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Senior Correspondent

If April showers bring May flowers, we are in for a boatload of flowers next month.

My husband is a farmer — one of those farmers that worries constantly. Common speak around the dinner table is about the fences that need fixing due to flash floods and difficulties getting fertilizer spread due to all the rain.

Too much rain is always a concern for farmers. Too little rain is always a concern for farmers. When rain does come during summer, it is often too little or too late. Now I know why "rain" is a four-letter word. Yet, year after year, the crops are planted and the harvest comes.

Like rain, there are plenty of things in our lives over which we have no control  weather, the stock market, what our co-workers do or don't do, say or don't say. We still find ourselves spending a lot of energy thinking, talking and worrying about these very things. If you tend to be a "control freak," extreme focus on issues like these can cause real physical symptoms, such as debilitating migraines and even mental paralysis.

Stephen Covey's book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," challenges us to become aware of where we focus our time and energy. His point? We have a choice. Each of us has a wide range of concerns. As we identify situations we are concerned about, Covey refers to this as our "circle of concern." When we identify our concerns by writing and reviewing them, it becomes apparent that we have no control over many of those issues.

There are, however, a number of things over which we do have control. These items fall into what Covey calls our "circle of influence." He coaches us to spend less time hanging out in our circle of concern and spend more time in our circle of influence, where we can take action that makes a positive difference.

When we choose to wallow in our concerns, we empower those things to control us. We are not leading our own life. We are not being proactive. We are making ourselves unhappy and probably blaming others for our negative emotional state. Where's the benefit in that?

Proactive people become adept at distinguishing between their circles of concern and influence. By distinguishing, they are free to choose. They can choose to devote their time and energy to matters within their circle of influence. With a little practice, you will find your circle of influence growing and your circle of concern diminishing.  You may still care very much about matters in your circle of concern, but you are simply choosing where to place your attention, time and energy. 

It's been said that worry is like a rocking chair it will keep you busy, but it just won't get you very far.

I think I will go out for a nice cardio work out and move that family heart history thing from my circle of concern to my circle of influence. It's that easy.

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