How much time do you spend worrying about the future? Thinking about other people’s opinions, the worst case scenario of a situation, or all the “what if” questions in a scenario? I know I’ve done this. I spent too much time worrying about what I couldn’t control, rather than focusing on what I could.
Has this happened to you?
In Stephen Covey’s book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he shares a model illustrated by two circles – an inner circle, and an outer circle. The smaller, inner circle he calls the Circle of Influence. These are the things that you are concerned over, but that you can do something about. These include your habits, rhythms, routines, how you frame your thoughts, where you get news from, the people you follow on social media, how you care for yourself and others, how you speak, what you commit to, and so on. These are things that you have full control over.
The larger, outer circle is your Circle of Concern. This circle includes things like other the weather, traffic, the news, other people’s opinions, the stock market, the economy, and so on. These are things that you cannot fully control. They are of concern to you, but not something you have complete control of.
Proactive people focus on things inside their Circle of Influence and as they do, the larger the Circle of Influence becomes. Their positive energy is focused on habits, routines, mindsets, and communication. They accomplish tasks and create forward progress.
Reactive people focus too much time on their Circle of Concern. They are spending so much time focusing on the things they can’t control like the weather and traffic that their Circle of Influence gets smaller. They’re so focused on blaming and feeling victimized that it now appears they have less control over areas of their life that they directly are in charge of.
By focusing on what we can control and the Circle of Influence, we invest our energy in areas that make a positive difference.
So where do you invest your energy?
Find a piece of paper and draw two circles – an inner circle and outer circle. In the inside circle, write out what you control. In the outside circle, write out the things that may be of concern to you, but that you can’t fully control. What falls in each? In which circle do most of your thoughts occur?
Are you focused on on what you can control, that in turn expands your Circle of Influence? Or are you instead focused on things you can’t fully control, shrinking your Circle of Influence?