Circles and Lighthouses

I’m having a hard time with resolutions this year. Of course there are things I need to do to improve myself – but would my being a better person have saved Elena? I’m working to separate these things that have nothing to do with each other.

Every time I put my iPod headphones in my pocket they get all tangled up. The first thing I have to do when I pull them out to use them is to untangle the knot that wraps left around right.

I’m sure it’s a metaphor. If I took the time to put some system into place or to wind them in some other way I wouldn’t be spending so much of my life untying knots.

There are so many things I could resolve to do differently or better this year. I could resolve to lose weight – again. I could resolve to be more patient or understanding. I could plan to learn to play an instrument, to learn to draw, to write a novel, or to learn a new language. I could resolve to listen more intently. The potential list is endless.

Resolutions don’t need to come on New Year’s Day. They tend to be ignored by Groundhog Day a bit more than a month later. That may be the limit for such resolutions. It’s roughly the same time period as Lent.

I’ve been thinking about Stephen Covey’s circles. Years ago when I was in graduate school I was spending a lot of time working but not really accomplishing much. Someone gave me “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

There were many little things that made the book worth reading. One was this notion of your circle of influence and your circle of concern. Think of all of the things that you have the power to influence and think of all of the things you spend your time concerned about. Covey represented each as a circle. He placed the circle of influence inside of the circle of concern. I thought that wasn’t quite right. There are things that you can influence that you don’t even think about – but that does complicate the point he is trying to make.

As you look at these two circles, often the larger circle of concern dwarfs the inner circle of influence. You spend your time worrying about things that you can’t possibly change in any way.

You are less happy and less productive the greater the area of this region of things you worry about that are outside of your circle of influence. You can actually work to improve this situation from two directions. You can increase those things you can influence and you can decrease those things you are concerned about.

I think that will be my resolution.

Notice, there is no circle of control. I can do things that influence outcomes but I can’t control them any more than I can grip a handful of water in my fist to hold on to it. The tighter I grip the more quickly it leaves my grasp.

I can freeze the water into ice. Now – now I can grip it and hold it tight. But in my hand it becomes water again and slips away. Much as I try to change it – it is water.

I can influence the safety of my children. I can do all that I can to keep them safe. But in the end I can’t control things enough to truly protect them without destroying who they are.

Covey also told a story of a captain aboard a large ship who detects another smaller vessel in his path. The captain radios the other vessel and tells it to alter its course or they will crash. The answer comes back that the captain should change the course of his large ship. The captain explains how much larger his vessel is and why it is important that the other vessel be the one to move. The answer comes back that the other vessel isn’t a vessel at all but a lighthouse which can’t move. Only the captain can avoid a crash.

I think there’s a resolution in there too.

I probably need to spend less time getting lighthouses to move. So many of my obstacles can be avoided. Of course it’s easier to scowl at them and explain why they should change – but they are lighthouses. As hard as it is for me to turn, it’s what needs to be done.

This years resolutions: circles and lighthouses.

Published in: on January 1, 2007 at 8:25 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Wow -great resolutions for all of us!


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