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  • Jo Jones

Circle of control


Stephen Covey termed the phrase ‘the circle of control’. It is where we need to learn how to focus only on the things we can change. This technique has been adapted from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, Simon & Schuster 1992.

All of us have a wide range of concerns in our lives – our housing, our health, our friends and family, the environment, the price of a pint of beer, how to lose weight, animal rights, how to put on weight, sex, drugs and rock and roll, third world debt... Within this whole universe of our concerns, there are some things we can influence that we have control over and some things we can only stay concerned about. Now we have a choice about where we focus our attention and energy.

We can choose to focus all our attention on the area that is outside our control. We can get annoyed about the shortcomings of other people; we can blame the government, global capitalism, the weather, a rotten childhood, bad luck, or fluoride in toothpaste. This focus leads to more and more blaming and accusing, excuses to feelings of victimisation. This negative way of thinking, accompanied by inaction to change things, results in your circle of control shrinking.

Alternatively we can choose to focus on things that we can control. This does not mean just the more immediate or ‘trivial’ concerns. It might mean focusing on those aspects of really huge problems that we can exert some control over. And ‘control’ does not mean direct ‘control’; we can influence things in an indirect way, for example in our own personal, daily behaviour. Examples would be that you have control over saving money or putting the washing on the line on a sunny day as opposed to using the tumble dryer.

By focusing attention and energy on our circle of control, we become increasingly proactive. The energy we expend is enlarging; each little victory motivates us to find new ways of exerting control. We don’t waste energy on things we can do nothing about, but direct it towards what we can change. With each step we feel stronger and more creative. And so our circle of control expands. It often happens that, in widening our circle of control, we also widen our circle of concern. It becomes worth caring about some of the really challenging things in our world if we learn we can influence them. It can be incredibly liberating to realise that, in choosing how to respond to circumstances, we affect those circumstances.

Are you focusing on things you cannot change? If you are STOP and re-focus. This is your journey, take control and only focus on things that you can influence.

Why not draw your circle of control and circle of concern? Doing this will help your focus on what you can influence and what you need to put aside; use your energy to positive effect.

With Love xxxx


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