Sometimes the problems of the world seem overwhelming. If I think about them too much, all I want to do is curl up in a ball, rock back and forth, and loudly hum random songs to myself to block it all out.

Not terribly efficient, that. 😛

Instead, I think about Stephen Covey’s paradigm of the Circle of Influence vs. the Circle of Concern.

Imagine two circles, one inside the other. The larger, outer circle contains absolutely everything we care about, from the tiniest, most intimate experience to those Problems Of The World.

The smaller circle — what he called the Circle of Influence (but which I would call the Circle of Impact) contains that subset of things that we can PERSONALLY do something about.

The more we focus on the areas outside our individual Circles of Influence — meaning the more we worry about things which we can’t personally control — the less energy we have to do the things we can do. Our Circles of Influence become smaller, making us feel even more helpless.

Let’s face it: we don’t have magic wands that can Make Everything All Better. To invoke another productivity guru, David Allen, the Problems Of The World aren’t tasks. They’re long-term projects which require eleventy gazillion separate tasks if we want to truly address them in a sustainable manner.

So what am I choosing to focus on right now?

I stopped eating junk food. It wasn’t because of any sort of intellectual “I shouldn’t eat junk food because it’s bad,” but because I’ve noticed that, when I indulge in refined carbs, I get tired and fuzzy headed. I don’t want to be tired and fuzzy headed. I want to be strong, loving, present, and effective.

Last night, before going to bed, I journaled my gratitudes, a list of things both big and small that fill me with appreciation for the blessings in my life. (Trust me: after our son’s recent bout of food poisoning, you’d better believe that “indoor plumbing” was on that list!)

This morning, I went for a walk to the local park. I listened to music and meditations that help me reconnect with Love and grace. I worked out on the outdoor exercise equipment and played on the swings, reveling in the movement of my body and grateful for how it supports me.

I am focusing on what is in front of me right now: how can I be more present and loving with my family? How can I contribute more fully to my community? How can I encourage and support each person whose life touches my own, however briefly?

How can I become more of the person that I truly long to be?

Perhaps, as I strengthen my sense of efficacy, I will widen my focus of action, again seeking to have a larger impact on the world as a whole.

But for now, I am building foundations in my heart, and my heart is filled with love.