As someone who spends a lot of time turning over pebbles on walks, I also spend a fair amount of time skimming them on lakes. Actually, trying to skim them would be a more accurate description of my activity. Anyhow, I’ve noticed that the greatest effect on the water is at the initial impact of the stone and is where the deepest ripple is created. Subsequent ripples diminish in size.
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations which threaten to overwhelm us. We start to worry, we feel out of control, we can’t think clearly and we become stuck, like a deer in the headlights, unable to move.
For example, imagine you have a new job in another city. You need to relocate and so you put your house on the market. At the weekend, you make some calls and arrange for some estate agents to come round and value your home. On the train to work, you open the newspaper to find a double page spread about how the housing market remains stagnant, that house values are typically 10% less than this time last year and that vendors are going to extreme lengths to sell their home. I read about one chap recently who was giving away a car to the buyer of his home! Hmm, there’s a seed of concern planted in your mind.
Later on at work, your colleague asks you what you did at the weekend – ‘Decided to put the house on the market. Got some agents coming round tonight’ you reply.
‘Really? Ooh, my mate’s had real trouble with <and you just know he’s going to mention the name of your first choice of agent here> – over-priced his house, viewings at short notice, been on the market for ages now’ cautions your colleague. Gulp.
‘And people are so picky these days, aren’t they?’ chimes in another friend, ‘they pick up on every bit of scuffed paintwork and worn carpet. It’s a nightmare.’
‘Too right’ you’re thinking. Your heart beats a little faster and you’ve got a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. You’re distracted all day and when you get home, you snap at your family.
Here’s one simple tool (inspired by Stephen Covey) you can use to address any such problem, whether it’s work- or home-related. It will help you identify which aspects of the issue you can control, which you can influence and finally those elements over which you have no control at all. I like to call it ‘circles of influence’ for reasons which will become evident.
Take a sheet of paper and draw 3 concentric circles. In the central circle, write ‘everythig within my control’; in the middle circle ‘everything I can influence’, in the third ‘everything outside my control and outside my influence’.
You’ll see below I’ve created a version based on the house-selling example.
You can decide which estate agent to use; the selling price is ultimately your choice; you can decide to spend the weekend doing all those little jobs around the house like touching up the paintwork in the heavy traffic areas. These things are within your control.
When you’ve chosen your estate agents, you can brief them on the most suitable times for them to arrange viewings – you’re probably not going to turn away a potential buyer who can only see your home on a hectic Saturday morning but you can try to make sure that where possible, most viewings take place late afternoon/early evening. You can ask a friend to walk around your home with the critical eye of a potential buyer, pointing out what she notices so you can sort out any problems. By addressing these issues, you can influence when viewings take place and the first impressions of the viewers.
As for the state of the housing market and interest rates, those things are completely outside your control and influence.
Having done all this, you’ve discovered what you can control or influence and can create an action plan accordingly. You can have the biggest impact at the centre of the circle so this is where you can choose to concentrate your efforts.
Today’s pebble: What issue is causing you ripples today? Can you address it using these circles of influence?
Let me know what you think,
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?