Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control…

“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.” 

Paulo Coelho

Forgive the long post but this topic is something that I am really passionate about… I am a huge fan of Dr. Stephen Covey’s classic “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It has been one of the most impactful books that I have read and studied in my life and each of the Habits are incredibly powerful. It is certainly a must read ((In fact, thinking about it now I am due to reread it again soon…) and one that I highly recommend.

One of the things that resonated so much with me the first time I read the book was the concept of the “circle of concern” vs. “circle of control.” Proactive people tend to live a life focused on their “circle of control” while reactive people tend to live a life that is reacting to things outside of their control.

I bring this up in context with this quote because the weather is a great example of “circle of concern.” We can’t control the storms, the sunshine or how the weather changes our plans. But we can control how we react to the weather. We can make decisions to wear different clothes, make different plans, put an umbrella in our car.

This is such a great metaphor for life. If we choose spend our energy focused on reacting to things that are in our “circle of concern” instead of being focused on the things with in our “circle of control” we will always be reacting, always be unhappy, always be unsettled.

It is hard to do at times but I try to run everything impacting my life, and those around me, through this filter and ask myself the following questions.

  • Is this thing/event/circumstance within my circle of concern or circle of control?
  • Circle of Concern:
    • What decisions do I need to make regarding how I will act/react to it?
    • What is within my control that will influence how this impacts me/others?
    • Where can/should I have made different decisions that will/would have impacted the impact on my world/environment?
  • Circle of Control:
    • What can I do to impact this?
    • Where should I invest my effort and energy to make a proactive change?
    • What can I do differently?

Take a look at this picture below. I think it does a tremendous job outlining the difference in how people react to the Circle of Concern vs. the Circle of Control.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”

Paulo Coelho

I love Paulo Coelho’s book “The Alchemist.”  It is one of my favorite reads and another book that I try to read at least once a year.  If you haven’t read it is the story of a young shepherd boy who is on a desperate search for a worldly treasure.  He keeps his eyes open along the way and pays attention to the many omens that he finds to bring him to the treasure he truly seeks.  It is an easy book to read and carries much deeper meaning than what is available at first glance.  

What does it mean for you to “concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want?”  For me it means clearly answering, with great detail, these questions:

What does success look like?  What is it we are trying to achieve?  What will it feel like when we get there?  How will we know we have achieved our goal?  What would prevent us from getting there?  These are key questions and ones that cannot afford to be overlooked when planning out our goals.  Far too often I find that we have good ideas but don’t put in the effort to clearly define what exactly it is that we are trying to achieve.  

For me “keeping your eyes open” is doing the hard work up front to paint a crystal clear vision for yourself of what it is that you want to accomplish.  Without this it is just muddy and subject to many detours and deviations along the way.  It reminds me of Yogi Berra’s quote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”  

 

 

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