”
Thanks so much to Jen Thorson for this inspiration. Jen’s a 38-year-old mom of two, distance runner, and heart attack survivor. She is a heart health advocate and speaker, and currently serves as the American Heart Association of Minnesota’s Go Red for Women spokesperson. (Watch her compelling story in the 6-minute video there!) She writes about her experience living with heart disease at her blog, My Life In Red.
Q: Can you recall a time when you got stuck in a “concern” and found a way back to your circle of “influence”?