The Circle of Influence for Sanity

My new morning habit… I check the coronavirus stats on my phone when I wake up. The numbers have climbed. The death totals have climbed. The stock market is still volatile. Jobless claims rise. Predictions of doom have escalated. These are things I can’t help. I go downstairs for coffee.

Years ago I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book. I got a lot of great things from that book, but the thing I use most is his idea of circles of influence versus circles of concern. As the world around me seems to be falling to ruin, it has kept me together.

It’s a simple concept. The circle of concern is everything we worry about but can’t directly affect. Global warming, pandemics and if the neighbors like you fall into that circle. It’s a big circle because there’s a lot we can’t directly affect.

The circle of influence contains all the things we can directly affect. Reducing our garbage, taking care of our health and being nice to the neighbors are actions we have power over. If you focus too long on your circle of concern you are apt to freeze up and take no action at all. Like a deer in the headlights, the thing you fear may hit you head-on. If you focus on your circle of influence, you become empowered and you can change things for the better.

In the news, I’ve read about jobless claims, potential food shortages and how COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Last week I planted my garden with extra in case we need to share. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the little expenses we don’t need in our budget. I’ve started working out again and getting decent sleep.

We are all in a stressful situation, so I finally set up the quiet meditation area in the house where we can unwind and listen to music. I worry people I care about may not make it through this, so I’ve spent time making contact and checking in. I’ve organized my pantry. I stay inside as much as possible except to take the dogs for walks. I wash my hands and avoid touching my face when I do have to go out. These things are all in my circle of influence.

We find ourselves in an unprecedented crisis. None of us have experienced a pandemic of this scale before. The news is a constant shock. Every day the disasters get bigger. What was unbelievable yesterday has become today’s reality. But these things are not our problem. They are outside in our circle of concern. We can’t save the whole world, only ours.

Image by Peter Fischer from Pixabay

There’s a Polish saying I love that’s gotten popular—nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy. It translates to not my circus, not my monkeys. This is what we need to repeat when we feel fear trying to capsize us.

Yes, there is a huge crisis at hand, and it’s quite scary. Ignoring it will not make it go away. All we can do is what we can do.

We can be kind. We can share when we are able. We can plan ahead and make sure that in our corner of the world, we have things under control as much as possible. How many times have you wished you could just spend some time at home to get it organized and catch up on things? Your wish has been granted. You’re welcome.

The wild winds of the world are blowing hot panic but we can resist. Panic is a contagion more deadly than anything nature can throw at us. We choose how we will react to it.

Stay safe, stay smart, stay strong!

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit
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