How To Use The Circle Of Influence To Immediately Feel Better

two circles on ground, woman standing on one

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I came across the circle of influence early on in the coronavirus pandemic and was immediately struck by both its simplicity and its usefulness.

Back in March 2020 my head (like the rest of humanity) was full of all kinds of worries.

What if I caught the virus?

What if I passed it onto an elderly relative?

How on earth was I going to be able to work from home?

What if I couldn’t get any loo roll????

The NHS Trust where I work has a wonderful psychology department who began to share useful tools with us to help us manage the emotion and stress of what was happening.  The circle of influence has definitely been my favourite.

Here’s some more about it.


circle of influence


What Is The Circle Of Influence?


7 habits of highly effective people Stephen R Covey


In his brilliant book The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about there being two concentric circles that govern our lives.

The circle of concern covers everything we spend our time worrying about over which we have no control.  The economy, the weather, politics, government reaction to the pandemic, other people’s behaviour.

Within the circle of influence are the things that we do have control and influence over.  Our own behaviour, what actions we take, what books we read, what we choose to do with our time and so on.

Stephen Covey tells us that proactive people spend more time focussing their energy on what they can influence and control.

Reactive people, on the other hand, spend a lot of time and energy focusing on what they have little or no control over.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

He also says that focusing your energy on the circle of concern will shrink what you can influence.  On the other hand if you focus on what you can influence, then your circle of concern will shrink instead.

The result will be that you will feel calmer and more in control.


[tweetshare tweet=”“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.” ― Steve Maraboli” username=”alisonw30″]


An Example


Using the coronavirus pandemeic as an example, here are some things that could be in your circles of concern and influence.

Whilst you can’t control what other people are saying on social media for example, you can control your own posts and comments.  Keep these in a positive light and don’t underestimate the influence your words will have on others.

[tweetshare tweet=”No control problems involve taking the responsibility to change the line on the bottom (of) our face – to smile, to genuinely and peacefully accept these problems and learn to live with them, even though we don’t like them.” – Stephen Covey” username=”alisonw30″]


An Exercise To Help You Feel Better


notebook with pencils on dressing table

Image by Pixistock

Here’s how to apply the circle of influence to help you feel better quickly.

If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, then take 10 minutes to follow the steps below.

  1. Take a moment to consider all the things that are contributing to your feelings of stress and overwhelm.  It could be the medical appointment you haven’t made yet.  An ongoing concern about someone you care about.  Problems at work.  Issues with children.  Jot these down.
  2. Now draw three concentric circles on a large sheet of paper.  Label the outer circle ‘concern’, the next one ‘influence’ and the final, additional circle ‘control’.
  3. Next start to add your ‘overwhelm’ items to the various circles.   If you have no control over the item then add it to ‘concern’.  If you have some control, or you can influence others, add it to ‘influence’.  With anything you can control, add it to ‘control’.
  4. For those items in your control circle, commit to take action (however small) on one of these today and instantly feel better.
  5. For those things you have influence over, again commit to take action on at least one of these items in the next few days.
  6. Finally, take a pen (preferably a thick felt tipped type one) and strike through those items in your ‘concern’ circle.  Let these things go!

Once you’ve completed the exercise, keep it somewhere close at hand so you can refer to it and remind yourself where you want to focus your energies.

I would also suggest scheduling a time to review the exercise, say in a month.  If you review and revisit regularly, over time you should notice a shift of your energies towards those things you can influence rather than those things over which you have no control.

Related Post:  11 Big Things I Stopped Caring About


Benefits Of The Circle Of Influence


woman writing on pad


.Image by Pixistock


The benefits of expanding your circle of influence and becoming more proactive are far-reaching.

When you focus your energy on the things that you can control, your influence will grow.

For example, say you take a course.  This then increases your knowledge on a topic and as a result it will help you to influence others on that topic.

Gradually you will find that you are able to influence things that previously you thought would not be possible.

Another great benefit of this exercise (and one of the reasons I personally have found it so useful) is that it helps reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and helplessness.

During the pandemic, I’ve returned to the exercise again and again.  I’ve had to remind my self quite a number of times that I have no control over government policy or the news.

Yes I still worry, but not for as long or as deeply as I did previously.  Instead, I will turn my attention to what I can actually DO.  What action can I personally take (for example making sure I adhere to the rules as much as possible even when I see others who aren’t).

The speed of the exercise is another great benefit.

It can quickly help you separate what you can control from what you can’t.  You know what to focus your energy on within minutes and it can help you feel better straight away.

Accomplishing a couple of things you can control will also give you a boost and a sense of achievement.


group celebrating on beach

Photo by Guille Álvarez on Unsplash


Now It’s Your Turn


It’s your turn now to have a go using the circle of influence.  Follow the instructions above and then let me know what you are going to let go of and what you are going to focus your attention on in the comments below!

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  1. Jeannie

    Such an informative article. Also, meditation helps to limit worrying about things which we can’t control, I’m working on that, this article will be very useful especially now that we are still limited in everything.

  2. Nooky

    This is very useful. It’s all about being mindful and awareness of we feel. We live in this busy modern life, sometimes we forget to pause and breath.

  3. Chloe Chats

    Great post Alison. I am definitely someone that worries about lots of things outside of my control which definitely doesn’t help when it comes to anxiety and stress. I love the sound of the activity of drawing the circles and writing in each one whats outside of our control but also what is inside – I can see how this can help make you feel a lot calmer. I’ve read a self help book that spoke about the same sort of thing with looking at things that you can control rather than worrying about all the things that you can’t. It definitely helps with changing the way you think and giving you that positive mindset. x

  4. Wellness Sparkles

    Amazing post! We worry a lot about things we have no control over and we forget how to deal with other things that we actually can change. I liked the purple circle, very interesting and I’ll definitely try that exercise. Thank you Alison for sharing this!

  5. Annie

    Ooh, such a great post! Thank you for delineating the difference between influence and concern!

  6. Destiny

    It’s true that we have to focus on things that we can control, not on the ones we cannot. It’s a hard trait to master but practice makes perfect!

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