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Circle of Influence

It’s not supposed to be this way during the final two months of the calendar year.

Sure, hurricane season technically runs until November 30, but August through October are the busy months. The shutters and supplies accumulated over the summer should be safely stowed away by the time Halloween has passed.

Alas, Mother Nature has an uncanny way of keeping us on our toes. As Tropical Storm Nicole turned into a hurricane, its impact on the east coast of Florida was undeniable. So, out came the hurricane shutters. In went the bird feeders. And lines of potting soil bags serving as sandbags created a water barrier protecting our fortress on the back porch.

I hemmed and hawed about the unfairness of it all. Since the hurricane updates are all generated based upon UTC time, the traditional updates occurring at 11am/pm, 2am/pm, 5am/pm, and 8am/pm were shifted back an hour. It was the first time in as long as I can remember that a hurricane impacted us after daylight savings time ended.

In the same span of time, I received a letter in the mail from the local county clerk, alerting me that I was scheduled to report for jury duty. It’s not that I don’t appreciate (and even enjoy) the opportunity to engage in my civic duty, but having all these things snowball atop each other—at a time when other parts of the country were actually seeing their first views of white stuff falling from the sky—it was too much to take in at one time.

That’s when I remembered something important from a book I read many years ago. And it doesn’t feel like coincidence that it occurred while watching the circular animation of a hurricane spinning closer toward the shoreline.

There are two important concentric circles in our daily lives. The bigger one is called the circle of concern. It represents things that worry, bother, or concern us. Whether they’re stories in the news or approaching and imminent weather conditions, they affect us in some unwelcome way, and it often seems as though we have no control over them. Because, well, we don’t.

However, there’s a smaller circle, inside the circle of concern, and it’s called the circle of influence. It represents those things that we have control over in our lives. We might not be able to wield our influence over a natural disaster or the outcome of a particular news event, but we do have control over two important things: where we place our effort and the attitude we maintain while doing so.

That simple insight from the past helped me refocus my efforts. There was no way I was going to shift the path of Hurricane Nicole, no matter what I did. Sure, it was inside my circle of concern, but it was outside of my circle of influence. So, I carried out my remaining preparation duties for the unexpected storm and hunkered down as it pummeled our house with hurricane-force winds overnight.

As nighttime turned to daylight, I was happy to see that the twenty-foot tall papaya tree staked with a makeshift PVC pipe brace withstood the onslaught of wind. The roof remained unscathed and the protective water barrier along our back porch did its job.

But perhaps most importantly, I slept through the overnight howling with the therapeutic thought that I had done all that I could do, and that I focused as much of my attention and effort as possible inside of that circle of influence.

It’s funny how Mother Nature sends us messages in peculiar, if not unusual ways. Sometimes, even though circles begin and end at the same point, they can also help us move to a different place altogether, if we look at them in the right way.


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