You can spend time wishing people would change or that circumstances would be different, but where does that get you? Most likely it gets you tired and frustrated, and no better off than you were before.
Stephen Covey’s first habit in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Be Proactive, explores the Circle of Concern (everything that we care about), the Circle of Influence (things in our life that we can impact), and the Circle of Control (what we can actually change).
The key is to put energy into focusing on things we can actually do something about.
Circle of Concern
Simone Biles recently won her 5th world all-around championship which was her 25th world championship medal. She is the best gymnast in the world and is pretty much unbeatable. She also did this at the World Series, which reminds me that I am definitely not up for casual backflips.
Obviously most of that winning comes from tons of hard work and a tremendous amount of talent. But she’s also not letting anyone beat her at the mental game, which takes a lot of us down day to day.
If your favorite team is playing, you might really care about the outcome. I have friends who get so worked up about Packer games that when it’s close at the end they can’t even bear to watch! And my teammate Jill can have her whole day made or broken by the Brewers’ final score.
While it’s okay to care, it’s important to recognize where you have no ability to affect an outcome. You can yell and scream, or even paint your face green and gold, but in the end, it’s what the players do on the field that decides the outcome.
For Simone Biles, I am sure she cares about what happens with her competitors, but my guess is she isn’t fretting about what they are up to. There’s a reason why you see all those Olympic athletes with their hoods up and headphones on waiting to perform, not getting distracted by what else is going on around them.
If she’s on the beam worrying about what happened with someone else on the bars, she’s a lot more likely to fall. When it’s time to execute, you need to let go of the things that you have no sway over.
You will never control the weather, technology, or traffic. So can you put your hood up and your headphones in and wait until there’s something you can do something about? Think of all that frustration and energy you’ll save.
Circle of Influence
If we take one step closer to the center, we get into our Circle of Influence. This is all the places in our life that we have an opportunity to affect what happens, but aren’t really in control of the outcome.
This is where Simone tries to influence what happens next. It might be that she gets extra sleep if she’s feeling a cold coming on, or decides to practice anyway if her coach calls out sick. She isn’t totally in control, as our immune systems often have minds of their own, but you can influence what happens next.
For me, raising kids is all about your circle of influence. You can teach them morals, manners, and values. You can open up opportunities and try to help them make good decisions. But in the end, your children are their own people. You can’t control all of their actions and choices. In fact, as the mom of teenagers, I feel like I don’t control much these days! But hopefully, all of that early influence when they still listened will pay off.
At work, we can influence those around us by inspiring them, offering help if they need it, and creating collaborative environments. Does this guarantee that the work will get done just the way we want it? No, but our behavior can encourage others to follow suit, and definitely influences offices norms and morale in a positive direction.
Circle of Control
This is where you’re the boss! You get to make choices that control the outcome. This is where your energy can be used most effectively, and I encourage you to focus on your circle of control as much as you can.
This is when Simone executes. Where she does the routine that she has practiced a billion times, and works to stick every landing and nail every move.
Unfortunately, even in your circle of control there is no guarantee that things will always end up exactly the way you want them to, but you are in control of what happens next.
You are in control of what you say, what you do, and what you think. Nothing else. You get to choose how you respond to situations at home or at work. You get to choose how you show up. You get to choose your words.
When you use your energy to focus on your own behavior, words, and thoughts, then you will be taking an important step towards taking charge of your life.
Stop Wasting Energy
If you spend your days angry about other people’s behavior or gossiping about all the changes your boss needs to make or lamenting that your kid decided not to study for their science test, you’re going to be exhausted. You’ll probably also feel like a victim who is not in control of their own life.
So stop it! If you have influence, feel free to use it, but accept that people might make different choices. And if all you have is concern? Wish them well, cheer them on, and let it go.
If you can get clear on when it’s time to turn away and when it’s time to take control, you’ll have lots of energy left over to live a life you love.
Letting go of what concerns you and focusing on your circle of control will help you get in the winner’s circle just like Simone. Good luck!
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