Looking at the Optical Field through a Strategic Lens

I travel a lot and on one of my travels, I picked up the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Now, I have read this book before earlier in my career and, honestly, I thought it was boring. However, now that I am older and have been in the field for a while, I began to see the message in a different light, and how it could apply to optical. It showed me how I, and others in the field, are not looking at the goings on in our field in a strategic manner. One section that really spoke to me is the circle of concern, the circle of influence and the circle of commitment.

Now what are these three circles and what do they mean? Let’s look first at the largest circle, the circle of concern. When I read optical related publications or speak to others in the field, I hear a lot of concerns. Concerns about online competitors, corporate mergers, changes in licensure, the life of independents and the cutting of profit margins through vision plans, just to name a few. These are all valid concerns of anyone in the optical field. They are factors that can directly impact our lives and our business; however, we cannot really impact the way others conduct their business. By focusing on the operations of others we may begin to overthink, stress and worry. This becomes a waste of energy that may lead you to make business decisions that are not the best for your practice. Being stuck within the concern may leave you feeling helpless. Instead, you need to think about all the ways that others are conducting their business; it is far more productive to focus on the ways that you can react to the actions of others.

How we can react brings us to the middle circle, the circle of influence. This circle operates in a similar fashion to a brainstorming session. It is a representation of all the positive ways in which you can you react to those things that are going on in the industry that concern you. Some of the actions may be feasible short-term, long-term or in the future; but, they are all reasonable reactions and can help you to focus on those areas in which you can effect change and make an impact. Unfortunately, because it is a brainstorming circle and it encompasses all your feasible reactions, it can be too large to be effective and end up draining your energy, both mentally and physically, you are unconsciously giving up your power to affect change by lumping issues into that place. This is where the third circle, circle of commitment, comes in.

The circle of commitment is the how you focus your energy. This circle acts as a focal point and it helps you to identify what you know you can do and where you are intentionally putting your time and energy. To me, this is the most important circle because it acts as your jumping off point and enables you to effect wide-reaching changes. For example, you cannot change the fact that they are looking at licensure in the some of the licensed states (concern), but you know that you can do somethings (influence) and one of the things that you will do is to become involved in your state organization (control).

With all of this in mind, and as the new year approaches, I challenge you to look at the optical field with new eyes and look at those things that you can commit to. Although no one can pick something for you to be committed to, some things that can greatly affect the concerned circle over the course of the following year are:

  1. Achieve a new certification
  2. Become licensed, if applicable
  3. Develop your personal knowledge beyond the basics
  4. Establish a personal knowledge library
  5. Share your knowledge with those around you
  6. Actively mentor others
  7. Become active in your state organizations
  8. Become active on a national level
  9. Look at ways that you are operating your practice that can minimize the impact outside forces are affecting your bottom line, i.e. purchases, vision plans

Each and every one of us has the power to change the industry and influence those things that concern us; however, that power needs to be focused. We need to have a better understanding of those things that we can directly impact and develop a plan in which we can commit to and implement them. Until we do, we will continue to be ineffective on a large scale.

SILMO Singapore 2023