We can consider our Circle of Influence the collection of things in life that we have the ability to directly impact through our decisions and our actions. Our Circle of Concern is the collection of everything we are aware of, whether we will ever be able to impact it or not. The first of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to Be Proactive. Stephen Covey advises us to spend our energy on the things we can impact, rather than those that our attention will be wasted on.
Johnny has a baseball game today. Johnny’s dad, Matt, is watching the Cubs play the Angels on TV this morning before Johnny’s game this afternoon. Matt’s wife, Linda, is making breakfast and Zoe, the younger of the two children, hasn’t woken up yet.
Matt’s Circle of Concern (COC) includes the Cubs vs. Angels game, commercial advertisers, sportscasters, the television network, Linda, Johnny, Zoe, Johnny’s game, breakfast, and a slew of other things he is aware of that are too numerous to be listed. A subset of that collection is Matt’s Circle of Influence (COI), quite a bit smaller than his Circle of Concern, but certainly within its bounds: the people of his household and their activities today.
Johnny’s awake and is gearing up for his game later. Linda could use a little help setting the table. It’s about time for Zoe to wake up so she’ll be ready in time for breakfast. Matt has an opportunity as Dad to help Johnny prep for the game and to wake Zoe so she’ll be able to enjoy breakfast with the family. He has a chance to help Linda with breakfast as Husband (and perhaps score some hard-to-come-by points for later “redemption”). Instead, Matt’s watching men who don’t know him play a game he can’t attend, whose outcome is 100% out of Matt’s control. He has made a decision to focus his time and energy on things within his COC but certainly outside of his COI.
As Matt decides to spend his resources on things he has no influence on, his Circle of Influence shrinks. If he does not decide to invest energy into the efforts and interests of his family during the next two hours that the game is on TV, he has a smaller influence on the outcome of the day than he would had he been more involved with his family’s activities (which might turn out to be quite disappointing for him in the later hours of the evening). However, Matt has an opportunity to decide in each moment, even within the two hours that the game is on TV, where to spend his energy – he can make changes in his behavior that will directly impact the events of the day.
Matt could expand his COI by inviting Johnny to watch the game with him and then teach Johnny some aspect of the game that Johnny hasn’t learned yet. On commercial breaks, he could help set the table for Linda. At the next change of innings, Matt can wake Zoe, brush her teeth, and bring her downstairs to join the rest of the family for breakfast. Doing these few things would certainly provide him greater influence (an expanded COI) on the outcome of the day and his influence would be much more “enjoyed” – by him and his family.
Our thoughts, our time, and our energy are scarce and valuable – it is up to us to choose to apply them where they’ll make a difference in our lives and in others’ lives. This is a choice we’ve all been provided within every moment – it is our decision whether to gain control of our lives through applying ourselves to where we have influence, or to accept what life “deals” to us by wasting our energies on things we have no possibility of changing.
How will we choose? Focus our energy and efforts on the physical, emotional, financial (et cetera) wellness of ourselves and those we love? Waste them on things we can never control?
We choose carefully where we spend/give our money…why do we so frivolously treat our time and energy?