Thursday, February 09, 2017

Circles of Control, Influence and Concern

I like to think of myself as a calm and rational person, and people who see me may believe that to be true. What they do not see is the turmoil I sometimes internalize which leads to distraction, fatigue, insomnia, inner turmoil, stress and anger. The amount of information we have to process in real time is often overwhelming and our responses can be emotional “knee-jerk” reactions. Complaining is a popular past-time at work and elsewhere, and too much whining is done about things that are not in our control

Stephen R. Covey described circles of concern and influence in his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He wrote,

”Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control."

In response to some stressors in my life this year, I drew three circles;-

Control, Influence and Concern. 

There are things in my life that I can control
There are circumstances and people that I can influence
There are areas of concern that I have no control or influence over at all. 

I have tried to manage my time based on what I wrote in my circle of control. An over-reaction to events we cannot control- 
a bad driver, a long check-out line, negative behaviour of other people, the weather report, the value of the dollar, and so on
drains our energy and darkens our mood. We have influence over people in close and casual relationships, but it is important to resist controlling others who are capable of being responsible for their own decisions, particularly our children and spouses. 

I recently returned from Mexico where I spent time caring for my father who is dependent in all aspects of his care. His inability to do things for himself due to advanced Parkinson’s Disease causes frustration and anger at times. We discussed this topic and talked about how his circle of control has become much, much smaller.


Like a child, he is increasingly controlled by his caregivers, leading him to ask what purpose there is in living with such a disability. He still has control of his words and reactions. He can influence the people he interacts with in a positive or negative way. It is within our power to control our attitudes, even in circumstances that are not ideal.

My three year old great-nephew came to visit while Dad was walking around the house for exercise. I watched as Great-Grandson pushed his scooter at the same pace that Great-Grandfather walked with his walker. Youth and old age, both with limited control but with significant influence on each other.

Here is the template for the circles I filled in with very personal situations and concerns. The exercise brought increased awareness of what things are most important for me to "centre" on.


  1. Thanks for finding the circles and starting the conversation!

  2. There's some good reminders in this post.

  3. Excellent! I do worry about things I can't control - and then chastise myself for doing so. Must remember to think and behave in a more positive manner.
    Love the pic of elderly and young - they have so much to teach on another.


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