How To Shift Focus to What You Can Actually Control

No factor.

This was my answer to a poll of business leaders on the question “How has the start of 2021 been compared to the same time last year?” Why no factor? I believe we're living in a world of exponential change. I've learned to expect crises and setbacks. January 2020 and January 2021 are no different in that regard. Seriously, think about all the crazy stuff that has happened the past 12 months:

  • Global pandemic

  • Civil unrest

  • Political issues

  • Rise of work-from-home

  • Explosion of digital currencies, blockchain and NFTs

Would you honestly be *that* surprised if an alien spaceship landed in your front yard today? The quicker we accept what we can't control and focus on what we can, the better. Yet we can often get stuck focusing on what we can’t control.

Credit: Stephen Covey

What is Our Circle of Concern?

Our circle of concern is made up of the things that frustrate us, but that we can’t do anything about. And there are plenty of people, rules, and circumstances that understandably frustrate us.

Perhaps you have a boss with unreasonable demands. Coworkers who “can’t get stuff done”. A government that isn’t moving fast enough. Every second that you spend focused on your circle of concern is a waste of time. It leads to a downward spiral and nothing good comes of it.

Focusing on Our Circle of Influence

Within the circle of concern is our circle of influence. These are the things we can actually do something about. Don’t like your boss? You can listen to them to understand them better and better meet their expectations. You can explore moving to a different team or department. You can look for another job and leave the organization. Don’t like what’s going on in the world? Stop watching mainstream media and read a book like Factfulness. It shows how many aspects of life today are better than they’ve ever been. Hans Rosling’s accompanying website Gapminder allows you to explore your current misconceptions around topics like poverty, global warming, female bosses, plastics in oceans, and more.

Did you know the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has plummeted from 85% in 1800 to a meager 9% in 2017?

Avoid getting sucked into the Downward Spiral

If you’re frustrated with something not progressing, ask yourself:

  • How much time am I wasting in my circle of concern?

  • When I focus on what I can control, in my circle of influence, what actions are possible?

The quicker you accept what you can’t control and get to your circle of influence, the more rapid progress you will make. What's one thing you change in your circle of influence?

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