My ten-year-old daughter squatted beside me in the shade of the plum tree in our back yard as I was scrubbing my soaked and soaped hunting dog, Susie. My labored breathing and mumbling through gritted teeth made my attitude of exasperation palpable. I hadn’t planned on bathing my dog when I came home for lunch that summer day. But Rebekah had been insistent that I let her give Susie a bath. Then, unable to manage Susie, she had asked me to help her.
With my shirt sleeves rolled up and sweat stinging my eyes, I heard my daughter, through the fog of my own feelings of frustration, ask a question that stopped me in my tracks. “Daddy, why is it that when I ask you to help me, you take over?”
In my stunned state a whisper of truth managed to filter through – when sheasked for my help, she wanted me to influence her situation, not to take over.
Trying to recognize that line between control and influence has been a challenge for me. But several years ago I came up with a concept that proves helpful in keeping things in proper perspective.
In each person’s life there are two circles: a circle of influence and a circle of control. Inside your circle of influence you will find friends, family, coworkers, and people you come in contact with each day. Inside your circle of control you will find your thoughts, your feelings, and your behaviors. Essentially only one thing exists inside the circle of control – you. Everything else in your world resides in your circle of influence.
This technique makes it easier to recognize when you are trying to pull something from your circle of influence and place it inside your circle of control. Whenever I find myself wrestling over a particular situation or feeling frustrated with someone, I visualize the two circles and start placing the elements of my dilemma into their proper place.
Attempting to stretch your circle of control to include another person will produce a host of negative consequences. You will subject yourself to feelings of resentment, anger, and frustration. Why? Because they are not doing what you want them to do!
Ironically the person you are trying to control will experience those same set of emotions. Why? Because no one likes someone trying to control them!
As time moves forward for me I sometimes get the sensation that my circle of control is getting smaller. The truth is, I’m simply recognizing how small my circle of control has always been. My sense of control over many things was simply an illusion.
I now embrace my small circle of control and appreciate how healthy it is for me because just “doing me” is a full-time job! I feel less burdened and weighted down. I spend less time anguishing over people’s treatment of me. I don’t expend so much mental and emotional energy trying to get people to do what I think they ought to do. I worry and fret less.
I focus more on being the kind of person I ought to be.