The Circle of Influence - Trail Runner

The Circle of Influence

5 Minute Read

Constantly worrying about s#*% is a fact of life. It just is. So the question is what s#*% should we worry about?

On any given day, we often find ourselves consumed by worries and concerns that drain our energy, steal our attention, and distract us. However, concerns and worries come in all shapes and sizes - some worthy of our attention, and some not. And determining which concerns deserve our attention is exactly the point of this concept - The Circle of Influence. 

The Circle of Influence concept can be transformative, and, with mothers day around the corner,  it’s the perfect time to dig into it. The concept applies to runners, moms, and mom runners alike! Let's delve into this concept and explore how we can shift our focus to regain control and achieve greater peace of mind.

The Circle of Influence vs. Circle of Concern

The Circle of Influence vs. Circle of Concern is a concept introduced by Stephen Covey in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." It distinguishes between things we can control (Circle of Influence) and things we cannot control (Circle of Concern). 

Issues in life that we have no control over are generally much wider in scope, as there are literally infinite things we can potentially worry about. And so, the circles exist within one another (see figure below). The key takeaway from Covey’s concept, is that our lives are best lived when we direct more of our focus to the Circle of Influence. The problems that exist in this circle are within our control to a degree, and we have the power to influence outcomes (hence it’s name). In this circle, we can expand our capacity to make positive change and reduce stress.

The Circle of Concern

The Circle of Concern is a wide net of all life’s problems that are broad in scope, and we generally have no control over. And because we lack control over issues, this is a particularly dangerous circle to spend metal focus. It’s a waste of time and energy, which are both limited resources. Focusing on problems we have no control over leave us with very limited effort left to actually focus on the things in life that we have influence over.

All of us have dedicated time to the Circle of Concern. Moms, runners, and runner moms can find themselves spending a bit too much time here. For moms, the Circle of Concern may include worrying about societal expectations, other people's nonsensical judgments, or what the tuition cost of college will be in 2045. Similarly, runners may spend excessive energy worrying about unpredictable weather conditions, peer comparisons, or how their endurance capacity will fare over the next 30 years of aging.

Interestingly, the circle of concern is not always the easiest to identify, and oftentimes we have the perception that concerns and worries are in our control, when they simply may not be. 

Circle of Influence

This is where we want to be. 

Why waste time on things we cannot change? The Circle of Influence is where the magic happens. We should direct our attention here, where the problems we have are important, impactful, and we have influence over them to implement positive change. For moms, the Circle of Influence includes nurturing relationships with the kiddos, developing time management skills, or practicing self-care routines. Runners (obviously) can focus on training consistently, recovery techniques, and nutrition choices.

All of these concerns are valid, and spending time focusing on them can actually yield positive outcomes. This is where moms, runners, and runner moms should live!

Okay, But How

We’ve already mentioned that it can sometimes be difficult to identify what issues in life are actually under our control, and which are not. So let’s just start there! The first priority in using the Circle of Influence concept to your advantage is to break down the concerns we spend our time worrying about, and be really honest with about which of these we have influence over. 

And frankly, sometimes it can be difficult to let go of the issues we have no control over. The brain operates on habit, and if you’re accustomed to worrying about Circle-of-Concern-type crap, well then it’ll be tough at first to direct your attention elsewhere. This in itself will take practice, which is just something to be aware of. 

Importantly, we don’t think that the answer is to simply “not worry” about stuff we can’t control. As mentioned above, this is very difficult in practice. The difference is subtle, but the best strategy is to identify the problems we can control, and spend time worrying about those. Yes, we recommend spending our time worrying. We’re just recommending that we all choose our worries wisely. The brain will worry. It just will. It is a fact of life, so instead of trying to “stop worrying” about issues we cannot control, the resolution is to begin worrying about the things we can influence.

Wrap Up

The Circle of Influence vs. Circle of Concern empowers moms, runners, runner moms (and everyone else) to reclaim their energy and focus on what truly matters. By letting go of unnecessary worries and directing efforts towards actionable goals, we can cultivate resilience, enhance well-being, and achieve meaningful success in both motherhood and running.

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