Lessons from 2020

At this time of the year, many people will be writing about their achievements in 2020; how amidst the Corona virus pandemic they have learned to adapt and become more resilient, etc. 

What 2020 has taught me, is to appreciate what I DO have, instead of worrying about the things that I DON’T have, or cannot control, and, to be kind to others and to myself.

Stephen Covey’s ‘Circle of Concern’, model from his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) is just as relevant today as it was then. It distinguishes between proactive people – who focus on what they can do and influence – and reactive people who focus their energy on things beyond their control.

The model is based on two circles:
Our circle of concern, which will include a whole range of things like, worrying about the Corona virus pandemic, entering tier 4 and the prospect of spending Christmas alone, global warming, Brexit, the possibility of redundancies at the organisation you work for, etc. This list will depend on you, as an individual. What’s important to understand, is that there may be little you can do about many of these things, since they are outside your influence, and devoting energy on them, may be a waste of time.

Our circle of influence, will be much smaller and often depends on our influence. It includes all of the things that we can control and do something about. Knowing how far your circle of influence extends is an important aspect of personal effectiveness; like forming partnerships and alliances – you may not have any direct influence over something in your Circle of Concern, but you may know other people who do.

What I take from this model is that we should focus on the action that we can take, instead of worrying about the things that we have no control over.

This knowledge has helped me through 2020 and it has made me live in the moment e.g. using the time stood in lengthy queues to buy basic provisions to make notes about what I should include in my next leadership and management training, instead of becoming annoyed and frustrated about the length of the queue.

I have also become grateful for what I DO have, and perhaps, become kinder. I recently bought some food for a homeless person outside a large supermarket. I struck up a conversation with him, and I asked him what he wanted most at this time of year. I expected to hear that he longed for a roof over his head, but instead he said that he missed conversation the most; often feeling like the invisible man. My simple act of kindness had made his day.

This year has placed extreme pressure on businesses and many individuals have also been put through the wringer; receiving no income for months. I have heard stories of successful people seeing bailiffs at their doors, homes and cars repossessed, suicidal thoughts, alcohol and drug abuse and much, much more; yet so many people put on a brave face to the world. The say they are ‘fine’ and ‘good’ when asked how they are. My conversation with the homeless man made it clear that I shouldn’t assume what people are worrying about. When someone says they are ‘fine’, ask how they really are.

Let’s enjoy living in the moment, no matter where we are, or where we would like to be. Let’s be grateful for what we have and most importantly let’s be kind during this season of giving!

Stay safe, healthy and happy as we move quickly towards 2021.

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