This week, I did a seminar in one of the larger cities in Maine. In the seminar, I talked about “life” and how to do it a little better. At one point towards the end of the day, I taught an idea that I learned from Stephen Covey. It’s a concept called the “Circle of Influence and the Circle of Concern.”
To help you understand this, I want you to picture a big circle with a smaller circle drawn inside of it. In the big circle, there is a “C”. In the smaller circle, there is an “I”. They stand for Concern and Influence.
Here’s how I teach it.
There are certain things in our lives that we have influence over, and there are things that we have absolutely no control over. Influence means we have some sort of control. Concern refers to things that we have concerns over; (worry is another word I’d insert here), but that we actually have no control or influence over.
The example I used in class today was gasoline. As we all know, gas prices have gone up over the last year. We’re paying more than $1.00 a gallon more than we did last year. In some parts of the country, it’s approaching $2.00 or more.
My advice on gas prices: “Don’t worry about it.” I asked the group if anyone in the room had any influence over the actual price of gas. (If someone had said, “Yes!” I would have taken them outside and shot them! I do have influence over that!!!)
But they all answered, “No.” So, I told them to quit worrying about it. We have zero control over it.
What do you have control over in this case?
- Making sure that you’re driving as little as possible.
- Making sure you’re tires are properly inflated.
- Making sure you’re getting your oil changed at the proper intervals.
- Making sure that on days you’re doing errands, you plan your route ‘before’ you leave.
- The type of car that you drive.
But don’t worry about the price of gas. If it goes up to $5.00 or even $6.00, don’t worry about it. You have no control over this.
Spend time in your circle of influence, and quit spending time worrying about things in your circle of concern. It’s nothing but a waste of time and energy. And a big point: The more time you spend in your circle of influence, the bigger it becomes!
At the end of the day, there was a lady who stayed behind as the others left. I was standing towards the front of the room, and was breaking down some equipment. I saw her hesitating, and I could tell that she wanted to come up and say something.
She walked up, and I could see that she was barely able to control her emotions—tears were welling up in her eyes. As she approached, they spilled down her cheeks. I handed her a box of Kleenex.
Do you ever have those times when you just know God wants you to stop what you’re doing, pay attention, and really listen to what the other person is about to say? This was definitely one of those times.
“Robert, today you’ve helped me to see some things in my life a little differently.” She began to tell me a story.
Several years before, there were some major things going on at her work. When I say ‘major,’ I mean things that could have easily had a huge impact on her life and that she just couldn’t ignore.
During that time, her father lived in another state. He called her, and asked her if he could come visit her for a few days. Because of the situation, she told him no.
He passed away the following week…
She has been carrying guilt about this for a long time.
Let’s call this lady Cathy, though that’s not her real name. “Cathy, if God had told you that he was going to take your dad home the following week, would you have dropped everything to spend time with him?”
She answered a resounding, “Absolutely!”
“Cathy, there was no way for you to know what was going to happen. No one can see into the future. It’s time, today, for you to let it go and forgive yourself. I can promise you that God is okay with it, and your dad is fine with it. It’s time for you to understand that what happened wasn’t really under your influence.”
By now the tears were really flowing. I felt God’s press, so I asked if I could pray with her. She said yes, so I prayed that she would feel God’s love, and that he would help her forgive herself and find peace.
She left, telling me that I had helped her more than I knew. “Keep doing what you’re doing, Robert.”
In reality, all that I’d really done was let God use me for his purposes in this situation. I was nothing more than a piece of conduit that he flowed through to help his daughter, Cathy.
The point of this—All of us, and I mean everyone reading this, has done something in our past that we are ashamed of. I can think of one thing that I did nearly 40 years ago when I was a teenager, that I’m still ashamed of today. Do I dwell on it? No. I have no influence over it today. It’s over. It’s in the past. As my good friend Andrew Sanderbeck said in his blog, “The past is aptly named because it’s over.” So simple, yet so true!
“I’ve asked God to forgive me and he has. I’ve let it go.
In all probability, there are things in your life that have also gone from “Influence” to “Concern/Worry/Guilt” in your life because they are really in the past. You can’t change them now.
So let them go.
It’s time. Today is the day…
Would you like a simple way to do this? There’s probably something that has come to your mind as you’ve read this story that continues to bring you pain. I want you to write whatever it is on a piece of paper–right now. Then, I want you take a match or lighter and light it. Watch as the paper goes up in flames, and as the event goes up in smoke. Let it just drift away. And let the emotions you’ve been experiencing about the event just drift away with the smoke.
Then say a little prayer for God to help you—and give you some peace.
I know he will…
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