The Caring Curve Approach

Different people care about different things in their lives. The way they express this caring can affect both themselves and other people. Let’s explore this theme.

Imagine that you care about a particular situation. You may feel strongly about doing something positive to help a person, an organisation or the planet.  

Different people manage such situations in different ways. Sometimes this can involve experiencing different emotions on the caring curve. Let’s consider these possibilities.

Caring About Things
You Can’t Control

Imagine you care about a situation but can’t see how you want to make a positive contribution. You want to do your best but feel limited by certain things you can’t control. For example:

You may want to help a troubled person who refuses to take responsibility for their own behaviour;

You may want to improve things in an organisation that is led by a toxic Chief Executive;

You may want to help innocent people who are the suffering as the result of actions by war lords.

Different people respond to such situations in different ways. Some keep worrying about the things they can’t control. Some get depressed and fall into a negative cycle. Some focus on the following theme.

Caring About Something
You Can Control

Imagine you want to tackle an issue you care about. How can you prepared properly to take this step? One approach is to focus on the following themes.

You can act as a positive model

Many people take this step. Bearing in mind what they care about, they aim act as a positive model in their own life. Borrowing from a phrase used in spiritual faiths and recovery programmes:

They aim to sweep their side of the street.

People who take this approach start by taking responsibility for their own actions. They aim: a) to have a positive attitude; b) to translate this into positive actions; c) to do their best to deliver positive achievements.

People who care about peace in other countries, for example, aim to embody this approach in their own lives. They aim to lead by example and show rather than just tell.

You can focus on the positive things in life
and the potential solutions to challenges

Sensitive people often care about many things. Bearing this in mind, they may follow the rule that ‘what you focus on you become’. They may need to put positive things – rather than negative things – into their system.

One approach is for a person to focus on: a) the positive things in their own life; b) the possible solutions to challenges. Many of these solutions are being translated into action by positive people and social enterprises across the world.

Imagine that you have followed elements of this approach. You have aimed to have a sense of gratitude and researched people doing good work around the world. Bearing these things in mind, you may then want to explore the following theme

You can focus on something you care about
where you can build on what you can control

There are many ways to take this step. One approach is to clarify the things you care about and be selective to be effective. It is then to build on what you can control and tackle one of these issues.

Looking at the topic you want to explore, you may be able to control the following things. Your attitude, your professionalism and the way you aim to make a positive contribution.

Imagine you want to take this approach. You can start by brainstorming the things you care about. Here are some themes that people mention when exploring this theme.

The Things I Care About Are:

Helping people to take care of their health … Feeding hungry people … Enabling young people to find satisfying work … Helping people to solve conflicts … Showing people the benefits of protecting the environment … Applying Artificial Intelligence in a way that helps people and the planet.

Let’s assume you have brainstormed your own list of things you care about. If appropriate, you can focus on one of these where you want to make a contribution. It should also be one where you feel able to build on what you can control in the situation.  

Caring About Making
A Positive Contribution

Imagine that you aim to translate your caring into action. One approach is: a) to focus on a specific thing you care about; b) to build on what you can control in the situation; c) to make a positive contribution in this activity.

Different people choose different ways to make a contribution. They may aim to raise money for a charity, help people who are experiencing difficulties, build a successful prototype that shows a better way or do another activity.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to start by clarifying the specific thing you care about where you want to make a positive contribution. Bearing in mind what you can control in the situation, it then invites you to clarify:

The specific results you want to achieve;

The specific strategies you can follow to do your best to achieve these results;

The specific pluses and minuses involved in working to achieve the goals;

The specific things you can do to build on the pluses and manage the potential minuses.

Here is the exercise.

Let’s assume that you have embarked on doing the work involved. This may bring a sense of satisfaction but it can also be important to learn about the following theme.

Caring About Outcomes
You Can’t Control

Imagine that you are working to achieve the desired results. Sometimes you may feel up, sometimes you may feel down. The feelings you have may be affected by several factors that are beyond your control.

Bearing this in mind, it is important to maintain a positive attitude and also have a sense of perspective. One approach is to focus on the following themes:

You can always aim to do your best and build on what you can control in the situation;

You may experience both successes and setbacks on the journey towards your aims;  

You may sometimes need to separate yourself from the outcomes because these may be affected by things you can’t control.

Caring about the outcomes is natural but it can bring dangers. That is why it is on the red part of the caring curve. You can do your best but it is important not to let your self-esteem be affected by things you can’t control.

Great sports people take this approach. They aim to prepare properly, follow their principles and deliver peak performances. Whilst being in a results business, they recognise that many factors can affect the outcomes.

Such people do what they can to shape these factors but they also have a certain criteria for judging their performances. They embody the ethic of continuous improvement by focusing on:

The specific things they are doing well and how they can build on these;

The specific things they can do better in the future and how;

The specific things they can do to implement these ideas.

Bill Walsh, the famous American Football Coach, took this approach. He encouraged his players to prepare properly for each match. They followed the agreed strategy and aim to practice what he called routine perfection. Bill then took pressure off his players by repeating this mantra.

Keep delivering the standard of performance and the score takes care of itself.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think a specific situation where you may want to follow some aspects of the caring curve?

What may be the specific thing you care about? How can you focus on what you can control in this area? How can you then make a positive contribution? What may happen as a result of taking these steps?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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