The Circle of Influence and The Circle of Concern (The Circles) were first introduced to me by Stephen Covey in his hugely popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (based on Julian Rotter’s work) is a concept I regularly come back to, as it is an easy to remember guide for where I should be focusing my time and effort and where I shouldn’t be.

The Circle of Concern refers to the areas in your life that you are concerned about. These could be your health, family, friends, work, finances, the political status of your country, natural disasters, the threat of terrorism etc. This all depends on the type of person you are and what keeps you up at night.

From the outside, it is pretty obvious that some of these things are within your control to change and some are not. Yet despite knowing this, sometimes we continue to spend time worrying about the things that we have no control over.

The Circles theorise that the more time and energy people spend worrying about the weaknesses of others, their environment and other pressures over which they have no control (i.e. those things in the Circle of Concern), the more stressed and reactive they become, which can’t be a good thing! “Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimisation” according to Covey. Basically, spending time and effort in this Circle accomplishes nothing.

Proactive people on the other hand, tend to focus their efforts on the areas that they can influence, the items in their Circle of Influence. That is, the things you can do something about. This is where it is more beneficial to focus your time and effort.

I should point out that there is a third space that also exists, which is the area outside both of the circles, where everything that you have no concern for lives. For me, these are things like the winner of House Rules or the type of tree to be planted in my apartment block’s communal garden…

The aim for all of us is to become more proactive not reactive, and use our positive energy to expand our Circle of Influence, rather than increase our Circle of Concern.

So which Circle are you currently spending most of your time in – Concern or Influence? And is there an opportunity for you to savour your time and energy by simply changing your focus?