Circles of Influence and Concern comes from Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989).
It can be very useful if you are worrying about several different things, or one big thing which has lots of different factors.
A Circle of Concern contains all the things which have an impact on us and which we worry about. These can be anything on your mind, from big to small. These might include the weather, the economy, work, family worries… Some we can do something about, some we cannot.
A Circle of Influence sits inside the Circle of Concern and contains the things we are worried about, but which we can do something to change. Hence sometimes it is called the “Circle of Control”.
You can start by just drawing your Circle of Concern and dumping everything inside. Then add your Circle of Influence and start moving things into it – those you have some influence over. You can do the whole exercise with pens on a big sheet of paper or you might like to use sticky notes to make it easier to move things around.
By focussing on your Circle of Influence, you can begin to be more active in making things better. Identifying areas where you can do something is the first step in planning what your actions will be. This exercise might also help you to accept that there are some things you cannot change right now.
You might feel more empowered and even discover your Circle of Influence grows bigger as you feel able to take on more challenges. If you only look at your Circle of Concern, you could end up feeling powerless and demotivated instead.
Here and here are examples of how the exercise works. You can use the provided template or draw your own. You need not restrict yourself to drawing on paper, either – feel free to experiment with small objects, craft materials, sand… It’s yours!