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Circle of Influence

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Identify your Circle:

There are a prolific amount of personal concerns in our everyday life, all of them connected to us along some emotional thread. These can take the shape of external events or incidents, internal workings that impede our ability to find full joy in life (painful memories for example), or patterns of behaviour and habitual acts that we often do by “default”. This realm of concern may be labelled as our own Circle of Concern.

If we were to reflect on our own Circle of Concern and all the substance thereof, we begin to realize that there are concerns we can influence to some degree, and others that lie outside of our current control. The trick is to identify the extent of one’s influence. With practice and some degree of self-awareness (a fundamental principle in recovery), we are able to draw up our Circle of Influence within our Circle of Concern and discern where we manifest our time and energy.

If this focus lies outside of our Circle of Influence the time and energy we invest therein returns negatively, draining us and exacerbating emotions of hopelessness and inferiority. To state it differently, our actions are often in vain and that “marvellous transforming event” we wait for just never comes because we blame our surroundings and the faults of others for how we act and the position we find ourselves in. This mindset of an outward focus (blaming, accusing and excusing) results in the deterioration of our Circle of Influence as our choices, learned behaviour and character becomes defined by the environment that surrounds us an the way people treat us.

The question, however, still remains: If we have identified the areas we can realistically influence and act in within our Circle of Concern, why is it still so difficult to choose to invest in a liberating act or reaction in a given problem/situation?

Be responsible in your circle:

The answer lies in our moment to moment choices regarding our core beliefs about our future. Do we take on responsibility during, not after, our decisions (having become more mindful of our actions and combating “autopilot mode” with self-awareness) and take in consideration the manner and outcome of our reaction?

For example: If my life at some point is marked by a catastrophic (as it often feels in the moment) personal failure it would seem natural that I focus on the result of it: that “I Failed” and consequently only focus on the outcome of events to determine my success in the future (A common script set by parents, guardians and society). The pitfall to this narrow focus is that when we find ourselves in a tight spot in the pursuit of some future goal this past Failure (with all its fears and beliefs attached) comes to remind us just how daunting and uncertain our road ahead is, overshadowing/clouding our current performance and those potential small moral victories that may build our Circle of Influence.

Little by little:

Individuals in recovery often say the opposite of fear is faith, faith being the substance of things hoped for; but we often overlook the fact that faith comprises of hope, assurance, trust, humility, and PATIENCE. It is within this season of patience where our value based decisions are put through a trial of fire: where those values that seek only the satisfaction of the self fall victim to selfish behaviour or indulge in that of others. An endless cycle, until a party makes the sacrifice to responsibly act within their Circle of Influence, whose substance attests of greater declarations of the future despite the events of the past.


Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

– Viktor Frankl

By Deon Janse Van Rensburg

Adult Centre Counsellor

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