Career Woman

Focus on your influence


Change the things you can, accept the things you can’t, and have the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need reminding of the difference from time to time. The tool I use most often to remind me how is the Circle of Control vs. Circle of Influence theory.

Trying to control everything

The downfall of every strong, independent, career-focused woman I know, is the constant chatter and worry in her head, all day and all night long. Sometimes that chatter is self-limiting beliefs, sometimes worry, usually it’s both. Worrying about the day that just passed, worrying about the day coming up, worrying about the future, and so on.

This incessant worry leads us to try and control as much as possible, at home and at work.  It is this illusion of control that makes us focus on the wrong things or spend time worrying about the little things. The fact is we cannot control our environment, or other people, or their perceptions of us, trying to do so is exhausting…and it doesn’t work. Our energy can be put to better use.

Using the circle of control and circle of influence

The concept is taken from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and what really struck me was the simplicity of the model and its application in daily life.

The circle of concern

This circle contains our focus on our life. This includes all the concerns we have for our health, our family, our finances, our work, our business and our future. Basically, everything you are – or will be – concerned about. The Circle of Concern is the outer circle you see in the diagram at left. And you can see that inside the Circle of Concern  is…

The circle of influence

This circle contains our focus on doing things that are actually in our control to do, so that we can influence our concerns.

The more time that we spend worrying about things over which we have no control, the more stressed and reactive we become. Doing this means a life filled with blaming, accusing, or feeling like a victim. In fact the more negative we are, the more we reduce our circle of influence.

The more focus we place on our circle of influence, the problems that we can actually do something about, i.e. ourselves, our own daily behavior, the decisions we make, then the more proactive and the less stressed we become. Each victory in the circle of influence leads to more influence.Simple… right? So here are some tips to implementing this theory.

Be proactive not reactive

Stephen Covey defines proactive as “being responsible for our own lives”, i.e. “our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions [external factors].” It means understanding that people can only control themselves, their decisions, their actions, their reactions, and you have no control over anyone else. Developing a proactive approach means making decisions to control you and your reactions, so you don’t rise to the bait or react to other people any more.

Proactive people focus on the Circle of Influence because they know this is where they can make a difference. Yes we are concerned about all the things in our Circle of Concern, but we can’t influence them. Health is a prime example. If you exercise regularly, eat well, and don’t smoke, this increases your circumference of control (Circle of Influence). There is no guarantee that you will still not develop sickness (Circle of Concern), but you are doing what you can within your sphere of influence to ensure that you stay as healthy as possible.

Own your choices

Everything is a choice. Your choices are your Circle of Influence, you make a choice to exercise regularly, you make a choice to eat well, you make a choice not to smoke, you make a choice to be happy, feel courage, take next steps, and you make a choice in how you react to every situation. Instead of worrying about things over which you have little or no control, i.e. what people think of you, how they behave, the weather, you practice using your energy on the things you can control.

“Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll

This means taking responsibility for your own life, not blaming others or expecting others to meet your expectations of how they should behave, but rather holding yourself accountable for your own choices. By doing this and taking responsibility for your choices, you reduce the worry and the concern for things that are out of your control.

Control your fear

In a work setting this can be enormously helpful. Instead of worrying how others will perceive you if you speak up at a meeting, a proactive you would come up with solutions rather than state problems. You would use language like “I can, I will, I prefer…” and not “I can’t, I won’t, it’s unfair…” and you won’t worry about what everyone else thinks, only what you are doing.

More often than not women worry more about what they didn’t say, than what they did say. They feel muffled from stating their thoughts and feelings, and then spend the whole night worrying that they didn’t say what they should have. If you take a positive and proactive approach, instead of worrying about it, you actually provide resolution and are more likely to feel satisfaction you made a contribution.

Increase your impact

In our universe there are the things we can influence and things we can’t, focus on the things you can do today to make a difference and ignore all those that are out of your control. Focus your attention and energy in the right direction to increase productivity, efficiency, and reduce stress exponentially.

Once you accomplish this effectively, and grow your influence, you will eventually begin to enlarge the circle of control and influence simultaneously. Until one day you may find that your circle of influence, influences the world.

About Raj Hayer

Raj Hayer is a Leader. Advisor. Nomad. Raj is a management professional with over 25 years of experience. She is currently a consultant for innovation and change management initiatives holding a Global Executive MBA, an MBA, and Bachelor of Commerce, as well as project management (PMP) and motivational analyst (MSA) certifications. She facilitates workshops through Mayfly, a company focused on leadership development, committed to improving corporate culture and increasing employee engagement. Raj believes that every individual wants to add value through their work and life, and this is what motivates her to mentor and coach individuals. Her passion is in building networks, building community, and ultimately helping others succeed.

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