When you have one or two chronic health conditions like me, lots of things may suddenly feel as if they’re outside your control. As your condition takes hold, it’s understandable that you’re going to feel sad and perhaps even angry as you wrestle to accept upsetting changes in your health and well-being.
However I believe that attitude is everything and never more so than when you are confronted with a life changing chronic illness. The worst thing you can do is start behaving like a helpless victim. Of course it’s OK to have a good cry and feel sorry for yourself as you’re confronted with your diagnosis. However after that, it’s time to get into action.
In ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ Stephen Covey introduces a model to illustrate the difference between things that concern us which are outside our control and the things that we can control or at least influence. See figure 1 below.
In any situation, the circle of concern is anything that falls outside your control. For example, this might include the symptoms of your illness and the side effects of the drugs you take. The circle of influence is the decisions within this situation that we still have control over or at least have influence over. In chronic illness terms, this might include healthy eating, undertaking an exercise regime recommended by your health professional, getting enough sleep and using healing meditations.
If you get into victim mentality and focus on everything outside your control, you will miss out on opportunities to change what you can. Thus your circle of influence decreases. See figure 2 below.
If on the other hand you focus on your circle of influence, you will find that this will expand. See figure 3 below.
Once you start influencing all that you can, you will be surprised how much better you feel. As I have taken on more and more responsibility for managing my health conditions, I have started to feel better both physically and in terms of my mental health.
If you are interested in exploring this further, you will see that I have created a printable below explaining how I use the circle of influence to improve my arthritis. Because I believe in the power of positive thought and action, my ultimate goal is to cure myself of arthritis altogether. Failing this, the very least I can do is minimise its impact on my life. For example, by the controlling things like following an anti-inflammatory diety and doing the exercises my physiotherapist has given me. See my examples below.
I have also created a second blank printable for anyone else with a health condition. You can use this to brainstorm your own circle of concern and circle of influence. See below.
I would love to hear from you if you found this blog post useful and feel free to share your own tips for how you stay positive on a day-to-day basis.