We are not born equal. Life may not seem fair to many.
Randomness, chance, and luck influence our lives and our work more than we realize. It’s more random than we think, not it is all random. Chance favours preparedness, but it is not caused by preparedness (same for hard work, skills).Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
We cannot choose which parents, which country, and which period to be born into. Most of us are not gifted with exceptional skills and worse, we may be born less of a normal person.
In life, there are the inevitables (illnesses and deaths) and many uncontrollable ones (wars, incompetent governments). We are also unable to change the colour of our skin, our height, and our looks (to some extent). What is uncontrollable may be overcome or avoided.
Life can be difficult. Life can be unfair. It is not easy. Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them? Do we blame our lives for being unfair, whine and resigned to fate?
Take responsibility and solve the problems
We cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them. By not solving the problems, nothing changes and it may get worse. We must accept responsibility for the problem before we can solve it. We cannot solve a problem by saying “It’s not my problem.” or being a critic. We cannot solve a problem by hoping that the problem will just go away “naturally” or waiting for someone else will solve it for us. Hope is not a strategy. We have to take responsibility to solve the problem.
It is not my fault.
Many may say that they did not cause the problems; they are caused by other people, parents, or the government — everyone else, the universe but not them. We can continue to live with them or solve them.
Circle of Concern and Influence
In the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, he explained the concept of Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence as Habit 1: Be Proactive. The Circle of Concern includes a wide range of concerns that we have in our lives such as health, family, finances, friends, co-workers, work, career, the company we worked for, our businesses, our country, the government or the world at large and global issues. The Circle of Concern can also be our Circle of Desire; what we want. The Circle of Influence within the Circle of Concern is what we are concerned and we believe we can do something about them. By determining which of these two circles is the focus of most of our time and energy, we can discover much about the degree of our proactivity.
Focusing on the Circle of Concern
By lamenting our unfortunate circumstances and with lots of desires and not taking responsibility to solve them, we have chosen to focus on and enlarge the Circle of Concern.
This focus on Circle of Concern results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas to do something about, causes the Circle of Influence to shrink. The net result is a Circle of Concern being much bigger than the Circle of Influence; feeling negative, inadequate, and helpless.
Some felt victimized and angry over the circumstances that they are in; consumed with negative energy with an unconscious sense of helplessness. Some choose self-denial and accept the situation as it is. Some choose to complain. Sadly, some may turn to drinks to drown their problems or gambling and illegal activities as their bets to improve their situation. The past cannot be changed, we can only focus on the present to improve the future.
Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.Les Brown
In a social media era, some will show a “perfect” life with pictures of great food, great relationships, and great locations. This can create lots of desires.
Many also use social media to show problems, injustices and imperfections with lots of analysis and commentaries. These are amplified through various social media sharing. Social media and the internet make discussions easy. It gives us an illusion that our Circle of Influence has increased with social media as we participate in discussions. Often, they cause our Circle of Concern to expand unconsciously more than the Circle of Influence. The net results are often negative.
A fault-finding mind will not bring happiness.Ajahn Brahm
Complaining is finding faults. Wisdom is finding solutions.Ajahn Brahm
Complaining makes us feel good — for a little while. We’ve all known someone who could just complain all day long. When you complain, you practice a kind of passivity. You give up control, and make excuses to justify sitting around the house in your jammies on Wednesday.Jessica Wildfire, Shake It Off: You Can Unlearn How to Complain
Focusing on the Circle of Influence
Focus on what you can control and don’t waste energy on the things that you cannot.Unknown
Proactive people focus their efforts on the Circle of Influence to improve their lives and that of others. They learn more and yet do not enlarge their Circle of Concern consciously. Instead, they take responsibility and work on the things they can do something about.
Do something substantive if we passionately believe in change; take charge and be the change. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging, and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.Barack Obama
It is not my fault. I am right.
We tend to show others the “good” side of life. At work, for promotions and bonuses, for fear of being terminated and for our ego, we do not show weaknesses but our strengths. We put a “front”. We do not admit our faults, it is often the faults of others. We believe that we do not make mistakes and hence, we accept no responsibility. By not accepting responsibility, we may not have an honest reflection of the situation to learn from the mistakes made and improve. Over time, we learn to cover up, or worse, shift blame, and not take responsibility.
It is not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us. Our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well.
Below is extracted from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl is very worth reading too.
Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist and a Jew. He was imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany, where he experienced things that were so repugnant to our sense of decency that we shudder to even repeat them. One day, naked and alone in a small room, he began to become aware of what he later called “the last of the human freedoms”—the freedom his Nazi
captors could not take away. They could control his entire environment, they could do what they wanted to his body, but Victor Frankl himself was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him.
In the midst of the most degrading circumstances imaginable, Frankl used the human endowment of self-awareness to discover a fundamental principle about the nature of man: Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.
Within the freedom to choose are those endowments that make us uniquely human. In addition to self-awareness, we have imagination—the ability to create in our minds beyond our present reality. We have a conscience —a deep inner awareness of right and wrong, of the principles that govern our behaviour, and a sense of the degree to which our thoughts and actions are in harmony with them. And we have an independent will—the ability to act based on our self-awareness, free of all other influences.
Victor Frankl suggests that there are three central values in life—the experiential, or that which happens to us; the creative, or that which we bring into existence; and the attitudinal, or our response to difficult circumstances such as terminal illness. The highest of the three values is attitudinal, in the paradigm or reframing sense. In other words, what matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life.
Between stimulus and response is our greatest power—the freedom to choose.
To act, and not be acted upon.
Face the reality that we had the power to choose a positive response to those circumstances and projections.
Take the responsibility to make things happen than wait for things to happen.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.Viktor E. Frankl
Here is how Arthur Ashe chose to respond to his situation.
The word responsibility — “response-ability” — the ability to choose our response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. We are responsible for our own lives and our family. Our behaviour should be a product of our own conscious choice based on values, rather than a product of our conditions, based on feelings.
Most are reactive to the environment. Reactive people are driven by feelings, circumstances, conditions, and by their environment. The more we blame the environment and believe that the failure or lack of success is not our fault, we are not taking responsibility. We are taking a reactive approach to our success; we need the “right” environment to succeed.
We must be able to let go of the inevitables and the past where they cannot be changed, mistakes had been made. Move on, work our way through and do better.
No one can hurt you without your consent.Eleanor Roosevelt
Focus on the possibilities and what are good instead of the impossibilities (at least for now) and bad to get started. Move on. Slowly, we will enlarge our Circle of Influence.
In a technologically advanced era, we have access to many opportunities easier, cheaper and faster. We are in a much better position to be in control.
We are the captain of our destiny. We do have control of our lives and be successful; we have to take the control back.
We are who we are today because of the choices we made yesterday.
We do have opportunities to strive for a better future and grab the few windows of opportunities that come. We should contribute and pay it forward where possible to create a positive and constructive environment with our Circle of Influence.
What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.Nelson Mandela