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Circle of Influence, Circle of Concern

When building an online business, there’s a diagram in Steven Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that you should keep in mind.

It looks like this:


The circles represent the two areas where you can focus your time and energy.

  • Within the Circle of Concern is everything that might affect you and your business.
  • Within the Circle of Influence are things you can actually control.

If you’re smart, you’ll spend the majority of your time and energy within the smaller circle, your Circle of Influence.

As Covey writes in the book (emphasis mine):

Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.

Circle of Influence, Circle of Concern
Above: Your Circle of Influence expands or contracts according to your focus.

Covey continues:

Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control.

Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink.

Circle of Influence, Circle of Concern: Online Business Example

Say you’ve just started a freelance web design business.

The following would be within your Circle of Influence:

And the following would be beyond your Circle of Influence, in your Circle of Concern:

A smart freelancer would spend most of her time and energy on that first list (and similar), and little-to-no time on the second.

Where do you spend most of your time and energy?

Take a quick inventory.

  • Are you spending most of your time and energy worrying about things you can’t control?

If so, your circle of influence is likely to shrink and your business will suffer.

  • Are you spending most of your time and energy working on things you can actually do something about?

If so, great.

That kind of proactive approach will greatly increase your chances of online business success.

Not sure which circle you’re operating in?

Frustrated man with laptop

It’s not always clear if a specific task or idea is within your Circle of Influence or beyond it.

If you’re unsure, drop a comment below and I’ll try help you out.

Do you want to become more effective?

If so, I highly recommend that you grab a copy of The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.

It truly is one of the best books ever written for anyone seeking to operate at the highest level personally and professionally.

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  1. Vinay Pathare

    Dear Mr. Niall Doherty many thanks for your thought-provoking post. Examples of turning from reactive (Circle of Concern) to proactive (Circle of Influence)given in your post are very good. People many times spends hours and hours in ‘worrying ‘ about something and label that process as ‘thinking’. At the end of ‘worrying’ process solution is not achieved, whereas at the end of ‘thinking’ process at least some kind of solution definitely emerge. Simply keep on worrying process falls under the ‘Circle of Concern’ and ‘thinking’ with some purpose process falls under the ‘circle of influence’. Your post motivated me to think something seriously and this response resulted out of that process. Thanks once again for your thought-provoking contribution – Vinay

  2. Niall,

    I really like this, and plan to check back from time to time when I feel that I am getting caught up in non-essential details. Keep writing, because I want to keep reading….

    When we worked together — you were always very positive and upbeat, it is interesting to find out more about the inside that is reflected on the outside….

  3. Thanks, Cathal. The whole concept served me well this morning when my car wouldn’t start. There was no worry. I left a note for the maintenance guy who works at my apartment building, asking if he could help me jump start the car when I get home later (he since called and told me he’d be happy to). Then I jumped on the streetcar and got to work on time.

    The worry and stress fades when you’re busy taking action to fix the problem.