How to feel safer in an unsafe world | Focus, influence and your circle of control

I’d like to pre-frame this topic by saying I am going to mention a personal experience that might be a trigger for some people. If you’re still with me after that disclaimer, then let me tell you more…

So almost two weeks ago, my mobile alerted me to the fact that my burglar alarm was going off. We were only round the corner and got back in seconds.

I opened the door, turned off the alarm and then realised that the house had been broken into. I won’t go into any more details except to say that because we had arrived back so quick and the alarm was screeching, the burglars ran out before we got there.

I instantly felt that things could have been a lot worse, we weren’t face to face with anybody, nothing had been taken, all it was going to take was repairs. Of course, with a burglary it’s not just about material possessions. It’s that sense of being violated that stings the most, coupled with the fact that they scared my cats senseless.

I must admit that the feeling of having my safe space intruded upon like that has unsettled me. I found it hard to sleep for a couple of nights, and the cats are still a bit ruffled too. So it’s this sense of feeling unsafe, and how to improve things, that I wanted to talk about today.

Feeling safer is an inside job

We’ve all heard that ‘happiness is an inside job’. Well I think this rule of thumb applies to a wide range of feelings, including our sense of safety. I absolutely know that if I focus on how much evil there is in the world, I will think myself into an anxious state and never sleep soundly again.

I also know that to switch my brain to ‘Pollyanna mode’ and declare the world a place full of marshmallow clouds and talking unicorns would be dangerous. We can’t simply deny the parts of life that we don’t want, so of course I will not stop taking precautions against this happening again.

But what I won’t do is dwell on fearful thoughts. Caution is wise; worrying myself sick is a waste of my energy. Although I can tell you, I have had to remind myself of this a few times.

Circles of Influence and Control

Famous self-development writer Stephen Covey came up with a very simple model to explain what is and isn’t worth our energy when it comes to what we can control, and what we should stop worrying about.

If you look at the circles in the image, you will get the concept straight away – it’s genius because it’s so simple. In the middle is what you can control. So in my situation with the intruders, what I can control is my response. My response was the things I did, such as call the police and check in with the neighbours. These actions were all within my control. It is also within my control how I protect myself and my home against it happening again, including upping my home security.

Something I can’t control per se, but can influence, is the likelihood of intruders breaking into my home in the future. I cannot control the actions of others, but I can up my game on the security front.

The circle of concern is the area where you need to be wary of wasting your energy and attention. This space contains the things that you are concerned with, or concerned about, but you cannot affect on your own. In my example, this could be the prevalence of crime in London, or simply the fact that burglars exist in the world.

Those things in our circles of concern cannot be wished away, as with my earlier reference to the land of marshmallow clouds and unicorns. Bad things will always exist in our lives. But the lesson from the circle is about switching our focus to what we can control and influence.

So the lesson here for me is to improve those areas of protecting my bubble that I can control, and help myself where I can influence things, but not to keep losing sleep over what I cannot control. I can’t help the fact that other people will commit crimes, and I don’t want to become anxious by worrying about it.

In short, by focusing on what I can work with, I can feel a little safer in what I have accepted to be an unsafe world. And I’m keeping a balanced view of the big picture. There are some marshmallow clouds to be found out there – but we shouldn’t be naïve about the risks out there too. Ultimately, we can stay safe and vigilant without letting it tip over into excess worry and anxiety.

Is there something in your life right now that you could apply the Circles of Influence and Control to? And might that help you to feel a little safer? Give it a try and see if it helps to clear up any excessive worries you have. And do leave me a comment if you try it, I would love to hear how you get on.

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