The late, great Stephen Covey said to focus on one’s “Circle of Influence”, which is the things we have direct control over. Basically, the Circle of Influence is our own lives and our own affairs, the way we react to certain situations and other people, what we think etc.
Most people give a lot of attention to the “Circle of Interest” which you could summarise as “other people’s business”. Examples include news, media, celebrities, and so forth. Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong in being interested in these things, but to put a lot of focus on them is detrimental. People who spend their time and energy in the Circle of Interest, tend to be unhappy and their outlook is pessimistic more often than not.
Why is that so? Covey explains that it’s uncomfortable and frustrating for us to invest our energy and emotions into things we have no control over. It makes us feel powerless and small, like we’re in a moving vehicle with someone else behind the wheel.
The interesting part is that a lot of the time, we hand over control of parts of our lives and don’t even notice it. We don’t just do this by following celebrity gossip or news programs, but also in smaller, less noticeable actions day by day. I’d like to examine a few of those to make them more conscious. Clarity is the first step towards taking back control.
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The big question
Examine any part of your life which you’re not 100% happy with, and ask yourself: “Who’s in control here?” The answer is often revealing.
Say you have trouble with your self-esteem and your confidence. When you ask who controls this, you may instantly think: “I do, of course”. I’d like to invite you to dig a little deeper, though, because we often subconsciously give away control without meaning to. For example, many people depend on their spouse or partner when it comes to body-image and confidence. If they even get the impression that their partner doesn’t find them attractive any longer, their self-esteem plummets.
Hands up who’s never been subject to this? I know I certainly have. It’s important for you to realise that this is fairly common and no matter how confident you usually are, it’s likely that you’ve fallen into this trap at least once in your life. There’s nothing shameful or “weak” about it; simply notice what’s going on and then gently take measures to shift control back to yourself.
Money, money, money
Finances are another area in which people give away control. Look closely whenever you feel like you can’t afford something. “My boss won’t give me a pay rise,” someone might say, or: “I just paid a large electricity bill, I can’t possibly afford xyz.” Who’s got the control, you or your boss? You or the electricity provider?
You may argue that you need a job and you certainly need electricity. But look more closely once again: Are you obliged to stay in this job indefinitely? Maybe there are other options or you could get a side job at the weekends to raise some extra cash. Maybe there’s an alternative electricity provider with lower rates. Take control and evaluate your options.
Again, I’m not saying there aren’t situations when there’s genuinely nothing you can do, at least temporarily. What I’m saying is: Don’t be so quick to hand over control. Don’t wait for someone else to do things for you. And most of all, don’t deny yourself what you really want in life because you’ve handed over control over your money, your self-esteem, or your time.
Take back control
Want to sign up for a workshop but it’s not in your budget currently? Look around for extra income or calculate what you could save in the coming month or two. If the numbers add up, then go for it and buy the ticket. You’re in control and you also control how you’ll get the money back.
Feel like your time belongs to other people rather than yourself? Take control and radically free up space for yourself. Insert half an hour of Self Care a week to start off with, then add 10 minutes meditation every morning, or whatever feel right. You can only be your best for others if you fill your own vessel first, so be relentless in your pursuit of your well-being.
The bottom line is that your life is yours to live and design. Circumstances can be out of your hands, but what you do with them is always, 100% under your control. Exercise this control and go for what’s important to you. It’s what you’re here to do.