Understand Your Circles of Influence and How They Impact Your Life

free tools stress wizard Jul 04, 2018

Cheryl was born a worrier.

Her father is a worrier.

It's easy to see how growing up as a child she's inherited or copied certain behaviours as we all do infants and toddlers. We take both the good and bad, the stronger and weaker characteristics from those around us, especially parents.

I'm on the other end of the scale. Things I should be concerned over I'm often ignoring. I've been described as soo laid back at times, that I'm almost horizontal! I do worry though, but I don't often share those concerns.

But over the years together Cheryl and I have made good use of the concept of the Circles of Influence. It's a simple approach to understanding the difference between control, influence, and concern.

I first came across the Circles of Influence when following the work of the late Stephen Covey but I'm not sure whether or not he was the first person to develop the concept or whether it's borrowed from elsewhere.

The concept divides the things we face in life into three neat categories.

  1. Things we can control.
  2. Things we can influence.
  3. Things we can’t influence, either right now or at any time.


Covey describes the habit of being proactive with what he calls the circle of concern and the circle of influence.

What are Your Circles of Concern?

These encompass the wide range of concerns we have, such as our health, our children, problems at work, the amount of government borrowing, or the threat of war, the global economy and what our neighbours might be up to.

For most people, it covers their income levels, their monthly outgoings, personal finances and debt, the environment etc.

The more time you spend brooding or worrying about pressures over which you have no control, or complaining about barriers that you perceive you cannot overcome, then the more stressed and reactive you'll become.

People who worry a lot spend too much time thinking and ruminating over things they can not influence. They're concerned but can't influence them so they become more frustrated, end up seeing life through negative lenses and get more and more worked up.

What are Your Circles of Influence?

These encompass any concerns that you can do something about and have some control over.

By focusing on what you can do something about and turning your attention to these areas then you become proactive and widen your circles of influence.

If you operate like this you're likely to be described by others as someone who has lots of positive energy. You'll know what and when to take action over these areas and find that you influence more areas of your life - it takes on a shape that you have effected. 

Gaining a personal awareness of the areas in which you expend your energies on is a giant step in becoming proactive in your life.

For example, a friend of mine is constantly concerned about the amount of time she's taking to get to work and back each day. She's commuting over 4 hours a day. This is a clearly an area of influence as there are many things she can do to alter the experience. She could move closer to work, stop driving and start taking the train, use car sharing etc.

If she proactively addresses this area of influence she'll change the experience of her life. Positive people do things to change the experience in their life by working on the things they have influence over. As they do so their circle of influence expands, they become less stressed and pressured and feel far more in control.

We Always Have Control Over Something

Ultimately we always have control over at least one thing in every situation. How we choose to respond to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Our thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes are all within our reach.

It may not seem possible at times especially when we are in the thick of it and wrapped up emotionally in what seems like a solutionless problem or predicament. 

But with the right approach either by working on your own or through the use of a coach you'll be able to tackle any situation and recognise what's possible and how to overcome the frustrations you're feeling.

To get you started we've developed a quick and easy wizard below to help you work through an issue that is giving you some pressure at the moment.

Use the wizard to work your way through a series of coaching type questions to help you gain some clarity around the topic and to arrive at actionable steps you can take to increase your influence over it and alter the pressure it's having on you.

You'll be able to print off a summary of your answers when you've finished. We don't keep any of the data and nothing is saved so be sure to click the Finish button in the wizard before you leave this page.

When you have printed off the summary action plan (when you click Finish) you'll have a hard copy of your input to follow and positively take action on your chosen issue.

You can repeat this process over and over again with different topics.

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