I’m chatting about boundaries this week with a coaching group and it’s given me the kick up the bum to update my free download that comes to you when you sign up to the Scaredycat Crew mailing list.

It’s a simple worksheet on boundaries and, as Dr Stephen Covey’s Circles of Influence helped me work on my boundaries, I figured a blog post all about those Circles of Influence is very timely.  I highly recommend reading his book as well, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People*, in which he delves into his Circles of Influence as part of Habit 1 – Be Proactive. This is all part and parcel of working on ourselves and being a better friend to ourselves but do bear in mind that I’m not a therapist, I use this tool to coach myself and with my coaching clients as a part of creating positive steps forward.


How I came to use these Circles of Influence

When I hit burn-out a few years ago and started seeing a therapist specifically around how I got to that state and how to not end up there again, we talked a lot about boundaries (a word I hadn’t associated with myself at any point before then!) and, with that, what is actually within my control and what is not. (We also talked a lot about how, as a “helper”, I allowed myself to get pulled into other people’s “drama triangles”, a transactional analysis model that’s a whole blog post in itself, for another day!).

Back to boundaries.

Okay, let’s go in deep here with some full disclosure on me! You see, as an empathetic person who cared for others at a young age, I’ve carried that caring about everyone else but myself long into my adult life (disclaimer in that obviously it’s not as simple as that but you get the gist without, you know, having to listen to me on a couch once a week ;)). This can be a good thing BUT, without healthy boundaries in place, it turned into a bad thing – overworking, worrying about everyone, worrying about the planet, overthinking with no action, being the victim and getting angry about it (something I normally don’t do at work at all but was absolutely a sign of me being burnt out then, a sign I didn’t recognise!).

Finding out about the Circles of Influence was a game-changer for me so here’s a simple version of it.


Draw your 3 Circles

Get yourself a cuppa and some cake/biscuit of your choice.

Find a quiet space.

Grab a pen/pencil/markers and a big piece of paper. Grab some post-its too if you feel so inclined.

Draw 3 circles inside each other, leaving enough space between them to be able to write/add post-its.

Okay, so, that innermost circle is your Circle of Control (aka direct control).

Moving out from that circle is your Circle of Influence (aka indirect control).

The outer most circle is your Circle of Concern (aka no control at all).


Get everything out of your head

Now, you’re going to use the Circles to think about proactive steps you can take in your life, work or business. Step 1 is to use the Circles as an overall life-checker:

In the Circle of Control, write down what can you directly control, such as what you say, your mood, how you react to other people.

In the Circle of Influence, write what you can influence, such as creating a better family relationship.

In the Circle of Concern, write what affects you but you can do nothing about, such as the weather, strangers’ decisions.

What do you notice about each circle? Is there more things in the Circle of Concern than your Circle of Control? How can you focus less on the things in that Circle of Concern and focus more on the things that you actually have control over, in your Circle of Control?


Now, let’s focus on a problem or situation you’re currently dealing with

Grab another big piece of paper and draw out those three circles again.

This time, write at the top of the page a problem or situation you’re currently dealing with, what is it that you’re ruminating on, lying awake at night over?

With those three circles, think about where you can put that problem/situation. Does it completely fit into one circle?

Or are there elements you can do something about, elements you can influence and elements you can do absolutely nothing about.

If it’s a problem completely out of your control, so it’s totally in your Circle of Concern, what do you need to do, think or feel to accept there’s nothing you can do about it?

If it’s nearly all in your Circle of Control, what steps can you take to solve the problem/situation?

If it’s in your Circle of Influence, what steps can you take yourself that will help influence the situation? For example, Dr Stephen Covey uses examples of working on himself to help his relationship with his wife and son – being a better listener is one step for him.


How does this help with boundaries?

For me, being honest with myself and seeing that some problems/situations were fully in the Circle of Concern, therefore I could do nothing about them myself meant I had to give myself permission to accept that I can’t physically, mentally or emotionally care about everything/everyone/the whole planet – I just don’t have the capacity, none of us do!

By concentrating on what proactive steps I could take that I had direct or indirect control over (what was in my Circles of Control and Influence) meant I was less worried, less stressed, stopped overworking, less panicky about Big World Events and could see that my own proactive steps could contribute to my own wellbeing. In other words, using the Circles of Influence, with lots of other tools and a healthy dose of therapy, got me out of the other side of burn-out. I also got more resilient about those Big World Events as I accepted they are outside of my control, a global pandemic, for example.

Really looking at what I actually had control over also meant I said Yes to my own boundaries and could more easily recognise when others were pushing at my boundaries.

Give the Circles a go and comment below or DM me to let me know if they help you.


*Affiliate link to bookshop.org. All of the books I recommend are on my Resources page and affiliated with bookshop.org, a fantastic alternative to Amazon!