The Circle of Influence is a great tool for focusing your time and energy productively. It can help you enhance your performance, your personal growth, and even your overall happiness with life.
And you can learn to extend your Circle of Influence too!
The Circle of Influence comes with its larger companion, the Circle of Concern, and its little brother, the Circle of Control.
This model was first developed by Stephen Covey in his bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Your circle of influence
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
The Circle of Influence model helps you clarify what’s within your influence (and worth focusing on) and what’s beyond your influence. This is important for one, simple reason.
We spend a lot of time worrying about stuff we cannot control. It’s human nature, we’re wired to recognize threats.
For example, if you receive 5 compliments and 1 criticism, where do you focus your attention? If you’re like most people, it’s on the 1 criticism. It’s the same with the wider world, it’s natural for us to focus on perceived threats and dangers.
And the media doesn’t help. The media is in on this game. If we were naturally wired to focus on good news, the media would be full of good news stories! But we’re not. It’s the threats and dangers that get the eyeballs.
Use the Circle of Influence to consciously regain control at work and focus your attention on the stuff you can have an impact on.
Circle of Influence example
This Circle of Influence example probably fits well with your own experience too. And it highlights an important point, there are quite a few areas of influence!
For example, I may not be able to control my workload (it comes with the job), but I can influence how I spend my time, and to some extent I can influence the focus of my work. It’s quite empowering to see that written down!
It’s within your Circle of Influence that you can productively spend your time and energy.
Learn more about how to influence without authority.
Circle of Influence – do it for yourself
Grab a pen and a piece of paper (or pull up PowerPoint if you’d prefer).
Draw a circle covering the paper, with your name at the center. Reflect on what you can influence. As you do this, make sure you cover all the bases. It’s may be helpful for you to consider what you can influence in the following areas:
- Your work and tasks
- Your Relationships
- Aspects of your own behavior
- Aspects of company culture
- Aspects of company policy / procedures, etc
You’ll probably find that there’s more that you can influence than you first imagined!
Circle of Control
It’s also worth highlighting that inside your Circle of Influence is your Circle of Control. Which raises the question, what can you control? Here are a few thought starters:
- Your actions, words, and thoughts
- Diet and sleep
- Your mood
- Decisions, choices, responses
- Attitude and mindset
Some of these we have more control over than others!
Your Circle of Concern
Your Circle of Concern holds all the many things that you worry about, but upon which you have no influence!
Still, there’s value in identifying your Circle of Concern. It might just surprise you.
Circle of concern example
Take ‘company strategy’ as an example. You probably have very limited influence over company strategy (unless you’re far more senior than I am!). But do you have zero influence? What could you do, to be heard?
Here are a few actions that might be available to you:
- Talk with your manager about your thoughts (or your manager’s manager!)
- Provide feedback in employee surveys
- Share your thinking and local expertise with people who do have more influence
- Participate in forums, be a ‘hand raiser’ when opportunities to have a voice do arise
For sure, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have a dramatic impact. But by focusing on what you can influence, you’re moving from ‘learned helplessness’ to ‘learned optimism’ and expanding your Circle of Influence.
Take global warming as another example. Can you keep global warming below 2c, all by yourself? Of course not. But there are still actions that you can take to make your contribution to reducing global warming.
Identify your concerns, then focus on what you can do, to address those concerns. You’ll expand your Circle of Influence.
Let’s look at some more ways to expand your Circle of Influence.
How to extend your Circle of Influence
The simplest way to expand your Circle of Influence is to focus on it. Recognize what (and how) you can influence and use this clarity to focus your time and energy.
Here are 5 more tips:
- Improve your listening skills
- Be curious, ask questions
- Cultivate a proactive, growth mindset
Remember, do all of this with a focus on what you can influence.
You’ll enhance your performance, grow, and feel happier too!
Circle of Influence: in summary
It’s natural for us to focus on threats and dangers, it’s part of how our brain is wired.
Refocus on your Circle of Influence, you’ll realize you can influence more than you first imagined! And this focus will give you a greater sense of control, and the motivation to take action.
At the same time, you can further expand your Circle of Influence by cultivating the skills that will help you. Learn to network more effectively, build relationships, listen, and ask questions, cultivate your purpose and your mindset!
You’ll soon be more productive, learning, growing, and happier too!