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Dealing with Uncertainty: Circle of Control, Influence and Concern

Learn how to get more hold on your situation and feel in control.

I have always believed in and tried to maintain an equilibrium, avoiding extremes. A teacher with 45 students in a class has 45 uncertain results by the end of the year. Dwelling upon the results would only deplete them of the energy that they can otherwise put into their teaching, isn’t it? They’re not sure of what the results would be, but they’re sure of their abilities and strengths and that’s the only thing they can control.

Uncertainty brings in a lot of concerns in our mind but are these in our control or even influence? By focusing on the non-controllable factors, we play into the hands of the anxiety or stress that creates numerous assumptive fears in our heads. You have an important presentation tomorrow at work. You prepare well, the presentation is well made, and you are done from your side. But, with all this, there’s a lot of anxiety about whether or not the presentation would be good or if people would like it or a thought that something or the other will go wrong and that’s keeping you up the whole night. Anyway, come the day of the presentation, except for how did you prepare for the presentation, is anything under your control? The outcome, whether they’ll like it or not, if something goes wrong? It isn’t, right? What is in your control then? How did you prepare for it, that’s it. But, by thinking about everything that could go wrong (might be a concern but a non-controllable) for you, you missed out on your sleep, and you spent the whole time anxiously.

Let’s consider 3 concentric circles, namely-

  • The Circle of Concern - The wide range of worries we might have about a topic.

  • The Circle of Influence - A narrowing of the first circle into those worries we can do something about – either directly or indirectly.

  • The Circle of Control - An even smaller circle, representing the things we can directly do something about.

When you constantly roam around in the Circle of Concern, you are essentially devoiding yourself of a chance to solve the problem or even come close to the solution. By focusing on the circle of influence rather than the circle of concern, you shift your approach towards being more solution-oriented than problem-oriented as you were, while in the circle of concern. Taking a step further, towards being more proactive in looking at our strengths to deal with the pointers that fall into the circle of control you generate more confidence in dealing with the uncertainty that might arise and choose to give yourself a chance to fight the anxiety that was making you feel fearful of your future and not letting you stay in your present moment.

Facilitating this thinking in yourself, or others helps to limit wasteful rumination and inaction. Altering thinking to a proactive focus can enhance productivity, help people see a greater connection between progress and achievement, and build resilience.


Let us look at an example here. Consider you’re an employee at an organisation called ABC.

  • Circle of Concern - Will the company make a profit? Are they going to provide an increment?

  • Circle of Influence - Work culture, workload, promotion, your team’s behaviour, et cetera.

  • Circle of Control - Your actions. Your attitude. Your performance.

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