In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor tells how the legendary Zorro was able to transform from a depressed, drunk and troubled man into a skilled swordsman and hero. His teacher drew a circle in the dirt and told him he must first master fighting from inside the circle. Nothing outside of it existed. Once he learned to master his small circle, it would then begin to expand.
This technique has been proven to work many times. For example in the 1980s and 1990s in the rough inner city parts of New York, crime rates continued to rise year after year. Murder was running rampant, theft was expected and the buildings were covered with graffiti and broken windows. Commerce in the inner city had almost come to a complete halt. This was an overwhelming problem that no one knew how to fix. No matter how much money the city spent or what the police did, it didn’t seem to help. Muggings, murder, and theft persisted.
A small group of officials tried the Zorro Circle (now known as The Broken Window Theory). They started repairing broken windows and graffiti one building at a time. They continued with the subway cleaning it up section by section, car by car. Before long, the crime rate dropped rapidly across the city. As the circle grew, the crime dropped.
This can be applied to our own lives. When we look at the whole problem such as losing 40 pounds, turning around a company, repairing a marriage, or something as simple as keeping your care clean we tend to become overwhelmed. However, when we first concentrate our efforts on small manageable goals, we regain control. We can control the small circle we draw.
If it’s something like keeping your car clean, we start with the passenger side. Draw a circle around that area. No trash, food or dust will be allowed to stay within that area. If it’s your marriage, draw a circle around a time dedicated to your spouse. Let’s say the time is between 6-7pm, don’t let anything in that that circle of time, but your spouse. Whatever circle you choose, I suggest you start by mastering the space between your own ears.
“Small success can add up to major achievements. All it takes is drawing that first circle in the sand.” -Shawn Achor