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Less stress and more focus, with this amazing personal leadership model

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ANY subject in your life you can place in this amazing personal leadership model; the famous Circle of Influence. For example the weather at your vacation destination, whether the trains will run tomorrow, what you’re going to pick to eat tonight, whether your colleague will meet the deadline on time. etc etc. Effective (and well-rested and positive?) people are only actively engaged in 1 of these listed items. Effective people know what distinguishes the two categories. Do less stress and more focus sound appealing to you? Asking yourself: “how to be more focused?” This personal leadership model is your answer!

Make sure that living this amazing personal leadership model becomes second nature to you. 

May I present.. Personal leadership model ‘The Circle of Influence’

This is what this magic circle looks like. It is very simple, yet so powerful. Stephen Covey did a great job in expressing something so powerful in such a simple way.  

personal leadership model

The Circle of Influence consists of two circles: the inner circle which contains everything YOU can influence. For example, whether or not you go to a party. And in the outer circle is everything that you cannot influence but that you are involved in. For example, who is or is not present at that same party. Or what are they going to think about your outfit? 

A great example of the outer circle is also the weather. We have absolutely no influence on that, but many of us are very actively engaged in it. Wondering how to be more focused? For weather addicts: not talking about the weather the whole day, not speculating whether it will start raining soon or not, not checking your weather app 4 times a day. Because all this is in your circle of concern. And you would like to be more focused.   

What can you influence?

You may not be able to influence the weather. But you can influence how you think about the weather. Or on whether or not you go outside. On what you wear when it rains. Etc. etc. Focus on your influence. And spend as little energy as possible on what you do care about, but can’t change anyway. 

How can you do that? For example by Accepting and Adapting (also known for being two stress coping strategies, or by just leaving it. You can’t do anything about it. Surrender, accept and go with the flow. Resistance creates stress, and being occupied with it doesn’t help and can be very negative.

The powerful message of this great personal leadership model

1) The simple yet impactful message of this personal leadership model is: focus your attention on everything that lies within the circle of influence. That is your simple answer to the question of how to be more focused. Make a clear division between what you can influence, and what not. And don’t give your precious attention to this latter category.   

* And don’t be occupied with everything / anything that is in your circle of concern. Although.. it concerns you. But you can’t influence it, so why be busy with it all the time? 

2) The second message to you is: your circle of influence is not fixed. You can put energy in expanding your circle of influence. The main question is: WHAT can I do to influence X? Where is my influence? Asking this question leads you to creative solutions that you didn’t think about before. 

And when you can’t influence something, then you should go back to this advice *. 

How to know whether or not you are living from your circle of concern? Not being active in your circle of concern, but in your circle of influence, shows us you are not busy whole days:

  • gossiping
  • complaining
  • worrying
  • wondering
  • fearing
  • feeling guilty
  • thinking what you could have done
  • dreaming

More focus, and less stress

Having the circle of influence as one of the main personal leadership models in your back pocket, will greatly contribute to more focus, and supports your less stress goals. This is how. 

How to be more focused? >

How the circle of influence contributes to more focus 

Let us first start with ‘focusing’ on the question ‘what exactly does focus mean’?

Focus is about the focal point of your attention. 

More focus means: 

  • your attention goes to fewer things
  • you direct your attention to what is important (so you know what is important)
  • your priorities are clear and you act accordingly
  • there is less or no noise from side issues
  • the things you do / focus on make sense, from a productivity or value – point of view
  • what your focus gets leads to something

All this is what automatically happens when you integrate the message of the Circle of Influence into your life attitude. You know what mathers, and your attention is where your influence is. You act or you don’t. Your attention doesn’t go to things that won’t change anything. So wondering how to be more focused: apply the lessons of the Circle of influence to your life, and become much more focused.  

Be prepared: you’re going to have a lot of time and energy to spare.

The circle of influence realizes less stress 

1. Less stress by expanding your circle of influence

Research shows that people who cannot influence the situation experience more stress than those who can exert some influence. There are two ways to deal with this phenomenon. 

The first is: focus on what you can influence. For this you have e.g. the first two A’s Avoid and Alter. 

It could also be that in a situation where you seem to have too little control, there are more opportunities to influence. Be creative, and try a different perspective. 

Increase your influence options and experience less stress

You may not have any influence on how busy and noisy it is in your office. But you can influence your breathing (take regular conscious, quiet, deep breaths). You can influence your thoughts. You can start an hour earlier than your colleagues when it’s quiet etc. etc. Find your influence!  

And what you can’t influence: don’t even try! But let go. Let yourself move along. Let go of the illusion of control. Especially in a situation where you have no influence, wanting to control will cause you a lot of stress. Acceptance is also a form of exerting influence. You can always influence your own mind set. 

2. Less stress by leaving your circle of concern

What is a great contributor to high levels of stress? Yes, the feeling that you can’t control something or can’t deliver upon what is asked. Something is a threat because it is beyond your power to do what is necessary or requested. 

And what is in the definition of the circle of concern? It is the area in which you don’t have control over things. And can’t do a thing about what is possibly desirable.

That means that persons who find themselves in the circle of concern very often, will also have higher stress levels than people that don’t. You worry about something, but you can’t do anything about it. Something makes you mad, but you are helpless. This gap between your concerns and action possibilities creates stress.  

Focus on your influence and have less stress

So, leave your circle of concern for less stress. Focus on your own circle, and take attention away from anything that is beyond your control.  

An example of effective behaviour – more focus and less stress

For example, you are concerned with our planet and climate change and are worried that we as human kind are not doing the right things to make a big change. 

Scenario #1 – Dealing with this topic from your circle of concern:

You read everything there is to read. It makes you very sad. If you are watching the evening news and an item about climate and flooding comes on, you sit in front of the TV angrily muttering. Together with a friend who also feels the same way about the subject and is concerned, you often discuss how bad it is and how frustrating it is that you can’t do anything. And how stupid people are for acting this way. 

Scenario #2 ‘Less stress’ – Dealing with this topic from your circle of influence:  

You know climate change is a big topic and doesn’t depend on you or on a few persons. You know it is not going to help to keep on thinking about the topic. Moreover, it is going to make you a depressed and mad person. To set a good example, you only buy second-hand clothes and regularly organize a fun evening with friends where you exchange clothes. You also started a blog where you inspire visitors to live with less. But also to eat vegan food and to travel by train more often than by plane. 

9 Great benefits of this great Personal Leadership model

9 Reasons why you should embed the Circle of Influence in your life. 

So less stress and more focus are two main takeaways of this Personal Leadership model. But there are more. This is how the circle of influence can contribute to your personal growth and a happier – and better spent – life. 

#1 The circle of influence helps with letting go (benefit #1 of this personal leadership model)

Why bother with it, you’ll see what happens. 

It will give you so much peace of mind.

When the time comes, it will present itself. And you solve it, or not. 

Acceptance is also a solution. Take a look at the 4 stress coping strategies ‘the 4 A’s. Acceptance is one of the stress coping strategies you can mix & match for your perfect stress coping recipe.

#2 Less stress (benefit #2 of this personal leadership model)

This is how effective people cope with stress. This is how you deal with stress when you act from your circle of influence: 

  • You do what is necessary to possibly reduce your stress. But otherwise don’t worry about all the other things that give stress but are as they are. And also not about the stress sensations themselves. 
  • And that already gives less stress too! 

Furthermore, all the benefits of the Circle of Influence mentioned here ultimately all contribute to less stress. 

Less stress because..

You have a calmer head. You worry less about things in the future. Things are clearer and less chaotic. There are fewer different things on your plate or in your head. Letting go, of course, also helps tremendously with less stress. 

Less stress & so much more interesting things about stress in our Big Coping with Stress Guide

There are endless more ways how this personal leadership model contributes to less stress. Want to discover more nuances of stress and coping? Then read our Big Guide – Coping with stress.

#3 You can easily make decisions for effective and smart behavior (benefit #3 of this personal leadership model)

You deploy the Circle of Influence as a handy analysis tool in challenging situations.

It is a helpful model for exploring your options for action. 

Applying the personal leadership model provokes a certain creativity to come up with useful solutions. 

You don’t run into a wall but only do the things that have an effect. You become much more effective with less energy, and it takes you less time.

Now that’s smart and effective behavior. 

how to be more focused
More complicated than this, it isn’t –

#4 More focus

You know what to do. 

You’re more goal-oriented. 

It’s easier to get yourself productive when you have a clear vision of where your reins are and you almost don’t even notice the rest. 

No victim behavior. No lingering anger or other emotion that accomplishes nothing. And even costs you a lot. 

All kinds of side issues fall away, and that gives a wonderful clarity. That is, if you put the lessons of this personal leadership model into practice. The circle of influence is basic material for anyone that is wondering ‘how to be more focused’.   

Get rid of your guilty pleasures for more focus..

It can be addictive to be active in your Circle of Concern. But very rewarding to get rid of that habit and shift your attention to your Influence. 

Think about it. What are your guilty pleasures that are in your Circle of Concern? For me? That is being busy with the weather. To check my news app 15 times a day. To keep on thinking about certain social interactions and situations, wondering ‘how is it going to evolve?’. Find yours!

#5 You can spend your energy better

Why spend all your energy on something you can’t change anyway

It may seem like a fun pastime, talking endlessly about the hairdresser’s daughter. Or about the cold. Or your boss’s irritating behavior. 

Or it may have become second – and unconscious – nature to be much occupied with what concerns you. 

Yet in the end it doesn’t do you any good. And you can use your attention much better. 

Think about where you can spend all those hours of thinking and talking!

#6 You are less preoccupied with the future

After all, life takes place right now. And all the things you can influence have a connection to the present moment in some way. There is something you can do or decide right now. 

And if not: then the ‘thing’ apparently falls into your circle of concern. So let go and leave it (for now), that’ s nice and quiet. 

And if something from the future presents itself ‘in the Now‘, then apparently the moment is there to occupy yourself with it. Then you are well on time. I would especially not start concerning myself and worrying a second earlier. 

#7 You have less negativity in your life

Worrying about things you want to see differently, but can’t do anything about, produces a lot of negativity. Negative stress, which is created anyway if you are in your circle of concern a lot, is negative by definition.

Choose a positive and constructive approach; live and act from your circle of influence.

#8 You have fewer expectations

And what are expectations? Yep, a prescription for disappointment. And at the very least, things never turn out exactly the way you expect them to. And hinder you from truly perceiving. Just see things as they are, and enjoy that.

#9 This amazing personal leadership model is Empowering

Being active in increasing your circle of influence feels so empowering! You grow in self-confidence, in seeing opportunities, personal effectiveness and it opens doors to so much more. This personal leadership model should be the basis of everyone’s personal growth. Independent of how you give shape to your personal growth. Good luck and enjoy! Comments are more than welcome. And don’t hesitate to reach out as well.  

More focus and less stress?

We hope that thanks to this blog you have found an answer to:

  • how to be more focused
  • how to experience less stress
  • how to focus more
  • how to get a better overview
  • how to worry less
  • how to behave as effectively as possible

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