How to use the circle of control to overcome anxiety

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The circle of control is made up of two things. First is the thing we can control and second is things we can’t control.

Everything in our life falls under this two categories. From the circumstances, people, environment, mood and more. Everyday we are faced with those two situations.

Stephen R. Covey introduced the idea of a circle of control in his book – 7 habits of effective people.

He used 2 circles to explain this concept. The inner circle is known as the circle of influence.

The outer circle is called the circle of concern.

Using the concept of the circle of control he explains that there are some aspects of our life that we have influence over but not everything.

For example, we cannot control the weather, how people speak to us, how our children react to our questions, etc.

In this blog we explore the circle of control, the difference between influence and control and how to adopt this into our daily life.

Also how to introduce the idea of circle of control to our children.

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Difference between influence and concern

Here we look into the difference between the circle of concern and influence.

The circle of concern covers things that are out of our control, for example, global warming, the economy of the country, the tantrums of your toddlers, people’s behaviour, social media newsfeed, and many more.

The main thing to understand about this is that there is not much you can do to control the situation. They are out of your influence.

Spending time worrying about those things will be a waste of time.

On the other hand, the circle of control also introduces the idea known as the circle of influence.

This is a circle that consist of things that are in your control.

For example, your mood for the day, how you will behave towards others, the food that you eat, the music you listen too and more.

The key is to focus your energy on the circle of influence.

By focusing on this you will be able to make better decisions that will make you feel happier and more productive.

The circle of control aims to help people recognise things they can’t and cannot control and where to focus their time on.

By focussing on things you can’t control, your circle of influence will get smaller. You will end up spending your energy on things that may bring you negative results.

Circle of control

Importance of circle of control:

It will help you focus on things that you can control.

This may be obvious to you but many times we find ourselves drowning in worries that are time waster.

We need to learn to ignore the circle of concern and not let is have power over us.

Many times this is very difficult to do. For example, watching the news about climate change may cause anxiety in many people.

We can still make things better by recycling and doing our bit, but to loose sleep over it will not change things in the world.

The first thing you need to ask is “what can I control?” By asking this question you are addressing the issues immediately and find solutions to your problems.

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Benefits of circle of control:

  1. Positive mindset

The biggest advantage of the circle of control is that it raises awareness of things you want in your life.

And it also encourages you to have the right mindset to achieve those things.

By recognising where you should spend your time on and ignore things that you cannot control you are moving in the right direction.

This way the circle of control promotes a positive mindset.

2. Worry less

The most challenging part about worry is when it starts to spiral out of control.

Your mind can run to places you thought never existed and you will end up feeling worst than when you first thought about the situation you are in.

This is when you can write down the things you cannot control and try to logically eliminate those worries.

It will give you space to breathe and think.

So take a moment, and reflect on the things that is causing your worries.

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Tips for using the circle of control:

Each individual’s circle of control, influence or control will be different.

For some people, the time they sleep or eat will be in their circle of control. But for others, for example, doctors or parents, these are out of your control.

If you are a politician the policy of your country if in your control, but if you are not then this could be out of your control.

The key is to create your own circle of control and recognize things that are in your control and not be influenced by others decision.

Finally, it is about realizing that resilience is the tool that will help you bounce back from difficult times.

Resilience is about expanding your circle of influences.

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How to use the circle of control in the classroom?

  1. Print out 2 circles. Name the first one circle of control and the other circle of influence
  2. Get students to use sticky notes to write down all the issues that are bothering them
  3. Put them all in the Circle of Concern side.
  4. At this point, it may feel like they do not have control over the situation.
  5. Now ask them to start dividing it into activities they can control. For example, worrying about exams could be something in their control. They can study harder and prepare for exams.
  6. Start moving the sticky notes around by addressing each concern.
  7. The poster can act as a daily reminder to students of just how much they are in control if they focus their time and energy at the right place.

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Using the circle of control with children

When a child starts to understand this concept, their life can change dramatically.

They will focus on the circle of control versus things they cannot control.

They will begin to understand that other people’ss thoughts and behaviors are out of their control but they have the power to react in a certain way and make good choises.

This will teach kids to feel “in control” of their situations even when things may feel like it is falling apart.

It will encourage them to be confident with their own thoughts and care less about the opinion of others.

Here are some things to introduce to children:

  1. Children CANNOT control that exams and homework will happen
  2. They CAN contol how much they like to learn and effort to put into school work.
  3. They CANNOT control how their friends will react towards them or how annoying their siblings will be.
  4. They CAN choose their friends and how they react to their siblings.
Circle of control for kids

How to start this activity with your kids:

  1. Find a time and space where you and the kids are feeling calm and stress-free.
  2. Take a large piece of paper and draw a big circle
  3. In the middle of the circle write your child’s name then put “I can control.”
  4. Explain to your child what the circle of control is. Tell them that there are things in life they cannot control and we should not waste our time on those things.
  5. Help your child come up with examples of them. For example, the weather, then pandemic, the season, exams, their teacher, etc.
  6. Then encourage your child to come up with their own list of things.
  7. Once that list is done then come up with things that they CAN control. Write them on the outer circle.
  8. Once you have them written down in both areas, hang the circle of control in a place that is visible to them so they can see it every day.
  9. This will be a reminder for them to not focus their energy on things they cannot control.
  10. As new worries or anxieties comes up encourage them to keep writing it and review it often.

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2 thoughts on “How to use the circle of control to overcome anxiety”

  1. This is so incredibly awesome. I was looking for an activity for my high school aged students and found this incredibly beneficial for me in this moment today. Thanks for this.


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