The Circle Of Control vs. Circle Of Concern – Understanding The Concept


You’ve heard the boast:

Yeah… I’m so busy… I just don’t have time to watch TV.

It’s often a humble brag.

But it’s often misguided by many as the time that they once spent glued to TV has simply shifted to other things just as wasteful. Business circles are often the biggest offenders of assuming that because they no longer watch TV that they’re the most productive & effective people around.

That assumption is often debunked after watching their behaviour for a week or two.

Here’s the thing…

The time that was once wasted on TV often shifts to things like:

  • Scrolling through the replies to a tweet from Elon Musk
  • Watching YouTube videos tearing down another exec
  • Arguing with someone who threw shade at Gary Vee
  • Thinking about whether or not you’re good enough
  • Answering a vague question in Facebook Group
  • Reading about what startups raised more money
  • Reading about what companies got new clients
  • Trying to complete a silly puzzle on LinkedIn

I could go on.

This is one of the most dangerous traps for not being effective. Not just because you spend time reading something irrelevant from time to time… But because we spend time truly getting upset, outraged and invested in these things.

Hear me out… I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be informed. I’m not saying we should read things just for fun. I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t get upset now and again from things happening in our industry & world.

But if you really want to be effective it’s not worth it to focus on things that you cannot influence or will never actually try to influence.

Instead we should focus on the things we can control. Things like:

  • How often you go to the gym, yoga or for a run
  • How much time you spend sitting each day
  • How often you volunteer to do charity work
  • How often you go to sleep at a decent hour
  • How many words you wrote in your book
  • The number of people you reach out to
  • Who you decide to meet for coffee
  • How many lines of code you ship
  • What events you agree to attend
  • Who you decide to promote
  • Who you decide to hire

This is what Steven Covey (the author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) calls the Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control. The Circle of Concern is the things that you care about, spend time reading about, worrying about or stressing about but have no control over. The Circle of Control is similar in terms of your emotional & actual response BUT…

You actually do have control over.

Where do you think your energy is better spent?

Here’s the thing:

It’s impossible to 100% get away from caring about stuff that doesn’t matter. It’s human nature.

But if we can reduce the amount of attention we give to those things (Circle of Concern) and increase the amount of attention we give to what matters (Circle of Control) — we can be more effective and in many ways…

More mindful. 

You’ll spend less time stressing about things that don’t really matter.
You’ll spend less time caring what other people think.
You’ll spend less time being jealous.

And you’ll spend more time making real progress.

Time spent worrying about things that you can’t influence is time wasted. Sometimes it’s fun and  a bit of an escape to care about things that don’t really matter (ie. the Eagles winning the Super Bowl).

But when it’s a constant drain on our energy, our time and our brain power…

It’s a drain worth walking away from.


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