The circle of influence is a concept that was first introduced by author, educator, and businessman Stephen Covey. To explain the concept, it is best to mention the circle of influence in the context of the three circles Covey created: the circle of concern, the circle of influence, and the circle of control. The circle of influence is these things on which we can do something about and we have some degree of control over.
Understanding the circle of influence
For an individual, the circle of influence encompasses the things that concern them which they can also do something about.
- The circle of concern – the worries one has about a topic or situation. These tend to be related to health, finances, career, family, society, the weather, and the motivations or behaviors of others.
- The circle of influence – a smaller circle containing the worries one can either directly or indirectly do something about, and
- The circle of control – an even smaller circle with worries one can directly address.
Most people understand on a theoretical level that to dwell in the circle of concern is counterintuitive. Covey noted that wasting time and energy on factors outside one’s control causes us to feel inadequate, helpless, stressed, reactive, and also to develop a victim mentality.
The better course of action is to focus on the circle of influence. Those who focus on that which they can control are proactive instead of reactive and tend to experience more happiness, satisfaction, and empowerment as a result.
What lies within the circle of influence?
The circle of influence will differ from one individual to the next. Indeed, the President of the United States can likely control more things than the average citizen. Nevertheless, anyone can increase the size of their circle of influence with a proactive mindset.
Suppose you are worried about the questions you’ll be tested on in an imminent job interview. You may have no influence or control over what the recruiter likes to assess, but you may know someone in your personal or professional network that does.
Here are some other ways employees can increase their circle of influence.
Ensure objectives are achievable
This starts with breaking them down into smaller parts with contingencies in place to deal with unforeseen circumstances. If you don’t receive that promotion after three years, are you willing or able to remain at the company?
Irrespective of whether you leave or stay, remember that either choice is under your direct control. Whether you are promoted lies in your circle of concern and is, in most cases, not under your direct control.
Question the validity of thoughts
Worries are a natural and sometimes healthy aspect of the thousands of thoughts that enter our minds each day. However, it is always good practice to question their validity to determine whether we can control or influence a situation:
- How likely is it that the situation will materialize?
- What evidence confirms this?
- How did you cope with a similar situation in the past?
- Will you be worrying about the same thing in twelve months? If not, why not?
Consider other avenues
Whilst we can leverage our network to learn more about a job interview, we can also do the same to deal with problematic individuals in the workplace. Imagine you have an accusatory, controlling boss who is mostly unaware of their impact on subordinates.
Instead of remaining in the circle of concern, why not take a proactive approach and speak with a third-party who is skilled at conflict resolution or can share a different perspective? This is a better course of action than continually resisting your boss’s agenda, and you may just find that the quality of your relationship with them improves.
- For an individual, the circle of influence encompasses the things that concern them which they can also do something about.
- The circle of influence was first introduced by author, educator, and businessman Stephen Covey. Two other circles which provide context to the concept are the circle of concern and the circle of control.
- Anyone can increase the size of their circle of influence with a proactive mindset. To do this, it is important to ensure objectives are achievable to avoid equating failure with a lack of control. Other best practices include questioning the validity of one’s worries and proactively considering other courses of action.
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