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Last Updated on November 23, 2022

What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)

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What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)

I am a staunch believer in the saying, “Strike a balance.” However, I try not to dwell too much on events beyond my control. My gardener taught me that!

When I asked him how he knew that the plants would grow well, he replied, “I am good at what I do, but I am never sure if the plants would grow well. I can only control how I take care of them, not the outcome. I do my job well and then leave the rest to nature.”

In a way, he focuses on the Circle of Control.

Can you recall how many hours, days, or years we spend simply focusing on and worrying about things we can’t control? Just imagine how thinking like a gardener could bring tremendous positive change in our life?

If you want to stop feeling powerless and regain control in your life, then peruse this article with erudite information on how to use the circle of control to your advantage.

What Is the Circle of Control?

Stephen Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People inspired this way of thinking where the focus must be on the circle of control. All issues, according to Covey, fall into one of two rings:

  • The Circle of Concern represents everything that troubles or concerns us. We don’t have much influence over these issues.
  • The Circle of Influence represents everything we can control or affect somehow. Your Circle of Influence is usually contained inside your Circle of Concern, leaving you with an area you are concerned about yet unable to alter.

circles of influence

    The only thing you could control is the effort you put into it – just like my Gardner!

    Where Should You Focus Your Energy on?

    The model helps us identify where we should focus our time and energy. The inner circle is the Circle of Influence, and The outer circle is the Circle of Concern. When your Circle of Influence expands, the Circle of Concern shrinks, and conversely, when the Circle of Influence shrinks, the Circle of Concern expands.

    Focusing your energy on things you can alter can help you make more effective adjustments. It increases your Circle of Influence. But when you focus your energy on things beyond your control, the Circle of Influence shrinks.

    Reason?

    It is a waste of time thinking about all the things that you do not have any control over. You focus your time, energy, and mental peace over such things, and you never have enough of these to focus on the positive aspects such as growth, hope and confidence, etc.

    You will find that people start avoiding company with people who constantly talk about what’s wrong in life.

    So what should be done?

    You need to focus your energy on things in your control. Things that you can influence and create an impact. These things demand your attention if you want to live a fulfilling life. Work on what you can and stop worrying about things that are not in your control.

    People with a high Circle of Influence are regarded as positive influences. Conversely, people would avoid you when you have a low Circle of Influence since you will be considered a negative influence.

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    The Circle of Concern, Influence, and Control

    What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)

      Let’s dive a little deeper into understanding by studying the three circles:

      • Circle of Concern
      • Circle of Influence
      • Circle of Control

      Let’s begin with what is important to a single person. This is known as the ‘Circle of Concern,’ It encompasses all of the ‘Big Three’ areas.

      Circle of Concern

      The simple graphical representation explains that your Circle of Concern includes everything external such as war, politics, pandemics, weather, etc. It depicts everything important to a certain person. This comprises factors that a person may affect and control.

      The Circle of Concern will always contain numerous things outside of a person’s influence or control by its very nature. [1] For example, most people are concerned about the weather and how it affects their everyday lives, yet they have little control over it.

      Circle of Influence

      Since humans are social creatures, an individual’s Circle of Concern may be influenced by others. This is their Circle of Influence, and it has to do with the quality of their connections and their dialogues with others.

      The behavior of your team, your company’s work culture, your promotion prospects, etc. are all examples of the Circle of Influence. You may be concerned about the long working hours (Circle of Worry), how can you reduce the workload falls into the Circle of Influence.

      The Circle of Influence is an excellent tool for effectively directing your time and energy. It has the potential to improve your performance, personal growth, and overall enjoyment in life.

      Circle of Control

      A circle of control entails how you respond to these external situations. Your thoughts, your attitude, and your enthusiasm are what form the circle of control. These are the things that you have the power to control.

      ‘Control,’ refers to what we can directly cause to happen due to our decisions, regardless of whether or not others agree. Our Circle of Control can only relate to ourselves in this way, and even then, only to our conscious self. What is the reason behind this?

      ‘Control,’ as per ontological perspective,[2] is inextricably tied to conscious decision. ‘Control = Awareness + Choice,’ as the adage goes. As a result, a person can only exercise control over parts of their own way of being that they are aware of.

      We typically behave without conscious deliberation about how we will act and play out well-worn behavior patterns since much of what we do is habitual, or what we call “transparent” in the ontological perspective.

      Acting in this manner implies that we are acting outside of our immediate control. It’s important to remember that habits are more than simply physical behaviors; they also encompass how we view and interpret our surroundings.

      As a result, the more our capacity for self-awareness, the greater our ability to command our state of being.

      Why Is the Circle of Control Important?

      Focusing on the Circle of Control allows you to keep your psyche healthy. In other words, you can expect better mental wellness when your life is only focused on things that are within your control.

      It becomes evident today that most of our time and energy should be focused on activities inside our sphere of influence.

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      We should be aware of our Circle of Influence and spend a reasonable amount of time there. Daily, we must engage with other individuals and communities; we must pay close attention.

      The Circle of Worry, on the other hand, should be ignored. We should strive to have no control over it. Of course, it’s easier said than done.

      This mindset isn’t simply useful for dealing with anxiety. It’s also a good rule to follow in many aspects of your life. What better approach to being more productive than spending less time doing things you don’t have control over?

      Here are three reasons that elucidate why the Circle of Control is important:

      Proactive Mindset vs Reactive Mindset

      Proactive people (whom you would want to associate with) always scout for people with a higher Circle of Influence. Whereas reactive people succumb to their thoughts of negativity in response to external events.

      Developing a proactive mindset is very important to improve your focus and productivity and develop greater connections.

      You might have heard the saying, “Like attracts like.”

      Proactive people (whom you would want to associate with) always scout for people with a higher Circle of Influence. They stay away from people who bring negativity. It is important to understand what type of Circle of Influence you have and bring the necessary changes in outlook towards life if you want to attract all the good in life.

      Proactive people stay away from people who bring negativity. It is important to understand what type of Circle of Influence you have and bring the necessary changes in outlook towards life if you want to attract all the good in life.

      Boosting Focus and Productivity

      When you know where to look and where to concentrate, you automatically reduce your worries. In the process, you also become more productive since you stop worrying about things that are not within your control.

      Increased focus is another advantage of using the circle of control. Your undivided attention remains on things that matter – things that you can control! As a result, you become more productive and effective in all aspects of life.

      Improving Mental Wellness

      The time you begin to spiral is the most difficult element of thinking about unclear situations. Your mind keeps replaying the worst-case scenario, making you feel even worse.

      This is where deciding on a plan of action that you can control may be beneficial. Doing something constructive, in my experience, requires you to focus on that task and breaks the cycle. It also helps you release some tension by engaging in physical activities.

      The most significant advantage of worrying less is happiness. That is, at the very least, something worth pursuing. So, pause for a while and consider your options. How much time do you devote to your Circle of Influence?

      How to Apply the Circle of Control in Life

      After learning all about the Crcle of Control, Concern, and Influence, you would wonder how to start implementing it in life.

      Being educated about various aspects of life comes in handy since you have prior knowledge of how to deal when the situation presents itself.

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      1. When you feel anxious or start getting worried over external events, you can simply change your mindset to focus on things within your control. You have already learned that things beyond your control are not worth brooding or worrying over.
      2. When you feel overwhelmed is you can start identifying your focus and priorities in life. It will allow you to stay focused on what’s important to you and remind you why you should maintain a mental balance.
      3. When anything unplanned or uncontrollable happens such as the pandemic, simply focus on what you can influence and control.

      Try and relate to the past three years of your life or to the point when the pandemic shook the world. Was it within our control? It wasn’t!

      But many people allowed their minds to be gripped into negativity. They started concerning themselves with thoughts of worst scenarios rather than focusing on what they could control.

      In such times, the only thing one could do was be more careful and remain safe with social distancing. That was the only one that had the power to control. Anything beyond that was the circle of concern.

      People who focus more on the Circle of Control are more confident and have a positive outlook on life. They reflect hope and growth.

      But if we focus on the circle of concern, our fears and “what if” thoughts might overwhelm us. People are terrified of the pandemic, war rumors, the economy, the weather, death, etc. All of these things are taken into account in our Circle of Concern.

      When we focus on issues beyond our control, we become more stressed and prone to accusations, anxiety, wrath, and victimization.

      If you want to apply the Circle of Control in life, learn to focus on things you can control.

      What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)

      1 Action
      What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)
      Download this template and start to brain dump based on your current struggles/challenges.

      How to Expand Your Circles of Control

      The first thing you need to understand is why you need to expand the circle of control. You have learned that applying the Circle of Control in life is important. But that is only the first step.

      If you want to live a life full of positivity, you need to expand your Circle of Control. This won’t be easy since you need to change your belief systems and way of life.

      However, you can follow these steps to make things easier for you.

      1. Find Your Purpose

      When trying to expand your Circle of Control, you need to focus on finding your purpose. Whatever you believe in is your sense of purpose. Your driving force, motivation, and guiding light as you strive for a life that you believe would fulfill you.

      Your feeling of meaning is inextricably related to your life’s purpose. The only difference is that you have a single goal in life. However, a sense of purpose is not the same in every part of life. They are, however, all aligned.

      At first, you should start with a broad goal. This is a more general sense of direction for your life. The first thing you should do is determine your life mission. This will help you maintain everything else in your life in line with this broad goal for coherence.

      For example, if your overall life goal is to be more peaceful, you’ll endeavor to achieve that goal in all facets of your life. You’ll want to maintain positive relationships with your family.

      You’ll want to do something that improves rather than degrades your mental health in terms of work. A consistent source of wealth will be an important aspect of your ambitions and will translate to your purpose.

      What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)

      1 Action
      What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)
      Read more about the sense of purpose in this insightful article: How to Find a Sense of Purpose to Live a Full Life

      2. Break Your Own Limiting Beliefs

      Your belief system can be your greatest asset (or your greatest hindrance). If your belief system is limiting or biased, your growth will be limited.

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      If you want to enhance your circle of control, you need to expand your perspectives. You need to constantly challenge your thinking to check if there is any room to expand the sphere of influence.

      There are times when our belief systems limit us from growing. Such limiting beliefs are enemies to the expansion of the circle of control. If it requires you to break your limiting beliefs, then be courageous enough to take action, as this is the next step to a greater life.

      What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)

      1 Action
      What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)
      Let’s refer to the Circle of Control template you downloaded. Look at what you’ve written in the sphere of Control and Influence: What is one small thing that I could help here?

      3. Develop a Growth Mindset

      There are numerous perks to developing a growth mindset. It encourages you to stay curious, keep learning, and turn obstacles into opportunities. Eventually, it would help you progressively expand the circles of influence and control.

      People with a growth mindset feel that they can improve their skills and intellect. They think that while people have innate talents and attributes, personal growth is essential for success.

      On the other hand, those with fixed mindsets feel that skill and intellect are things you either have or don’t.

      If you want to develop a growth mindset, start by understanding your current situation. If you don’t know where you are, you won’t know where to go. Investigate why you want to have a growth mindset and look for instances of people who have adopted a development mentality.

      What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)

      1 Action
      What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)
      Learn how to develop a growth mindset: 17 Ways To Develop a Growth Mindset

      Final Thoughts

      Good happens when you focus all your energies on the positive facets of life. As a gist of the entire write-up, one needs to remember that when you learn to focus on the circle of control, you train your mind to develop a positive attitude towards life.

      A life that reflects hope and confidence and shines nothing else but optimism. You can use the above action tips to help adapt the circle of control.

      TL;DR

      Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

      What Is the Circle of Control (And How to Use It to Stop Feeling Powerless)

      The Circle of Concern represents everything that troubles or concerns us. We don’t have much influence over these issues.

      The Circle of Influence represents everything we can control or affect somehow. Your Circle of Influence is usually contained inside your Circle of Concern, leaving you with an area you are concerned about yet unable to alter.

      The Circle of Control entails how you respond to the external situations. Your thoughts, your attitude, and your enthusiasm are what form the circle of control.

      Focusing on the Circle of Control improves your productivity and mental health.

      You can apply the Circle of Control when things don’t go as planned, or when you feel overwhelmed and anxious.

      You can expand your Circle of Control by developing a growth mindset.

      Featured photo credit: Sasha Freemind via unsplash.com

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      Reference

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      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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