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Day 13: Circle of Control

“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will. What’s not under our control are the body and any of its parts, our possessions, parents, siblings, children, or country —anything with which we might associate.”


I have already talked about the circle of control in one of my previous posts, let’s go over that concept in more detail and see how it fits with today’s stoic principle. This concept is first coined by Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Using this framework, Covey created 3 circles and ask us to classify our live events into one of these circles.

  1. Circle of Concern
  2. Circle of Influence
  3. Circle of Control

    It will look something like this

Circle of Concern

This is the outermost circle and the biggest circle of all. These are the events that are totally outside our influence. There isn’t anything you can do to change things here, like you can’t change the weather, you can’t change your height, your family where you are born. These are the things that concern us but there is nothing you can do about it to change it. And since it is the biggest circle it occupies most of our time and energy without any fruitful outcome. Some of the common examples of things falling in circle of concern are:

  • Death
  • Weather
  • War between countries
  • Family or country you are born in
  • Your physical attributes
  • Your past decisions
  • Traffic
  • World economy
  • Media
  • and the list is endless

Circle of Influence

The middle circle is relatively smaller than the circle of concern. It is the circle in which you can categorize the events on which you don’t have direct control but can you can change a part of it by your influence. A good example of it would be changing your habits, our attitude towards things. This is one of the trickiest circles I believe because we tend to assume that we have the power to control and change things here. But one has to always remember you only have limited control over things here. Don’t get over-attached to the result. Some of the examples are:

  • Other people’s action
  • My boss recognizing my effort at work
  • Your children’s future
  • Our relationships

Circle of Control

This is the smallest circle in the figure to signify how little control we have over our lives and the things around us. According to Ryan Holiday, the only thing we have control over in our life is our MIND. This is the only thing we can control if we want to take control of our lives. Some of the things that you can control by controlling your mind:

  • Your reaction
  • Your thoughts
  • Your mood
  • Your values and goals
  • Your decisions

So, when served with a difficult situation in life, examine that this situation falls under which of the circles and then choose your reactions accordingly.

Published inPhilosophy & IdeasStoicism

One Comment

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