In which circle do you spend most of your time?

A few years ago as part of my role as Learning and Development Business Partner I had to deliver Time Management training to the partners of the Law Firm where I worked. Now this is a popular session for trainers to deliver, however I was a novice. The people attending were all very busy ‘high profile’ people and were giving up a full day of their time on the proviso that I teach them things that will help! I had the sweats, I wanted to deliver a really worthwhile session but this was a subject I had never taught before so I did the best thing I could. I researched the hell out of it. By the time I came to deliver it I had 3 certificates from different time management courses I had completed and my book collection had grown! The best thing I learned was from Stephen Coveys ‘7 Habits of Highly Successful People’ and it changed my life.

It was the circle of influence and circle of concern.


Basically the Circle of Concern contains all the items we have no control over. Such as the weather, other peoples opinions, public transport, the economy, local opportunities etc. Our Circle of Influence contains all the things we can control like who we spend our time with, how we spend our time, what we eat, where we live, how we look after our bodies, our education and so on.

As soon as I was aware of these circles I started focusing only on my circle of influence. I noticed that it began to grow and my circle of concern shrank! I’ll give you an example of one situation and the differences of acting in each circle. In the UK there is nothing we can do about the weather but it is still one of the most popular topics of conversation! There are people who have the weather in their circle of concern and love to dwell on it.

Example A

I have a BBQ planned for the bank holiday I hope it’s nice weather. Fingers crossed for sunshine. Knowing my luck it’ll probably rain!
Oooo it’s lovely today I wish I’d had the BBQ today. This weather wont last and now I’ve picked a rubbish day! (sulks)
It’s not stopped raining all week I just know it’s going to be like this for my BBQ and it’s going to be ruined! (sulks)
Day of the BBQ – it’s Raining
I just knew it, nothing ever goes right for me. I have no luck at all! Everyone leaves early because it’s a washout!

They focused on their concerns and they ended up coming true! If they had spent less time worrying and complaining they could have prepared for this.

Example B

I have a BBQ planned for the Bank Holiday. I researched the weather forecasts but they can never really predict these things! I hope it’s nice weather, I might look online for ideas in case it does rain (1 Pinterest board created and 2 hours spent pinning).
Oooo it’s lovely today I hope it’s like this the day of my BBQ (enjoys the sunshine)
It’s not stopped raining all week so there’s a chance it’s going to be like this for my BBQ I best get something organised (heads back to Pinterest and ends up with a gazeebo, fairy lights, paper lanterns and a hot tub on hire)
Day of the BBQ – it’s Raining
This is amazing, get in the hot tub guys and pass me another burger!

In the second example they were still unable to control the weather however instead of focusing on this in their circle of concern (and having a pity party) they acted in their circle of influence and took action to ensure it would be a good day regardless of the weather which could not be controlled.

So maybe a little far fetched (or maybe not) but I hope you get the point. We cannot control what happens to us in life but we can control how we chose to deal with things and we can prepare for some things. The whingers and the worriers spend a lot of time unhappy and stressed instead of using this energy to take control. The optimists always have a good time but don’t always get the best results as they fail to prepare (never seeing the worst). The realists know they are in control and do what needs to be done for the best result!

Here’s an example you may relate to more. My train is delayed and this means I am going to be late for work. I can stand and get stressed, clock watching and counting how many minutes it’s late by. I could moan to the person stood next to me about how this is the second time this week it’s been late! I could then complain to the conductor when he arrives to make myself feel better by ranting (even though he’s already having a bad day for items outside his control and the last thing he needs is to hear people complain). I then stomp to work as quickly as possible and arrive in a fluster, in a bad mood ready to complain to everyone I see about how much of a nightmare my commute was and how I hate public transport. All this negative energy will have me feeling justified at the complaining as it has affected me so much!

Or I could accept this is beyond my control and decide on how to use this time. I could get a message to work to explain the situation and say I will be late. I could read that last chapter of my book, catch up on social media, read my emails, call my mum! There are probably many possibilities and before I know the train will soon arrive. I then travel to work as normal (having accepted I will be late) and arrive feeling ok, even though I was a little late to work they understood it was not my fault and it wasn’t so bad waiting. In fact the train had arrived and I nearly didn’t notice I was so absorbed enjoying my book!

I always believe there are only two options for dealing with something bad, you either let it make you bitter, or you can use it to make you better. So no matter what happens in life, take back control and choose how you wish to deal with things, don’t just react.

Let me know, have you come across the two circles before and do you know where you spend most of your time?

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