Your Circle of Influence

Your Circle of Influence

Twice this week, I pulled out a diagram, created by Stephen Covey, called the Circle of Influence to emphasize the things we have control over, the things we have the opportunity to influence, and the things we have absolutely no control over.   

To provide some context, the outer circle, The Circle of Concern are things that we care about and that affect us, but that we have little to no opportunity to control.  The more reactive we are, the larger the circle of concern becomes, still having little to no opportunity to control.  

The inner circle, The Circle of Control are things that we can absolutely control, most notable our own behavior, our attitude and our actions.  The more proactive we are, the larger the circle of control becomes and enables us to positively respond to circumstances.  

And the middle circle, The Circle of Influence represents things that we have indirect control or influence over.  While I might not be able to control something completely, I may have a level of influence that can provide perspective or make adifference to someone or something.    

I used the diagram in two very different scenarios this week.  I used it in a workshop of leaders who work tirelessly every day to provide the best environment for kids, families and residents through a variety of different programs they develop and lead.   The goal and use of the circle of influence with this group was to help create perspective regarding all of the items on their plate.   What and where they should focus their energies on to make a difference?  When should they be more proactive, less reactive and how to use their influence. 

And what better story than that of Victor Frankl (neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor) to apply the circle of influence to.  When faced with the most tragic of situations, he looked to his circle of influence to help himself and others in the Nazi death camps and its lessons for survival.   

Frankl believed that humans are motivated by something called a “will to meaning,” which is the desire to find meaning in life. He believed that life can have meaning even in the most miserable of circumstances, and that the motivation for living comes from finding that meaning.  Frankl said: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”  (The Circle of Control in its finest state.)

The second opportunity to share the Circle of Influence was with someone who is struggling to find their value and re-find their confidence.   To emphasize its simplicity, I drew the diagram on a paper plate.  It became a tool to reference the things out of his control that continue to cause hurt and pain, and yet, where a significant chunk of time is spent, clouding his meaning of life.  While the hurt and pain are unavoidable, the challenge is how we choose to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

If we choose to dwell on the things we have no control over, we will likely miss the opportunity to use our gifts and strengths to focus on the challenges and opportunities that we have control over… the most notable being our attitude, actions and how we “show up” for others.   

What does your Circle of Influence look like?   

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