The Circle of Influence

I have learned a great deal of tools and techniques in order to increase my own resilience and reduce stress in my life. The Circle of Influence is an absolute winner. Thanks very much Stephen Covey! Once I got my head around it, it made total sense.

I’ve always been a worrier. I remember getting an award for “worrier of the year” at primary school. It wasn’t my greatest achievement in life. It made me worry even more about being a worrier and how I came across. Since then, I’ve recognised when I’m doing it too much and finally did something to change it a few years ago.

I’d seen the Circle of Influence before, but it didn’t really resonate with me until I was working with an amazing bunch of people in an Organisational Development team in the NHS. I had a few years out of the substance misuse field of work after having my daughter and was, for the first time, juggling motherhood, childcare, being a wife and owning a home. A lot had happened that year! The job was out of my comfort zone, other than the design and delivery of training, but I was learning so much about organisational and personal development and I loved it.

I was responsible for delivering Resilience training to staff and managers. I thought, “oh no they might all think I’m a fraud if they recognise I’m not resilient myself!”- I actually was to some degree, as is everyone, but due to my worrying and perfectionism I didn’t really realise.

The Circle of Influence changed my life and it can change yours too.

The model

Imagine 2 circles, one inside the other (like the picture below). The inside circle is your circle of influence and the outer circle, the one surrounding it is your circle of concern.

Cirlce of influence and substance misuse

How it works

The idea is that we all have concerns and worries which can ultimately cause us to be unhappy, stressed, anxious and maybe even depressed. All these things form our “circle of concern”.

As we start to look at some of these concerns, there will be some of them that we can do something about, and some that we can’t. Those that we can do something about can be moved into our circle of influence. Those that we can’t stay in our circle of concern.

If we operate in our circle of concern, we are spending all our energy on circumstances over which we have no control. We can become victims, negativity takes over, affecting our communication, judgement and relationships. Our focus on the circle of concern empowers the things within it to control us, instead of us taking the lead.  Nothing changes, even though we might be constantly busy. We are REACTIVE.

If we focus on our circle of influence, about the things we CAN change, then not only do we become proactive, but our circle of concern ultimately shrinks. Our circle of influence increases and, like any type of goal setting or achievements, we get a buzz out of it when we see the results. This makes us HAPPY and we come across as POSITIVE! We are WARRIORS!

What it meant for me

Basically, we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff and should stop trying to change things or people that we have no influence over and concentrate on ourselves. I remember thinking, “Whaaaaaat?! I can’t actually change anyone else?

Then I thought, but that’s actually ok because what I can change is myself and the way I react to things. The way I let other people affect me or upset me is because I allow it to happen. Even the gigantic issues like ending terrorism. There isn’t much I can do about it, I can’t stop it, but what I can do is vote the people into power that I think will do the best job of prevention and donate to relevant charities. There is no point in me worrying about it every day. Getting my children to where they need to be on time is another concern but I make sure I plan my time well so I don’t need to worry.

What now?

It’s important to note that we will not be happy ALL the time. Stresses and worries still exist and can make us feel sad or low, but it’s how we react to and recover from these situations that’s important. We have a choice in this. We have a choice to be happy or a victim.

I attended a masterclass by Liggy Webb, who is an absolute expert in resilience and she talked about being a boomerang or a doomerang! It made me laugh. I can definitely recognise many times in myself when I have been, and still can be, a doomerang. I can stop myself when I recognise it by writing my lists (I love lists, spreadsheets, apps- try Wunderlist, my fave- my husband hates lists but forgives me for mine) and getting on with making changes. Here’s a link to Liggy’s site

I LOVE worrying less, getting things done, making changes and enjoying my life even more. My energy goes into my family and my friendships and my work instead of my worries.

Do I still get upset sometimes? Yes, but I move on quickly.

Do I fly into a frenzy of panic when I’m stuck in traffic? No, because guess what? There’s nothing I can do about it.

Do I get stressed and overwhelmed? Yes, but I’ve asked people around me to tell me when they spot it, if I haven’t already. I sit down and look at what I can change and what I can’t and get focussed. The overwhelm disappears.

Do I worry about not getting things perfect? Not as much. I remind myself that I am a “recovering perfectionist” and I know when something is good enough.

Applying it to your life with your drug or alcohol user

Living with a substance user is not easy by any means. I’m not saying that using this technique will magically make you happy, but what I am suggesting is to give it a go. Write down everything you are worrying about and what you can influence in a positive way.

For example, you can’t be with your loved one 24 hours a day, therefore, what’s the point in policing their use? You can agree boundaries about what you accept in the family home and what you don’t. You can influence their drinking or drug use by changing your behaviour towards them, but you cannot make them stop. You can remove rewards when your loved one uses and remove yourself from the situation. Arguing with them while they are under the influence does absolutely nothing to change anything, so stop doing it. You can’t wait for your loved one to stop using for good before you see your friends, but you can do something to get your social support back right now. Can you see the difference?

Being positive is a choice. We don’t need to wait for it to happen, we can decide on it right now.

Next time you’re in a stressful situation, ask yourself, “Can i change this or not?” If not, think of something positive you can do instead. 

I can show you even more tools and techniques to change your life if you join the Vesta Programme

Take action

Start now! Write down all your concerns and highlight all the things you can influence. Stop focusing on the things you can’t influence and start doing the things you can. Let me know how you get on in the comments below or…

I’ve set up a closed Facebook group for anyone living with a drug or alcohol user who might want to ask any questions and if you feel comfortable to do so, share a bit about your situation in a more confidential space please request access here


See you next week,


Victoria x