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Concentrate on what you can control - a tip for caregivers and anyone else who wants a simpler life

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

How much time and energy do you spend thinking “I wish…”, “if only…”, “wouldn’t it be better if…”? How many of those things could you actually do anything effective about? And do you take what action you could?


One sunny March morning in the past I sat in the office, supposedly working, but actually thinking about what was going on elsewhere. After two days of experiencing Murphy’s Law at its finest, my other half was taking my mother A&E with an ankle injury, and then going to sort out the flat tyre we’d got on the way to them dropping me off at work. I wondered how they were getting on, if there was serious damage to the ankle, if we’d need one or more new tyres, what time they’d be back to collect me. Then I worried about the work I wasn’t getting done because I was worrying about the other stuff. Sound familiar?


Looking back it’s easy to see that I had no control over what was going on elsewhere, and that the best use of that time would have been to concentrate on my work and get that done. That’s easier said than done, especially in the moment, but when you’re worrying about something it’s helpful to ask “what can I actually do right now?” If there’s something you can do to help the situation then great – do it. If not, what else can you do that’s generally helpful?


Circles of concern, influence and control*

Imagine yourself as the centre of your own universe. There are three circles around you, each getting further away from you. The circle nearest to you, within your reach, is your circle of control - the things you can do, that are within your power to have a direct impact on. The second is your circle of influence - it’s further from you so rather than direct control you have may have some impact through influencing others. And then there’s the circle of concern - the one where you have an interest / concern in an area but neither control or influence.



An example

Taking the environment and waste as an example: - within your circle of control you can choose what you buy, where you buy from, what you do with the waste that is generated - within your circle of influence you could inspire or encourage friends and family around what they choose to buy and do - within your circle of concern you might be worried about and interested in what big companies and governments are doing without any actual control or influence.

It is more directly productive to concentrate on what you can do within your circle of control than to worry about the circle of concern. It is also more likely to be indirectly productive, because you are more likely to influence others with the example you set and first-hand knowledge you can share.


Where could you use your time acting within your circle of control and increasing your circle of influence? What difference will it make?


When my other half was signed off work with stress, my life was turned upside down too. These blog posts are based on the things that helped me, the lessons I learnt the hard way and what I realise with the benefit of hindsight would have helped. I’ve collected some of the other key learning points and tips and made these available to download at https://www.fionagillies.co.uk/pivot-pointers.


*I first encountered the concept of “circles of concern, influence and control” in Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and although I have since seen many adaptations and implementations my acknowledgement goes to Steven Covey.


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