Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sphere of influence vs. sphere of concern

I've become a big fan of podcasts over the past several months -- a trend driven largely by my 3-hour (sometimes more) daily commute to work.  One of my favorite podcasts has become "The Survival Podcast" with Jack Spirko (, even though there is at least one thing in almost every episode that I vigorously disagree with.

In several episodes, Jack has mentioned a concept from Stephen Covey's well-known book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  That concept is summarized best by the title of this post, although I believe that Covey refers to it as "circles" instead of "spheres".  There are several summaries of the concept of "influence" vs. "concern" on the internet.  Two of them can be found via these links:

I used to live primarily in the circle of concern instead of the circle of influence.  And I can speak from experience, that the more time you spend there, the more frustrated you feel at your lack of influence -- and the more your circle of influence shrinks as a result, just as Covey describes.  After moving more into the circle of influence, it is amazing the feeling of empowerment I feel as compared to before -- and how I can sense my circle of influence beginning to grow and expand outward.  Or at least, that's the way that it feels to me.

So, what does all of this have to do with the Survival Podcast?  Basically, I think it has to do with the focus that we all need to have in the midst of challenging times in regards to what Chris Martenson ( has described as the "Three E's" -- Economy, Energy and Environment.  What I love about Spirko's focus is that it is primarily about actions that we can all take "to live that better life if times get tough, or even if they don't."

In the spirit of living that better life, here are the things that I have been concentrating on over the past couple of months:
- Reading and researching about permaculture principles of food production
- Building some cold frames to get an early start on my garden season, as well as extend the season through the fall into the winter (I already have spinach sprouting up in one of them)
- Learning about rocket mass heaters in order to design and construct one in the summer
- Organizing a showing of Chris Martenson's "Crash Course" ( at my local library, where I was able to connect with other like-minded people in my area.
- Saving money and paying off debt through the principles embodied in Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin's book, Your Money or Your Life.
- Making sure that I spend time playing with my daughter every day if possible, even if it's after a long work day, because it always brings a smile to my face no matter how tired I might be.
- Trying (and this is still a difficult thing) to focus on the things that I can get done in the time I have, instead of lamenting how I don't have anywhere near enough time to get the things done I want to do.
- Reminding myself every day of the reasons why I love my wife -- especially when her discomfort and raging hormones of being in her seventh month of pregnancy take over.

While writing this list, I am also forced to reflect upon the first session of my showing of Chris Martenson's Crash Course.  Immediately before the event we had a short period of discussion among the attendees, and a discussion following the video that lasted for a good ninety minutes.  One of the attendees there was what I would characterize as the archetypal liberal -- a type that I know well because I used to be that kind of person.  Like most liberals (my old self included), she was driven primarily by her sphere of concern.  As an example, she stated quite unequivocally that we needed to concentrate on the issue of population above all others, that if we would only address that issue that the others would be much easier.

Now, I'm not going to disagree with the notion that stresses on our ecosystems and natural resources have a lot to do with human overpopulation.  The simple fact is that during the past 30 years we have increased from a world population of 4.5 billion to 6.5 billion, and continue to increase at a rate of over 70 million each year.  The reality, however, is that aside from my own personal actions, there is little I can do about overpopulation -- and if I concentrate on that issue as this person suggested, I will end up likely alienating more people through coming off as preachy and controlling (as this person's point of view struck me) than persuading them to my point of view.

By concentrating on my circle of influence, however, and focusing my efforts on household food production, reduced home energy usage and reducing overall consumption -- I am able to serve as an example to others, perhaps bringing them to the conclusion that such actions can help lead to a better life.  This, in turn, can compel them to voluntarily undertake those changes on their own, thus helping to reduce pressure on the systems that we all depend upon for some semblance of a modern life, while still maintaining the more important aspects of that modern life.

Also, in the spirit of living that better life by concentrating on my sphere of influence over my sphere of concern, I will be resuming (or would that be starting) more blog entries over the coming weeks and months.  I am not doing this for the sole purpose of gaining a wide audience (although I admit that would be nice) but because the process of writing all of these things down is important to my maintaining focus on the sphere of influence and letting go of those things that exist solely within my sphere of concern.  If anyone out there is reading this, I would also very much appreciate any feedback you could provide on your own thoughts on this journey.

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