Fear cripples us. We live in the future and are not present. You can control success. Show up. Choose yourself. Focus on what you can control.

Win by showing up

Fear cripples us. Our fears subdue our presence.
We are afraid to be who we are and are not present.
We have hopes, dreams and fears for the future.
Our mind dwells in the future.
Yet only in the moment can we realise all our hopes and dreams.
We must establish processes to act in the moment, for the benefit of a future hope or dream.
The process becomes the reward and helps us to overcome fear.

To act in the moment we must first show up.

Our mind dwells in the future.
Yet only in the moment can we realise all our hopes and dreams.
We must establish processes to act in the moment, for the benefit of a future hope or dream.

To act in the moment we must first show up.

Choose yourself

By choosing to create something, anything, and lay it open to the world, I have achieved something great. I have already won because I did not reject myself.

“…if you choose to create something, you’ve already won because you haven’t rejected yourself.”

james clear

Others may reject my words and ideas. This is outside of my Circle of Control.

Your Circle of Control

One of the fundamental Stoic principles for achieving “tranquillity” is to focus only on those things over which one has control.

We should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”

Epictetus, enchiridion

William Irvine, in his excellent and thought-provoking book A Guide to the Good Life The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (2009) (and audiobook) extends this idea by adding a third category:

  • things over which we have some, but not complete control.

We should focus our energies only on things over which we have complete control and on things over which we have some, but not complete control. I’ll have more to say on this later.

Stoic wisdom in the modern era

Stephen Covey brought some of these ideas to modern readers in his classic book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1992) (and audiobook). Covey proposes two Circles:

  1. The Circle of Concern includes the wide range of things we worry about, from our children to the government and war.
  2. The Circle of Influence includes things we can actually do something about.

Reactive people focus on issues within their Circle of Concern. We have no control over these issues. By focusing on these items, we waste energy and feel dis-empowered. News is a great example of an overwhelmingly negative issue out of our control. I have made a conscious effort to stop consuming the mass media news and am thereby less concerned by it.

Proactive people focus on issues within their Circle of Influence. The result is that proactive people expand their circle of influence. Covey’s Circle of Influence appears to include both things over which we have complete control and things over which we have some, but not complete control.

More recently, Covey’s ideas have been discussed in the blogging world. In the visual depiction below, the Circle of Influence becomes the Circle of Control.

Circle of Concern vs Circle of Control 
James Clear
Circle of Concern vs Circle of Control James Clear

The image conveys a magical truth. The left side shows a large Circle of Concern and a small Circle of Control. By focusing on what we can control, on things within our Circle of Control, we can expand our Circle of Control and shrink our Circle of Concern. Notice that in the right side the Circle of Control has expanded, leaving little room within our Circle of Concern to hold things over which we have no control.

Great wisdom lies in:

– realising what issues are actually in our Circle of Control
– examining what issues we are spending our time on.

We can effect real change in our lives by spending our limited energy on issues within our Circle of Control. When I feel overwhelmed with life there is a good chance I am focusing on issues I cannot control, issues within my Circle of Concern.

The three circle model and internalising goals

I propose consolidating these ideas into a three-circle model:

Circles of Control
React vs Internalise vs Act

According to Irvine, to exert control over our Circle of Influence, we must internalise our goal. This usually takes the form of “I will do my best to…” or “I will give my very best in order to…”. This allows us to exert influence on the outcome. We can never completely control the outcome. However, we have complete control whether we bring our full attention and effort to the internalised task.

Conclusion

The issues within the Circle of Concern can be likened to consuming or input: things that happen to us.

  • We can only react.

The issues within the Circle of Influence can be likened to attitudes we adopt and goals we internalise: attitudes that we happen to.

  • We can act on internalised goals.

The issues within the Circle of Control can be linked to creating or output: things that we happen to.

  • We can act.

I am focusing on my Circle of Control. I can control my own action. I can choose to write.

I cannot control the thoughts, feelings and responses of others.

I can only effect change by:

  • Directly acting on items in my Circle of Control.
  • Directly acting on internalised goals for items in my Circle of Influence.

I can show up.

I can create.

I can write.

Categories: Philosophy

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