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No April Fool's joke

Since I started writing this column in November 2006, I have not missed a single week's publication.

I have enjoyed writing every week, thinking about topics to write about and sharing some thoughts with you.

But this column marks the end of my regular column writing.

I wish this were an April Fool's joke, but it is not.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I will no longer write every week as I have been doing.

In life, we all experience things that are not in our own control.

Right now, we are living in a difficult time. Some of you have lost your jobs -- or even worse, your houses -- due to circumstances out of your control.

Don't you wish it were an April Fool's joke, too?

But in reality, when something happens to us that is out of our control, we just have to accept it, put our energy on things where we can have control and influence, and then move on.

Stephen Covey, in his international bestseller "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," talks about being proactive as habit No. 1 of highly-effective people.

I like his theory of proactive and reactive people, circle of concern and circle of influence.

Reactive people are affected and driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions and by their environment.

Proactive people are still influenced by external stimuli but their response to it is a value-based choice or response.

We all have concerns, those who are reactive focus their energy on things beyond their control. They maintain an attitude of victimization and blame.

By contrast, proactive people focus on what they can do, on what they can influence.

Covey uses a model to illustrate the difference between what concerns us and what we have influence over. He describes two circles.

The first is our circle of concern. The second, smaller, circle is our circle of influence. These are the concerns we have control over either directly or indirectly. Our circle of influence is narrower than our circle of concern, and many of our concerns fall outside our circle of influence.

It is tempting to focus our energy on things in life that concern us. We tend to worry and complain, get frustrated and irritated.

But if we have no control and influence over them, that time and energy are wasted. They cannot be used to change areas of concern over which we do have control and influence.

Reactive people focus on everything they're concerned with whether they can influence it or not. They are concerned, but feeling helpless.

Proactive people react differently. They focus on their circle of influence, on what they want to be and what they want to become.

They're actively pursuing the enlargement of their circle of influence. This way, they shape the circumstances instead of complaining about them.

If we want to bring about a change in something that concerns us, we need to focus our energy on concerns that are within our circle of influence. That way we will increase our capacity for influence.

In 2003, I was laid off due to circumstance beyond my control or my supervisor's control. Because I had the lowest seniority in my job classification, someone in another office who was laid off bumped me out of my position.

I was not happy about the situation, but I was not overly concerned, because there was nothing I could do about it.

My then-supervisor went out of his way to find a temporary assignment for me that enabled me to still stay and work in my office. Then within two months, I was officially hired back by the same employer and got my job back.

Yes, being laid off was in my circle of concern, but being hired back was in my circle of influence.

Had I been a difficult employee, I am sure my supervisor would have been happy to get rid of me at that time. Had I been an average employee, my supervisor might not have made the effort to hire me back.

His decision and effort to hire me back was certainly influenced by me, or by my performance.

Yes, we don't have to become the powerless victim of circumstances. We can be proactive to increase our direct or indirect control within our circle of influence.

For people who are in difficult circumstances at this economically challenging time, I hope you will focus your time and energy on your circle of influence and bring about a positive change in your life.

As for myself, even though I will no longer write every week for Woodbury Bulletin in the future, I might still write occasionally for you.

However, one thing is for sure, I will keep writing, if not for others, then at least for myself.

Because being a writer is my passion and my dream.