In the past 24 hours, we’ve seen Texas Governor Gregg Abbott declare open season on trans teens and their families, Russia begin a war with Ukraine, and had constant reminders of the climate crisis. Seriously, how was it a balmy 70F/21C in Baltimore yesterday (in winter!), and today it’s literally freezing??? All of this in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic. 😒
Beyond the broader political sphere, it also seems like there’s a lot going on personally and professionally for many of us. To quote one of my coaching clients, it feels like “life is relentless” right now. Personally, when I feel overwhelmed by the state of the world and the realities of my to-do list, there can be a tension between doomscrolling and watching every bit of news, or checking out entirely and indulging in navel-gazing. The question then is how do we deal with feeling overwhelmed while still being informed, constructively engaged global citizens, and making sure we’re on target to meet our KPIs?
This is where I turn to one of the frameworks taught by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. While Covey’s book is part of the management canon, I think one of the things that makes it a classic is that his principles can be applied to so many aspects of life.
Covey’s thesis is that there are three levels—represented by concentric circles—at which we interact with issues. The broadest level—and typically the furthest from us—are matters of general concern. For most of us, war in Ukraine would fall into this category. We may not have friends or family living in the region, but we generally believe that dropping bombs on people and undermining their sovereignty is not a good look. Beyond human rights, we may also have concerns about nuclear threats and the environmental fallout from military action near Chernobyl; and on a personal finance level, think about fuel prices, which have already shot up due to the conflict.
But here’s the challenge of focusing solely on the sphere of concern: it’s horrific, but there’s not much any of us can individually do. Concentrating your attention here alone is a sure recipe to have you oppressed, depressed, and in a mess.
The next level at which we interact with issues is at the level of influence. In this instance, we can’t necessarily do anything to impact an outcome directly, but we can provide alternative views, perspectives, and ideas to influence the thinking and actions of others. For instance, if you had a weekly newsletter focused on issues that matter to you, you may be able to influence other people’s thinking about those topics. 👀
Finally, at the core of Covey’s model is the sphere of control, or what I like to call the Janet Jackson Zone (IYKYK). Here is where we exercise the greatest amount of agency. We can choose to write to our political leaders, organize, volunteer, learn about issues of concern, and take strategic action to influence others. The sphere of control is also the realm in which we make decisions about our self-care practices, the amount of media we consume, the work assignments we do and don’t take on, and ensuring we infuse joy into each of our days.
By focusing here, in the realm of what we can control, we can contribute to the greater issues of concern while also maintaining our health, well-being, and achieving our goals.
I’d love to know, when life becomes a lot, what are the perspectives that help you remain grounded? Please reply and let me know.
Until next week,
P.S. Are you in need of support as you cope with overwhelm? Please consider coaching, book a Discovery Call today. I'd love to chat.
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