Today is our national election and according to my Facebook feed, also the end of the world.
Depending on who wins, the world – made of ‘Merica, of course – will end as we know it.
I mean, it will end for at least half of us. I don’t know about you, but I’m about to hit up Kroger for all their pork-n-beans and buy one of these zombie apocalypse safety zone maps.
Panic. That really is the only thing to do. Or be mired in anxiety. Because that always helps, right? Or on the other end of the spectrum, our candidate will ride in on a horse or personal jet and save us from ourselves.
Frankly, I’m nervous either way. In the paraphrased words of Chicago, the syrupy sweet 80s years, I can’t fight this feeling (of nervousness, completely).
Which brings me to my point: fighting these anxious feelings and making the choices that we really, actually have before us.
While we Americans should do our duty and vote or even get involved in campaigning if we feel strongly about a candidate, we only have so much individual influence in the outcomes of elections.
We cast our vote and wait. Many of us are freaking out while we wait.
There may be another response, though.
You know the word ‘proactive’?
It’s the word we use to describe go-getters and risk-takers and type-a personalities.
But in the book that made the word famous – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey actually defines it as “being responsible for our own lives”:
“Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate our feelings to values. We have the initiative and responsibility to make things happen…. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values–carefully thought about, selected and internalized values.” p 71-72
Your candidate might win, but in the end, that person will not improve your life to the degree that you have the ability to improve your life. Conversely, your candidate might not win. The other guy or girl, contrary to your or my beliefs, does not have near the power to destroy your life as you have the power to destroy your own life.
In essence, we choose. Presidents (and other circumstances) might grant us various advantages and disadvantages, but in the end, it’s on us how we respond.
Will we respond based on feelings of fear and anxiety and worry or even relief that this new leader will make all the societal ills go away? Or will we respond based on our own values, with some sort of ownership of our circumstances and actions moving forward, regardless of the various influences around us?
Another idea in the proactivity section of The 7 Habits is important to remember here: The Circle of Influence.
If we focus on responding to our circumstances vs. reacting emotionally, then we acknowledge that we have a limited sphere of influence. And we can get to work influencing that sphere.
We also acknowledge that there is a bunch of stuff outside of our control and it makes sense not to worry about those things.
The crazy paradox? When we focus on being proactive within our circle of influence, that circle grows. We keep pushing the boundaries of that circle of influence and, over time, those things we were tempted to worry about (because it’s a lot easier to worry about things than to work hard within what we can control) become things that we can actually influence.
And your influence, I bet, would beat any politicians influence any day of the week.
See how that works?
- Respond according to your values, don’t react according to your feelings.
- Work within your circle of influence – those circumstances, relationships, etc. that you can actually do something about.
- Your circle of influence grows.
- You might find yourself working on solutions for problems that before would have simply been useless sources of worry.
So today… it might appear that you have two choices and that’s the extent of your hope to make a difference.
But nope. Your choices are always right there. Values or emotions. Influence or worry. Action or anxiety. Taking responsibility or fearing the circumstances others impose on you.
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