In life, there are many areas we will be concerned about. Not all of them are within our influence in such a way that change results from our actions.
It’s a distinction Stephen Covey described in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” using two circles. The outer circle being the circle of concern. The inner circle being the circle of influence.
There are some fine lines to distinguishing when people are active in the circle of concern and when they are acting in the circle of influence. Covey used the idea of being reactive and proactive to distinguish between both. But it goes a bit further at is also involves the posture a person has.
The circle of concern is one that encompasses all the things we care about. This means that it can involve our personal concerns like our health, our relationships, and our work. And it will also involve more global concerns like current events impacting our community, the world’s economic or ecologic state.
The circle of influence is smaller than the circle of concern and only involves the things we have the power to affect. Which means that it involves all the things we can act upon directly.
Distinguishing between both is an invitation to evaluate how we spend our energy and to become aware of why we do it.
When concerned we can engage ourselves in a cause and contribute to their work, it ends up to be an influence we can have. But often what is happening, is that people react to their concerns by becoming angry, by sharing what everyone has been wrong about and didn’t do well. In such cases concerns are strong, but the way the energy is mainly fueled by the hope that it will change something. With social media at hand, people hope to have a new type of voice, one that will be heard because it can scale. The reactions they receive help to believe that they have had influence. But in fact, they only assembled others having similar concerns. They didn’t provide the actions necessary to trigger change.
Seeking influence is seeking to create change. It is searching for the action that can lead to change. It is the ability to see that triggering change is essential to enable it. It is also the ability to trust that results can follow and the acceptance that they might now follow as hoped for.