Redirect self back to your circle of control
One of the greatest lies that we tell ourselves is that we can control everything around us. Which makes sense because feeling like we have no control can make us feel incredibly helpless. However, the reality is that it isn’t really all or nothing like that. One of the most powerful shifts that we can make is acknowledging what is outside of our control & taking radical responsibility for what is within our control.
A helpful concept that I have shared with many of the individuals I have worked with is the Circle of Control. I can’t tell you where this originated from, it was originally shared with me by a supervisor, and even googling it, I can’t seem to find where it originates. So full disclaimer this isn’t my original idea, and happy to give credit if you can share with me where this does come from. I have however adapted it slightly to better fit with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as this is a therapeutic approach I use often and find to be helpful with most of the individuals I get the pleasure of working with.
So looking at the image below, we have 3 circles.
The outer circle;
Are all the things that we have no control or very limited control over.
The middle circle;
Are all the things that we have some control or influence over. The things we can have an impact on but may not be able to control the outcome. Some people refer to this circle as your circle of influence.
The inner circle, this is our circle of control;
This is where we have the most if not all of the control.
I have included some examples in the picture below. One of the things I encourage the individuals I work with is to do is draw one up for themselves. Focusing on the factors in their lives which are specific to them or the situation they are struggling with. This will make this concept more personalised and meaningful to you.
How to use the circle of control?
There are lots of different applications. Here are some of the ones I have come across.
When we are struggling we can use the circle of control…
If we can recognise that we are feeling helpless or hopeless, we often find that we are spending a lot of our time & energy focused on things we can’t control. We may be trying to control people which is negatively impacting our relationships. We may be thinking excessively about world or country wide problems which is great when it is followed up by meaningful actions, but most of the time us average Joes & Janes don’t really have a whole lot of control over these things. Therefore this can just be a whole lot of worrying. If we are thinking ruminating on the past, this can definitely impact on our wellbeing and capacity to be present and enjoy life because we can’t change what has already happened.
So if any of these sounds like you. Something that may be helpful, is to shift your perspective to focus on doable, achievable actions that you can make. Focusing on what is within your control. For example, you can control the boundaries you put up with people, however can’t control how people respond to your boundaries. You can do things to influence the types of feelings that are dominant for you on a daily basis, and the frequency and intensity of the automatic thoughts that come up for you, however you can’t necessarily pick & choose the thoughts and feelings you have. You can set up your schedule how you like it, however you can’t control when other people you may need to meet with have availability. So rather than getting caught up in what you can’t control, we encourage you to focus on what parts you can influence. And most importantly, the things you can control, which is largely how you respond.
When we are supporting someone else who is struggling we can use the circle of control …
Supporting someone else who is struggling with their mental health is incredibly challenging. Heartbreaking at times, rewarding when you see them progress and frustrating when you can see how they can help themselves but that they just don’t seem to be doing it. I always encourage my friends/family/clients, whoever I come across who is in this situation, to focus on their circle of control. You can show up for someone, you can respond helpfully, you can do all the right things, but they may not. This really applies to any relationship I am realising as I write this. You can only control yourself, putting all your time and energy into trying to force another, is a waste of time. It will leave you feeling hopeless and helpless yourself. Of course you can do what is within your control to support the other person, to encourage them or influence them, but ultimately they are the person who needs to change their own circumstances. You may need to encourage them to seek support therapeutically for them to learn new skills and information to make this possible. That is something that is within your circle of control. Whether they choose to access that support is not within your circle of control. Does that make sense?
When we are goal setting & focused on high performance we can use the circle of control…
One of my favourite concepts is Radical Responsibility, it is a very important one for anyone who wants to perform at a high level. It is powerful as it empowers you to step into ownership, growth, and self-reliance. However, I have seen many high performers apply this approach to areas of their lives where it is unhelpful. So what I recommend doing, is to take radical responsibility for what is within your control. Because you can influence outcomes, you can’t control them. You can control whether you reflect and revise your plans and goals and make changes to increase your performance. You can control the information you consume. You can control the goals you set for yourself. You can’t control the goals others set on you, other people’s performance, other people’s expectations. You can control the skills you develop, you can’t control if someone says no to you. Your energy is much better served in your own circle of control and influence. When we do this, we are more likely to magnetise what we want to occur because we are doing the do efficiently, where we can make an actual impact. Rather than being all consumed by things we can not actually control or influence.
Author: Samantha Sheppard, B Psych (Hons).
Samantha is a registered psychologist with experience working with children and adolescents (and their families), young adults and adults. Samantha empowers others with their mental health using a non-judgmental, compassionate approach and particularly resonates with the social and emotional well-being framework.
To make an appointment with Samantha Sheppard try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129.