Circles of Influence

There are many more things in the world that we cannot control as compared to those that we have even the slightest influence over. Yet, in today’s hyper-connected world we get to feel worried, concerned and outraged over actions that are happening in countries far removed from us. In cities closer, yet still out of reach. With happenings nearby, yet of little consequence to our day-to-day life.

As writ in the Enchiridion or Stoic “handbook” of Epictetus: “Some things are up to us and others are not.” Knowing the difference can make an enormous difference in your mindset. While you may rail at the goings-on of some dictator, politician, or other micro-tyrant in the next country, state, county or town, it is unlikely that their doings have much actual impact on your life and it it unlikely that your outrage will affect the outcomes of the actions in progress.

Concerning yourself with other’s doings is one of the sinister traps of media in general and social media in particular. The time you spend liking, commenting on, and sharing inflammatory events will, for the most part, have little effect on how events will play out.

Consider where your circles of influence extend to. Certainly you have the greatest control over yourself (one hopes). Then those that are tied to you through relation, marriage, or friendship. You may have some influence in your neighborhood or town. At a state or national level, your influence decreases. Most of us are insignificant at a global level.

While there are exceptions, being aware of your circles of influence can help you prioritize the actions you take. Keeping yourself and your household in order is within your deepest circle of influence and responsibility. As you move out into your job, then community, then to county, state and national levels, you may still have some level of both responsibility and influence, however, getting absorbed in the far reaches of your sphere of influence may have detrimental effects on those areas where you have both greater responsibility and influence.