How to focus on what you can control

Sometimes we feel like passengers in this vehicle called life.

It often seems like we are not the ones with the GPS and are being taken for a ride. But that’s far from the truth. Life doesn’t just ‘happen’ to you, you drive outcomes through the decisions you make.

When people feel they have no control, it’s because they are focusing their time and energy in the wrong direction. You can go through the motions in life if you want, or you can be proactive and create the future you desire. To shed light on how to focus on what you can control, we looked to Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.


Spinning wheels

According to Covey, we can divide focus into two circles: The ‘Circle of Concern’ and the ‘Circle of Influence.’



The ‘Circle of Concern’

Holds the concerns of life we have no control over. We might have some mental or emotional involvement with them, but we have no real control over them.

Circle of Concern includes: the economy; the news; politics; natural disasters; past mistakes; upbringing; delayed travel; traffic; global warming; the choices and behaviour of others.


The ‘Circle of Influence’

Holds the things you can influence and do have control over. You grow your knowledge and experience here and build trustworthiness, expanding your circle of influence.

Circle of Influence includes: where you live; where you work; what skills you learn; attitude and enthusiasm; places to travel; happiness.



Speed limits

In his book, Covey highlights two types of people: reactive and proactive.

  • Reactive people cruise past their ‘Circle of Influence’ and idle on the issues in their ‘Circle of Concern’. They sit back and let things outside of their influence steer them and their choices. They spend their time and energy worrying about things they have no solution for. Reactive people feel powerless and often blame external circumstances for their limitations.
  • Proactive people focus on their ‘Circle of Influence’ instead of dwelling on the problems they cannot change. They shift gears on their energy and focus, to areas where they can make a difference and choose their responses. By doing so, they drive their lives forward, instead of breaking for circumstance. Proactive people help improve the world as they expand their ‘Circle of Influence’.


When you focus on things you cannot control, you have less time and energy for things you can influence. To gain control of your life, keep your focus on your ‘Circle of Influence’ and leave your ‘Circle of Concern’ in the rear-view mirror.



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