In a concept pioneered by Stephen R. Covey, the problems, challenges, and opportunities we encounter in work and life fall into two areas – Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.
The Circle of Concern encompasses all the things that are of concern to us but over which we have no real control. For example, the weather, the news, the political views of others, what people think of us.
The Circle of Influence encompasses all the things that are of concern to us and over which we have some control and can do something about. For example, what we read, what we say, what we buy, where we go, how we spend our free time.
See Figure 2 below for a better illustration.
You can think of it as an egg. The yolk is your Circle of Influence and is contained within the larger circle of the egg white which is your Circle of Concern.
The simple assertion regarding the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence is that whichever part of the circle you spend time in will grow.
If you spend most of your time on the Circle of Concern, worrying about things you cannot control, the white grows larger and the yolk smaller.
This results in blaming and accusing attitude, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. You also tend to feel helpless and out of control, which is the source of much of our stress and anxiety.
All this happens primarily because, when we focus on our Circle of Concern, we are inadvertently empowering the things within it to control us.
The negative energy generated by this focus, combined with the neglect in the areas you could do something about, causes your circle of influence, the yolk, to shrink.
We would do well to continue to be concerned about things we have no direct control over, but we should spend more time focused on what we can do, today and in the weeks to come.
For example, you might be worried about the stability of the overall economy (Circle of Concern). But what about that is within your Circle of Influence? What can you do about it?
For financial security, maybe you could save up extra cash reserves. For job security, maybe you could think of ways to make yourself extra valuable or even indispensable at work. To sustain your business, maybe you could trim your operational cost and start offering more of valuable essentials to the marketplace.
When you spend time focusing on the things that you can actually do something about, the nature of your energy is positive, causing the yolk, the area over which you have influence to become larger.
You will feel more empowered, more positive, and more confident.
So here are questions to ponder:
- Where are you currently spending the majority of your time and energy? In the Circle of Concern or Circle of Influence?
- What are the next actions you can take right away within your Circle of Influence?
In any case, it’s important for us all to live today as an expression of what we can do rather than what we fear.