The three choices you have over the challenges you face

Which camp are you in?

There’s uproar in my village. The new village hall, which is seven years in the making, has had it’s opening date put back yet again. It’s a long, protracted story which I won’t bore you with, needless to say, everyone is feeling rather frustrated that the builder involved is stringing us along.

There are many who feel frustrated and disappointed but who keep their grumbles to themselves, because they know there’s a hardworking committee who’ve been doing their best to get things moving. No one wants to finger point because they themselves wouldn’t want to volunteer for the role, so they therefore feel it’s not their place to criticise.

Unfortunately, not everyone takes this view. There are a group of people in the village who will moan at any given opportunity about the slow progress, how awful the developer is and ‘what on earth are the committee doing to allow this to go on?’.

Three ways to think about it…

It’s amazing how people will wind themselves up – and in my opinion, spend a disproportionate amount of time, moaning and whining about things they have no intention of doing anything about.  It’s a misuse of energy that could be redirected for a much more positive benefit elsewhere.

Very often, we say there’s nothing we can do about a situation but if we really wanted to, we would find a way. There are very few things which are genuine lighthouses in life – those situations we can do absolutely nothing about such as the weather, the passing of time and your age. For your own sanity, know the difference, something which the Serenity Prayer puts so well. If you can do something about a situation you’re not happy about, do it; if you can’t be bothered, hold your noise and if it’s not within the realms of possibility, change the way you’re thinking about it to intelligently navigate around the problem. The trouble is, far too many people spend much of their time thinking they’re lighthouses which they’re moaning about, so do nothing to change the situation, or, if it is a genuine lighthouse, they continue to bang their head against the rocks rather than work out a way round it.

A little less conversation…

Is the village hall – or lack of - a lighthouse or could the village people (sorry, I couldn’t help but put that link in!) do anything about the situation? What could they be doing to influence a change in the lack of progress? Has anyone volunteered to join the committee to help, offered to speak to the developer in question, or to canvass the local MP to get things moving? Of course not.

They prefer to mumble from the sidelines. This is best illustrated below, by a model developed by Stephen Covey:


Our Circle of Influence is where we care enough to want to make a difference about issues which are important to us – we’re willing to do something to make a change, to kickstart progress. Maybe you work in HR or Leadership & Development and feel appraisals are not getting the best out of everyone – perhaps you feel coaching and mentoring is the way forward. You can help to implement this change by speaking to the senior leadership team. Maybe your child is being bullied at school and you’re not happy about the situation so make an appointment to see their form teacher to see what can be done to help them.

The Circle of Concern is where we’ll comment on things, nay have a good old moan but don’t actually step up to the plate and do anything about it. If we want to do something enough, we will widen our Circle of Influence. One of my daughters is very worried about climate change. She constantly asks me what she can do to help but so far, hasn’t put anything into action. I said last night that rather than worry about it and talk about it, to do something. Every bit helps. She’s now going to join the Environment Council at school, and she’s started drawing up a list of events to raise awareness. Greta Thunberg - whether you like what she has to say or not, is a great example of this. So concerned was she about stronger action being taken on climate change, that aged just 15 years old, she started to sit outside the Swedish parliament holding up a sign reading ‘Skolstrejk för klimatet’ (School strike for the climate). This was a one-person protest which has led to a global movement. Now that’s widening your Circle of Influence…

Put up or shut up

Along with the Circles of Influence and Concern, there’s a little whinge gap because well, we all love a little moan sometimes – we download and we move on. It’s clearly not something we’re too bothered about because otherwise it would be within our Circle of Influence. So, we decide we’re not going to get a bee in our bonnet, nor elevate it to something we perpetually whinge about.

Which area do you think people spend most of their time? It’s the Circle of Concern – you’ll hear things like: ‘Isn’t it dreadful the amount of homeless people on the street?’ ‘Isn’t it terrible how the local MP is doing nothing about the mess they’re making of the new inner ring road,’ ‘It’s awful how little nurses get paid,’ etc etc. If they care enough about something, they’d widen their Circle of Influence, as opposed to just incessantly talking about it, without taking any action.

People with high self-respect and self-esteem send emails, contact their local MP, form a pressure group or start a charity to make a change. Greta Thunberg did, so did Malala. Jamie Oliver was appalled at the state of school dinners so used his profile to raise awareness. Bob Geldof began Live Aid. They cared enough to do something about the situation they weren’t happy with.

Put up or shut up – do something about it or stop whingeing, if it’s that important to you, you’ll effect positive change.

Could it be true that some people have got a small Circle of Influence because they can’t be bothered to do anything?  Do we have a lot more influence than we exercise sometimes?  We may need to expand the Circle of Influence to meet the Circle of Concern.  What are you doing to do this?  Some of the laws we enjoy today are because historically some other people cared enough…

The wrong kind of party

Very often, the complainers in life find company and when two or more people get together for a whinge, a ‘Pity Party’ is formed. In the workplace, they’re a self-serving culture destroyer - when people have been whinging negatively, even for just a short time, it takes two hours for their brain to get back to being productive. However, positive complaint is necessary; it’s how we get things changed.

Pity Parties flourish where’s there’s a lack of communication; if people don’t know what’s happening, they make it up and it’s usually not good! Very often, people will seek out like-minded people to have a whine to because they know they’ll say what they want them to say, rather than point out what could be done to remedy the situation. 

Linda Cliatt-Wayman gives a powerful TED Talk on fixing broken schools. One of the three powerful slogans she uses in her schools is: ‘So what? Now what?’ She says it eliminates all the excuses and gets people to think ‘What are WE going to do about it?’ A question I suggest persistent faultfinders could ask themselves…

To do or not to do, that is the question…

Can you do something about everything you are concerned about?  Probably not and if that is the case then consciously choose to put it in the background. It’s about choosing consciously where you want to put your time, energy and resources.

It’s okay to have an opinion without action, that’s your choice as long as you don’t whinge about it. It may be that you are concerned about the homeless but consciously choose to do nothing about them at the moment; if you consciously choose to do nothing, you avoid guilt. Your life might already be full of many other challenges and issues, people and work, which are important to you. The point is, don’t be one of life’s complainers who stands on the sidelines, comments but takes no action. Be a conscious thinker. Know what bothers you enough that you’ll do something about it and park the stuff which you find frustrating or disappointing but which you know you’re not going to act on. It means your self-respect and sanity remain in-tact. 

Step this way to join my LIVE on Facebook, where I will be discussing these key points and answering any questions you may have.  


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