Let’s use our ‘circles of influence’ to combat COVID-19

By Joe Otin, past district governor of Rotary District 9212

Joe Otin

In his book “The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People,” Steven Covey defines the circle of concern and the circle of influence. His ideas explain how we can build resilience through the toughest times. The current health crisis that we face demands an individual and collective response for any conceivable return to a way of life that is free from fear and a return to a positive and healthy way of life.

As the pandemic continues to plight society and governments deploy resources to roll out equitable vaccine distribution it is critical that we maintain a positive mindset and continue to encourage behavior that disrupts the spread of the disease. These include wearing masks when out in public, frequently washing our hands and maintaining social distance.

The circle of concern and the circle of influence are mutually exclusive. They are constantly fighting for space because one expands at the expense of the other. This conflict is continuously staged in the arena or your consciousness and the results shape your outlook, your experiences, and eventually your outcomes.

Sometimes the circle of concern triumphs. That is when affairs that you have absolutely no control over blur your vision, like sweat streaming over your eyes. Your view is obscured further by a recurring avalanche of daily news that knocks you down with one punch, and as you attempt to recover it strikes you again like a thunderbolt. When the circle of concern is overwhelming it becomes an unproductive indulgence. Credible journalism and fake news mingle freely and render it impossible to distinguish one from the other.

In contrast, when the circle of influence wins, the issues that you have a firm grip of feature prominently. You gain clarity with a version of truth and reality that you have the power to change.  When the circle of influence is dominant in your life, you spend more time on the things that make a difference around you. You pay more attention to the people in your environment and offer a healing peace of mind.

You may therefore wish to ignore those friends who have watched every documentary ever filmed about the coronavirus and who are now furiously writing scripts for the next dozen. Their doomsday tales will keep the masses securely enclosed within the circle of concern.

Instead spend time with Rotarians and people from other organizations that have a practical plan to address the pandemic. Invest your energy with those who are working inch-by-inch to shield society and prepare in every way imaginable to fight this pandemic and other health threats.

The essence of Rotary is to support vulnerable communities in times of need and the world needs us now more than ever. It is crucial that our organization continues to function and grow. Work with your club leaders to implement the set plans so that you can focus on those groups that most need our assistance.

Earlier this year, I outlined three principles we can use to guide our decisions as we confront this health challenge. They are still relevant now even as governments rollout the COVID-19 vaccine across the globe, with a special emphasis to the less privileged members of society that are particularly vulnerable.

  • The first one is that individual action has the greatest bearing on the disease, and this includes personal hygiene, social distancing, and other guidelines outlined by the World Health Organization. We must all take  individual responsibility to stop the spread of coronavirus. As the COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out, we should serve as models in our community and get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity, while encouraging others to do the same.
  • The second is to support governments and health organizations in their initiatives to vaccinate the public, and discourage vaccine misinformation and hesitancy. Rotary is in an ideal position to contribute in this area because of our work in polio eradication and confronting some of the same vaccine barriers. We know the effectiveness and value of inoculation, and by our example, we can support the initiative. It is the concerted effort by the private sector, public institutions, development organizations, and society as a whole that will stop this threat.
  • Thirdly, it is in sharing messages of hope and reminding people that together we will prevail, and that the disruption in our lives is not only momentary but it is also a crucial part of continuity. The pandemic has caused hardship and loss. We, in our clubs, can show the same compassion, care, and support that we are known for through our humanitarian efforts.

Editor’s Note: Share your efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccinations and stop the spread of the disease on Rotary Showcase.

4 thoughts on “Let’s use our ‘circles of influence’ to combat COVID-19

  1. Love this post! Yes indeed we must do all we can within our circles of influence. I think sometimes we underestimate how influential we can be. Sometimes it just starts within our own families and extends from there. Thanks for a great article.


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