Focus and the Future

I must admit, today’s Inauguration is leaving me in a weird head space. But I don’t think engaging in an online political debate or reading another news article is going to do my mental health or the state of the world any good at this point. So I’m left pondering – what should I be focusing on today? The best answer I could come up with so far is this: I am going to try to focus on my Circle of Influence – the things I can control. I didn’t invent this idea… it’s from from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I posted an excerpt of his book below.

I can’t control the 45th President… in fact, I can’t control anyone else but myself. I can control the words I say, the food I put into my body, the ways in which I choose to get involved in advocacy or politics. I can control the music I make and the thoughts I put to paper. But I can’t control what other people say or think or do, and I can’t see into the future. So for now I will have to set these concerns aside and re-focus on making the my own corner world a better place, from the inside out. We never truly know what ripples our actions might have on the bigger picture… Let’s see where this kind of focus takes us as we move into a new era. Peace be with you, everyone. ♥


“All of us have a wide range of concerns in our lives – our housing, our health, our friends and family, the environment, world politics, the price of a pint of beer…

Within this whole universe of our concerns, there are some things we can influence and some things we can only stay concerned about. Now we have a choice about where we focus our attention and energy. We can choose to focus all our attention on the area that is outside our influence. We can get annoyed about the shortcomings of other people, we can blame the government, global capitalism, the weather, a rotten childhood, bad luck, or fluoride in toothpaste. This focus leads to more and more blaming and accusing, to feelings of victimization, ‘poor me’. This negative way of thinking, accompanied by inaction to change things, results in the circle of influence shrinking.

Alternatively we can choose to focus on things that we can influence. This does not mean just the more immediate or ‘trivial’ concerns. It might mean focusing on those aspects of really huge problems that we can exert some influence over. And ‘influence’ does not mean direct ‘control’; we can influence things in an indirect way, for example in our own personal, daily behaviour. By focusing attention and energy on our circle of influence, we become increasingly proactive. The energy we expend is enlarging; each little victory motivates us to find new ways of exerting influence. We don’t waste energy on things we can do nothing about, but direct it towards what we can change. With each step we feel stronger and more creative. And so our circle of influence expands.

It often happens that, in widening our circle of influence, we also widen our circle of concern. It becomes worth caring about some of the really challenging things in our world if we learn we can influence them. It can be incredibly liberating to realise that, in choosing how to respond to circumstances, we affect those circumstances.”

– Excerpt from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (1989)

Author: violinscratches

Gaelynn Lea is a musician and public speaker from Duluth, MN. She is passionate about disability advocacy, personal growth, and authentic living. She was the winner of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest in March 2016.