Stephen Covey wrote his seminal book The 7 Habits of Highly effective people, over 30 years ago! Because we are always changing, growing and evolving, not all self-development strategies stand the test of time, or the test of neuroscience. However, the wisdom of his work continues to serve us. Especially now, when a great deal of life is no longer in our control and it is more important than ever to focus on what is…
Stephan Covey’s Circles…
Circle of concern
When is lock-down ending ?
When is it going to stop raining?
When can I go on holiday?
What is going to happen with the world economy?
How much will my house be worth now?
Of course all of us have some of these, or other similar types of concerns at the moment. These questions are not easily answered, we just can’t know and because our brains hate uncertainty, it does one of two things...
· It either activates our limbic response because uncertainty could possibly mean danger of death…
· Or, being a problem-solving master, the thinking swirls around in these neural pathways, trying to find solutions to close the circuits to shut down the uncertainty and the uncomfortable feelings it comes with…
And isn’t it odd but for some reason, often we would rather close a circuit with a negative outcome, than leave it open. This is because our brains are great at filling in the gaps, and certainty trumps, not knowing. It is why we can accidentally catastrophize, it is actually preferable to not knowing what is going to happen, as far as our brains are concerned.
A silly but graphic example of just how brilliant our brains are at filling in the gaps is…
I cnduo't bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae.
At the moment a lot of us are experiencing a kind of Groundhog Day situation, so it is all too easy for our minds to wander to these very real concerns, but as Covey says ...
“As long as we are working in our Circle of Concern, we empower things within it to control us.”
Instead he identified a circle within our natural Circle of Concern: The Circle of Influence
What I do with my time.
What I eat. When I exercise
What friends I have.
What I believe in
Where I want to go on holiday
The Circle of Influence is where we do have control. Instead of focusing on what is troubling us at the moment, which, because it is external cannot be affected by anything we do; Covey shows how focusing our efforts on our circle of influence, gives us a great deal of personal power. It also calms our brains, around the worries we are experiencing. The bonus is that the more energy, attention and effort we put into focusing our efforts on what we can do, our Circle of Influence expands. I may not be able to change what the weather is doing, but I can take an umbrella if I know it is going to rain.
Making sure you dance in the right circle
· We can’t be positive all of the time, especially not now. Being aware and acknowledging how we feel, will mean the chemistry flows through quicker so we can come back to at least neutral, especially if feeling positive feels too much of an ask
· Just being aware of this model will mean that your brain will seek it as a solution when you are feeling powerless
The times mean that a lot of things are limited at the moment, you however are not!
A final and powerful point and a nice note to end on
…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference
By Maria Chase, NeuroLeadership Coach, founder of Chase Coaching, and neuroscience lead for Amplenary.
Amplenary is a unique, 5-week online programme for ambitious professionals and entrepreneurs. Blending together the fields of neuroscience, executive coaching, and personal branding for the very first time, this is a turbo-charged self-development programme unlike any other. Spring/summer virtual programme starts May 18 2020, sign up for one our free webinars to learn more. Register your interest here or directly contact Maria, Reena, or Stephanie.