Do you get stressed out worrying about things you can’t control? Or do you tend to stay energized and focus on things that you can influence? Stephen Covey explains the habit of being proactive (the first of his seven habits of highly effective people) with what he calls the circle of concern and the circle of influence.
Your life doesn’t just “happen”. Whether you know it or not, it is designed by you through the choices you make. The choices are, after all, yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to choose to do things differently and produce different, more positive results.
Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern
Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas – the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.
The Circle of Concern:
The Circle of Concern represents the degree of focus we spend dealing with our concerns such as our health, family and work related problems. The more time and energy we spend brooding or worrying about pressures over which we have no control, or complaining about barriers that we perceive we cannot overcome, then the more stressed we become.
When you focus on things we can’t control, we feel caught up in a cycle of reactive behaviour, and the world feels like it is bearing down on us.
The Circle of Influence:
The Circle of Influence represents the degree of focus we place on doing things to influence some of our concerns. The more we focus on the things we can do something about and work on them, the more ‘pro-active’ and less stressed we become.
When we focus on things we can control, we feel energised and able to increase our circle of influence.
Are You A Proactive Or A Reactive Person?
- Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work.
- Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern – things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather.
Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we choose to focus our attention is a giant step in becoming proactive.