The circle of concern and the circle of control: many of us have heard these terms before. Covey and others have referred to the circle of control as the “circle of influence”. Other maps show the circle of influence as a separate circle from the other two, as in the graphic below. But the point is this: The things in the world that we are concerned about, or interested in, are very, very* large. But we have limited control over the events within that large circle. Successful people recognize the difference and seek to expand their inner circle.
I offer this story in case it might be helpful. Leaving my particular opinions to the side, I have watched the unfolding horror show that is our national political story with, well, horror. As a result, I tend to read people who I consider to be highly thoughtful and articulate on the matter. Since there are a lot of people like that, and since Twitter is the best place to see what lots of people like that are writing, I was spending too much of my off-duty time scrolling through Twitter.
In the process, I was getting more irate. I was spending too much time in my circle of concern.
But apart from voting, my “control” over national political events is the same as yours: zero. So about 6 weeks ago I stopped. There are various ways to help break unhealthy digital habits. For me it was three steps:
- I moved the Twitter app to the Siberia of my mobile phone – buried in some screen three or four screens back.
- I stopped watching the news, mostly.
- I noticed I was happier (the “noticing” is actually an important step).
That’s about it. The genesis of this “insight” – if you can call it that – was that on business travel weeks I often found myself so busy that I “dropped out” of the national political coverage and found myself unburdened and happier because I was unaware of the latest “this is unprecedented” story coming from Washington D.C.
The key here is that, while I’m still concerned about national events, I’ve decided to spend more time in my circle of control.
What does it look like when you’re spending too much time in your circle of concern rather than your circle of control?
- Obsessing about a co-worker’s behavior, or how your boss treats you. You may have some degree of “influence” there, but changing people is outside your control.
- Checking the stock market frequently.
- Worrying about the impact of AI on society (or some other societal/technological/environmental ill).
- Yelling at cable news (the trendy way in the 21st century to live outside of your circle of control).
When we live outside the circle of control we abdicate our responsibility, and that’s exactly what most people are looking for.
To evade accountability.
To hide in the shadows of concern while avoiding the spotlight of control.
Think about these concepts in your own life, and find a way to spend your time on what you can control
* I used the word “very” twice here, and do so with a smile as I think of this great quote from Mark Twain: “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”