Circle of Concern vs Circle of lnfluence- Reducing worry and stress.

“You cannot always control what goes on outside but you can always control what goes on inside.”

-Wayne Dyer

The idea was first brought to my attention when reading the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. In his book, Covey distinguishes between two kinds of people. Proactive people and reactive people. 

Proactive people– focus on what they can do something about

Reactive people– focus on worries and concerns, things they have no control of

He talks about two conflicting circles that can influence our lives, the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence. Below I will refer to both.

In life, we are often get caught up focusing on the things we have little control over. For example: what people think of us, other peoples behaviour, economic factors, the future and not forgetting the pandemic! Focusing on these things can often leave us feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious. The more you try to control everything around you, the more anxious you will feel. We refer to this as the Circle of Concern as these are the things that we often choose to focus our time and energy on but we have little to no influence over.

For the last year, we have been living in a world of uncertainty, something that can feel overwhelming to any human being. Our ‘normality’ has been shaken and forced us to live in a new way. How we work, our social habits and day to day lives. Things we once had control over, we now feel have been taken away from us. The pandemic has not only taken a toll on peoples physical health but it has also impacted their mental health too. We have become so detached from our ‘normal’ that we believe we have little influence on the things happening to us and around us.

However, this is not necessarily true!

We may not have control over what is happening around us during this time. However, we do have control over our thoughts, actions and emotions. Every day we can choose to show up and take control of our own lives and decide what it is we DO have control over. Such as our mood, routine, habits, goals etc. We refer to this as the Circle of Influence because these are the things we can influence through our thoughts and actions.

Start by completing this simple activity by @rockinruksi.

This simple tool will help you to discover areas in your life where you have more control and power than you think. The key is to focus your energy on the things within your control, allowing you to feel happier and more productive in your day to day life. You can then focus on making the changes you need to feel more productive and empowered.

The bubbles around the outside are your circles of concern. What things do you often worry over? Bills, your job, other peoples opinions of you, others actions, the pandemic? Be honest with yourself here and remember these are the things you are concerned about but have little control over.

Now start to think of the areas of your life in which you do have control/influence. It could be anything from your daily routine/habits, your thoughts and behaviours or the amount of effort you put into things.

From the activity, you should see that the things you tend to spend most of your time thinking/worrying about are not a productive use of your time. What can you change that will allow you to spend more of your time influencing the areas you have highlighted in your circle of control?

Reflect and Review

Now that you have completed the activity, try answering the following questions:

  1. Where are you currently spending the majority of your time? In the Circle of Concern or the Circle of Influence? How can you change this?
  2. How does it feel when you allow yourself to let go of all of the things you worry about in your Circle of Concern?
  3. What actions can you take to be more proactive and productive in dealing with the things you have identified in your circles?

Your greatest power is to choose one thought over another!


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