At the moment, it’s easy to think there’s very little that’s within our control. Unfortunately, we’re right. However, this makes it even more important to focus on what we can control.
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey1 separates our lives into three concentric circles: control, concern, and influence.
The Circle of Control includes events we control directly. In the Circle of Influence, we find those areas where we have some control, but are also partly affected by the behaviour of other people. Finally, the Circle of Concern is everything that affects us, yet we’re powerless to change it. When I use the exercise with clients, this circle is usually inhabited by Brexit, parents-in-law, and spiteful weather.
As you’ll see, the Circle of Control is minuscule – perhaps the size of a 10p coin. But there’s enough space for a few tiny actions. And tiny actions, over time, build up into big results.
In financial terms, it might look like this:
There’s flap-all we can do about interest rates, stock market performance, or government policy. And we have only limited control over how much we earn – for instance, a customer might go bankrupt leaving our invoices unpaid, or we become unable to work due to illness. What we control is those daily habits around spending, saving, and investing.
Focus on that 10p coin, and ignore the rest.
- Covey had nine children, so was clearly highly effective In all areas of his life. [↩]