…is to focus on what you can control. Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?
How many times have you felt frustrated about a situation? How many times have you felt helpless because you want to change something but you can’t? Is that frustration really helping your cause? Does it empower you? If you have anything you’d like to achieve for yourself, frustration often seems inevitable.
It’s safe to say that no one likes to feel that way. One of the ways to alleviate that is to be proactive. Being proactive is the opposite of reactive, which in most cases is the primary reason for our frustration.
Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, illustrates this through the concept of Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. All of us have a plethora of concerns in our lives – our work, our family, our health, our bills, global warming, rising prices of fuel and the list goes on.
These concerns can be broken down to things that are outside our control and those that we can influence. We have a choice about where we focus our energy. The outer circle is the circle of concern that covers everything that affects us, but we have no control over. When we focus our energy on this area outside our influence, we get annoyed by circumstances, we blame people or the situation, we feel victimized, and as a result the circle of influence shrinks.
The Circle of Influence includes everything that we can control – at least to a large extent. Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern–things over which they have little or no control: the traffic, terrorism, the weather. Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies in is a giant step in becoming proactive.
By operating within our circle of concern, we empower the things within it to control us. On the contrary, when we focus on our circle of influence, we create the positive energy needed to effect change and influence others.
- For an entire day, get aware of the language you use. Recognise whether it is proactive or reactive. How often do you use or hear someone using reactive phrases like “There’s nothing I can do”, “If only I had”, “I have to do that”, and the classic “I don’t have the time”.
- Write down a situation from the recent past where you’ve behaved reactively. Now review the same situation from the context of your circle of influence write down how you could have responded proactively.
- Now take the 21-day pro-activity challenge. Why 21 days? It’s short enough to stick to and long enough to make a difference. For 21 days work only in your Circle of Influence. Make small commitments and keep them. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Be aware of the change in your Circle of Influence.
If you’re the kind who has big goals, it is critical to be in control in the only way possible.
Are there other ways to deal with the lack of control we may face in life? What do you think?