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Today we welcome Jaime Hlavin back to the blog. She unpacks a most important subject, one that trips up so many of us . . . focusing more on what we can influence, and focusing less on what we cannot. It’s so important that we get this right, because if we do, we’ll experience more joy and peace, no matter what circumstances swirl around us. Enjoy ~ John.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a lovely day in March when I had the opportunity to have coffee with a dear friend. As she and I unpacked the struggles, pain, and disappointment we’d experienced throughout the year, tears flowed. We realized that during this stretch we heard and saw things from our loved ones that we can’t unhear and un-see.

But we also shared the uplifting stories. She and I talked about the porch drop offs, the remote school tutoring wins, the surprise gift cards that showed up in e-mail inboxes. And as face-to-face interactions began to return, we remembered what we loved about our friends and family in the first place. We reestablished what we have power over, because at the end of the day, we cannot manage the actions, words, or thoughts of others.

When the pandemic first began, none of us thought that we’d still be at this point so many months later. We thought we’d be back to growing and thriving in our lives and organizations.  But again—this pandemic is out of our realm of management as well. These past fourteen months, we learned a ton about what we can’t control.

Stephen Covey in his classic book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about the Circles of Influence and Concern. The Circle of Influence encompasses those things we can directly influence. The Circle of Concern includes everything we’re concerned about. This could be our health, our family, our job, the national debt, what others think of us, etc. The Circle of Concern represents those things we have little-to-no influence over. The more we live in the Circle of Influence, the more peace and joy we experience. The more we live in the Circle of Concern, the less joy and peace we have.

So ultimately what this boils down to is determining what we can and cannot control. In last week’s podcast, John and Jim talked a little bit about some of the things we can control or at least have some influence over. A few of their key points were specifically poignant because they reminded me so much of the conversation I had with my friend over dark roast coffee and baked goods.

I have influence over:

The version of myself I bring to others

If I’ve said it once this past year, I’ve said it a thousand times: Most of us are not the best versions of ourselves right now. But we have the ability to change this. We can do so by managing key areas of our lives—spiritual, emotional, and physical. Caring for ourselves in these ways are not selfish—they’re essential.

Drawing near to God and trying to gain his perspective

It’s easy to drown oneself in a deluge of social media, news content, and political rhetoric.  It’s crucial to make sure we are offsetting that by ingesting a large portion of God’s Word in order to gain His view of life and others. If we listen to the news more than we take in God’s word, we’re out of balance.

Being gracious

Graciousness is defined as being “courteous, kind, and pleasant.” I really don’t think I need to say much more about how graciousness is currently lacking in our society. But we have influence over how much courtesy, kindness, and pleasantness we extend to others.

I’m noticing that the more I focus on and implement these key points, others reciprocate. Perhaps little by little we, with the help of God, can slowly steer this ship in a healthy direction—and begin remembering why we loved our people in the first place. You can do this!

We’re rooting and praying for you!


John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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