The shrinking circle of influence

I have many all-time favorite Stephen Covey concepts (that he managed to pack them all in one book is nothing short of wonderful) and the one for the day is the circle of influence.

circle of influence

In short, we all have a circle of influence with things we control and a circle of concern with things we don’t control. We get to choose what we focus on and, in doing so, we shrink or grow our respective circles. So, if you spend all your time thinking about things you don’t control – bad politics, global climate change – you will feel powerless and less inclined to do anything valuable. Spend more time on what you can influence, however, and you will feel your circle of influence grow.

A couple of days ago, I found myself feeling aware of a certain dissatisfaction that was brewing within. I had just spent an hour mulling various such issues – politics, the planet, immigration system issues. I had, in effect, shrunk my circle of influence. There are a couple of interesting takeaways from this idea –

  1. The illusion of control is an important aspect of our happiness. I say illusion because that is really what it is. We have far less influence over our lives than we think we do. But, it is important to believe we do.
  2. Even if we have far less influence in our lives than we think we do, we have a lot more influence than we often give ourselves credit for. Small things we do can have tremendous, even global, ripple effects. So, it remains a bit of paradox – we are neither as powerless or as powerful as we think we are.
  3. The quality of our lives is directly proportional to the amount of time we spend in our circle of influence.
  4. I believe the reason morning routines are very powerful for the reason that they involve us focusing on our circle of influence. By doing things we fully control – meditate, journal, etc. – we walk into the day feeling more in control.
  5. Related, but different – I think this is why waking up early is incredibly powerful. Wake up late and your attention can easily be captured by what other people want from you.

Spend more time in your circle of influence.

4 thoughts on “The shrinking circle of influence”

  1. Imagine the set of things you can possibly control, call it C.
    Call the set of things you actually think about T.

    We can’t have T ⊃ C because then you’d worry about choosing a black or blue pen or which brand of tooth brush to use.

    You probably do have T ⊄ C because you are worried about corrupt politicians in Thailand or that you are balding.

    The point is that if you encourage T ⊂ C then you take more actual actions and your impact is much larger.

  2. Rohan!!! Loved this post. My Shut The Front Door take-away “The quality of our lives is directly proportional to the amount of time we spend in our circle of influence.” #BOOM

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