I’ve been speaking about this a lot lately, and I’m a firm beliver in its power. The circle of influence and its ability to expand, grow and take on the world.
Have you heard of the “Circle of Influence” before? It’s something I learned on a business course once, and it has really stuck with me.
It’s a model that features in Stephen Covey’s influential book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. The model is designed to help us order our thoughts, anxieties, priorities and passions. It helps us to focus on the things we can control and, by doing so, gradually increase the scope of these things.
I’m far from the most qualified person to explain it (even though I’m trying to put it into practice in a big way at the moment), so check out some of these links from bona fide experts, including Stephen Covey himself.
You get the idea.
You start to influence the things you can control, for example, your own reading lists, where you shop, which charities you support……Before you know it, these things are happening habitually, and the first circle is sorted. Then you move your focus outwards slightly – you share your books with people, you recommend documentaries and podcasts with friends and family, you share posts on your social media accounts. At this point, you’re starting to influence the people around you. And so it continues. You might move onto talking to colleagues, contacting organisations, publishing your own blog (hello!). Your network expands, and so does your voice. You’re able to influence more people in your community, and your community gets larger. Bit by bit, it becomes genuinely possible to make a difference more than you ever thought possible.
And this is how we can change our own sense of futility when we’re feeling overwhelmed, and society.
This model helped me a lot earlier this year, when I was surrounded by images, content, books, information about racism, police brutality, injustice. I was heartbroken, ashamed that I wasn’t doing more, that I hadn’t learned more in the past, and completely overwhelmed. Little old me could do nothing to influence the systemic racism and ingrained challenges of the world that were so, so complex and severe.
It was all I could think about, all I could read about. I was angry with people who didn’t seem to think it was important, frustrated with organisations that stayed silent and generally felt powerless.
But I soon learned that my own education was something I could control. That’s where my commitment to reading about diversity and inclusion came from, and soon after, my decision to read only books by Black authors for a year. This immediately opened up more meaningful conversations with my close friends and family, as well as providing me with information and inspiration. The “circle” grew from myself to a handful of people overnight.
I started to take this new level of knowledge and ever-increasing passion for change into my work place, and the wider organisation that I’m part of. Through these opportunities I feel hugely blessed because I’m able to make a difference to hundreds of people – children, families, colleagues, friends old and new. I have met some incredible people, who open my eyes to new opportunities and ways of learning. I’ve made strong friendships and reconnected with old friends. I’ve found new allies and deepened my relationships. My friendship circle, which was already pretty amazing, has strengthened. I’m grateful to have people supporting me in my commitment to opening up conversations about race. It’s given me hope and motivation.
Writing this blog was really just for me in the beginning, as I explain in my post “Why so Shy”. It was a way for me to collect my thoughts as they crashed around like a hurricane. It was therapy. But my little circle of influence and it’s steady growth, makes me believe I can make a difference. Every conversation I take part in about race makes a difference. So why not take the conversation to more people?
Every time I post, more and more conversations are taking place. More and more crumbs of those foods for thought are being dropped.
I don’t know what will come next, but I know that little bit by little bit, more of us are making a difference to the hundreds of years of racial oppression. There are some huge barriers to overcome, some complex spiders’ webs to unravel, and a whole host of individuals to educate. There are also great achievements to celebrate. Inspiring role models to lean from. Uplifting changes to recognise.
Joining all of our circles together is a pretty powerful phenomenon.
Thank you for joining me. Thank you for caring. Thank you for making a difference in society in your own unique ways.
And without being trite, it’s Saturday night, and having a glass of wine with a good book is a legitimate way to keep that circle of influence going. So that’s what I’m going to do right now.
Have a great weekend everyone.