Your Circle of Influence

“I can’t do anything about my boss, he doesn’t listen and tries to micromanage everything.”

If I could recommend only 1 book to someone it would be The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s the best life & business book I’ve ever read and basically any other advice book could be “refactored” into terms of the 7 Habits.

One of the most powerful concepts in the book is the idea of your Circle of Influence vs. your Circle of Concern.

Your Circle of Concern is everything you care about: your family, the weather, world peace, Donald Trump, the decisions of your boss, the movement of your company’s stock price, etc.

Your Circle of Influence is the set of things that you actually have control over. Things like your own behavior, how you treat others, what you spend your time on, etc.

For the vast majority of people, our Circle of Influence is smaller than our Circle of Concern:

(This is one of the reasons on Twitter I’ve stopped following almost anyone who tweets about politics. It was growing my Circle of Concern whereas my Circle of Influence re: the federal government was static. It was distracting me from the things I actually have control over.)

“My boss always changes the work I turn in. Why even bother if he’s going to mess with what I spent so much time on?”

It’s easy to get into a default state where we see problems as things caused by stuff “out there”, outside of our control. It’s easy to throw up our hands and say this is someone else’s fault.

Which all may be true! Life is definitely not fair, and obviously we’re all born with different natural talents, opportunities, and social networks.

But that’s the point. Given that life is so deeply unfair, the only possible response is to focus on what you can actually control. 

Complaining is so easy because it gives responsibility of our current situation to others. It turns the arrow of responsibility outwards rather than inwards.

“I can’t change how my boss reacts, but maybe I’ll try an experiment and do extra research in advance and ask him up front what he thinks should be done and incorporate that into my deliverable.”

We can complain that things outside our control have negatively impacted our lives, or we can focus on things we can control and slowly grow that Circle of Influence.

I’ll be the first to say that I struggle with this. It is so easy to give up and say there’s nothing I can do. Like most things related to success in life, this idea is simple but not necessarily easy.

But given that most of life’s gains compound over time, if we focus our attention little by little every day on the things we can control, over enough time those little changes grow and you end up with a much larger Circle of Influence.

“My boss didn’t change anything on this deliverable, and he asked me for input in the next group meeting. Others were surprised and wondered why he cared what I had to say.”