I’ve always felt like life was happening to me; especially after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was just surviving, dodging the bullets that hurdled my way. I felt frustrated, flustered, irritated, depressed, anxious, and powerless. Last year I decided to rally and started being more proactive in my life. I created a plan of what I could do within my limitations and pushed forward. For the first time in many years I felt happy, positive, and started to see my quality of life improve.
Since my transformation I’ve hit some bumps in the road, which were annoying, but didn’t throw me off my stride. Recently I was hit by a few different frustrating situations all at once. It was enough to make me feel angry, frustrated, and powerless all over again. I went to my psychologist and explained my challenges. She immediately grabbed a notepad and pen and said she knew exactly what was going on. She started to draw and explain Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. It hit me like a ton of bricks and all of sudden I had a simple explanation for how I had lived my life and how to proceed. It is a great concept for everyone, but especially important for those with chronic illness. I’ve decided to incorporate it into my coaching and thought it warranted an article on my blog.
I created the following illustration as it was explained to me by my psychologist. In my old life, right after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I was a reactive person. This resulted in my depression and anxiety. I’ve learned over the past year to be a proactive person, which explains my improved quality of life. I was experiencing negative emotions of late because I was letting things I couldn’t control impact my life.
My psychologist said it is an illustration of the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (Circle of Concern,) courage to change the things I can (Circle of Influence,) and wisdom to know the difference (the arrows.)”
Now that I have this handy concept I can now simply and effectively analyze stresses in my life by asking “Can I control, manage, or influence this situation?” If yes, then I proactively do what I can, then set whatever the outcome maybe into my circle of concern and let it go. If no, then I set it into my circle of concern and let it go. A good way of knowing if you’re reactive or proactive is in the language you use. Using statements like “I’ll be happy when I have… If only I had… If I could just have…” are reactive. Using statements like “I can be better… I can be more… I can seek out…” are proactive.
Let’s look at how this applies to chronic illness. Your diagnosis belongs in your Circle of Concern. You cannot change or control having it. If you struggle to accept your diagnosis or let it control your life, you are living in reaction to it. When I decided to manage my illness and my life I became proactive. I thought, ‘I can’t change my diagnosis, but I can do things to manage my illness and how I think about my illness.’ With that thought and action my Circle of Influence started to grow and my life improved.
There are two major things I did that jumpstarted proactive change in my life that I recommend to everyone struggling with chronic illness:
1. Get a coach. You need guidance by someone who has been in your shoes and has been successful in managing their illness. Doctors do not have the time to meet with you an hour every week and walk you through every little thing you should or should not be doing. That is what coaches do. They are a source of knowledge, experience, resources, and support that you will not get anywhere else. Having an illness like fibromyalgia is like being trapped in a dark maze trying to find your way out. A coach is guide who knows the maze inside and out and will walk you through it. They will save you time, energy, money, and a lot of bumps and bruises.
2. Write a six month medical plan. Decide what doctors you will see, what treatments you will try, what tests you want done, what medications and supplements you anticipate taking over the next six months. Estimate the costs and your insurance coverage. Go over the plan with your family, coach and doctors and then commit to it. After six months you edit the plan. Keep doing what works, take out the things that don’t, and add in new treatments to try. It is a refined shot gun approach that really works. You will proactively build your arsenal of tools that work to manage and control your illness. Your quality of life will improve, you will reduce your symptoms, and you will take control of your medical expenses.
I hope this concept helps you as much as it has helped me. As a fibromyalgia coach and an integrative wellness and life coach I have a lot of tools and resources to help you be more proactive. I can also help you write your six month medical plan. I would love the opportunity to speak with you during a free consultation. Contact me or go straight to my online scheduling page to sign up for your consultation.