How strange that our current pattern of English weather should be the spark for this blog.
Spring has been teasing us for the last six weeks. One minute we have some gorgeous sunshine warmth, next a threat of snow on high ground. And in the last couple of weeks, we've been battered with strong winds, testing even the hardiest of poly tunnels - ours included.
Now, whilst I recognise that on the world's scale of bad weather, we have little to moan about given this week's news of the Oklahoma tornados, there's nothing like a bit of bad weather to get us English moaning. And this got me thinking about how much energy we put into worry and anxiety and what is left over for living life to the full.
If you think about today, as an example. How many things have 'got your goat', upset you, wound you up or just 'made you mad'? I suspect there have been plenty of incidents that even now, as you recall them, you can still feel your blood boil over. How many of those situations though could you actually do anything about, change or make better? How many of them were misplaced energy drainers? I suspect most of them in truth. Yet this happens to us every day. There will be some external noise - events, people or situations - that arise, distracting us from feeling happy and in control and they draw us away from where we should be investing our energy. The bottom line is that we often put too much effort into things that give us too little a return on our investment. So we end up feeling depleted and exasperated, never quite realising why.
In my Assertiveness Development workshops, I use an adapted model from Stephen Covey, called the Circles of Influence. The principle is to focus our energies in the right and most meaningful places rather than wasting our emotions on things that we can't control. Here's how the model looks.
The central layer is called the Direct Control. This involves all the activities that are within our immediate sphere of control and can be changed or altered right now. So these could include the clothes you are wearing right now. You could change your eating habits, right now. You could change your seating position if you were uncomfortable. You could alter how you were thinking and feeling about someone. You could change the way you treated a member of your family. These are all things that are in your direct control, that you can take immediate responsiblity for, right now.
The second layer contains what is in your sphere of influence. So, through feedback, observations, complaints and 'putting in a right word', you could facilitate a change to the situation. As an example, there is a road by us that has been affected by all this bad weather and it's dangerous to drive down this pot-holed highway. There was little I could do about it directly, although I could influence it by making a phonecall. So I called up the Council's Highway Division, reported the defects and asked for action to be taken, given the danger it posed to drivers and their vehicles. Now, whether it was soley because of my phonecall, the following day temporary repairs were made to the road. I affected a change by the action that I took rather than moaning, worrying or getting cross, which would have changed absolutely nothing.
The third and final layer are those events that are completely outside of our control. So, here it comes - the weather would be a great example. We can't change or influence it, so why moan, complain or worry? It is, what it is. Put your energy into areas that you can affect. The Government's latest policy on Tax or a computer virus at work are other examples that are out of our control. Sure they are annoying although we put a disproportional amount of time into these types of events and yet get no return on our investment. Surely this must be an alternatively definition of madness?
Out of the three layers, where do you imagine we spend most of our energy? Yes, you've guessed it - in Outside of our Control - the outer layer. We get mad, complain, chortle to our friends about how awful it is, and yet can do very little, if anything about it. Why do we do that? Surely it makes more sense to let go of that irritation and focus on what we can change. Choose to let go of those outer layer events as they serve us no purpose.
So, when you are next faced with a difficult situation, someone behaving inappropriately or an event that is winding you up, just ask yourself three quick questions:
- Is this out of my control? If yes, then let it go. Wasting energy worrying about it is not going to change it.
- What influence can I have over this situation? If you can possibly alter the outcome through a phonecall or having a quiet word, then do it. If investing that type of energy is not going to potentially alter the situation, then let it go.
- What could I do that changes how I feel about the situation? Think now about how you could choose to feel ambivalent towards the incident or protagonist, or change your position so as not to be aggravated. What small things could you take responsibility for that alters your experience of the event and therefore change your energy investment?
Very quickly we can begin to see how we can reassess a situation that is driving us wild and take control of our experience of it. With three small questions, you can choose your response and let go of it or engage with it differently. lf there's little or nothing you can do, then don't worry. Accept that somethings are out of our control and so simply accepting it for what it is, is the only way to handle it.
My message to all of us unhappy about the weather is, it's not in our control, it is what it is, so let's just move on. Look for the positives - someone, somewhere else in the world is having a worse time of it than us. Now let's go use our surplus energy on making our life and the gorgeous people in it, feel better, happy and joyful.
With love, hope and anticipation