Three Circles...and the shoe box in the closet

February 04, 2021 | 934 Views

Three Circles...and the shoe box in the closet

Serah Morrissey, SPHR

Senior Director, People Resources | Schoox

Before he passed away, my dad was the person I trusted the most for advice and guidance. One of the best things he encouraged me to do, repeatedly, was “put that in the box of things not to worry about.” In other words, the situation was beyond my control and I was wasting precious energy and time that needed to be re-routed. I walk around, still, with the image in my head of an old shoe box on a closet shelf that is holding all the worries of an imperfect perfectionist who wanted to save the world. I know those thoughts and worries are safely tucked away so that I can focus on what matters.The 3 circles

In my work with other humans, I have adapted my dad’s advice into three concentric circles to illustrate the best use of our energy and talents.

The innermost is our CIRCLE OF CONTROL. These are things that are completely under our control: how we react, how we interact with others, which route we take to work, how much water we drink, how much screen time we consume.

The middle is the CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE. In this space, we give our attention toward things we maybe can’t control, but can impact. Many of us spend our most meaningful time at work in this circle. We train, lead, and advise even if we can’t control the performance of others. We influence behavior by how we speak and act in our operation.

The outside ring is the CIRCLE OF THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT (patent pending). This is where the old shoe box lives. Unfortunately, we spend way too much time out here in the danger zone when our energy would be much better used in the inner circles. For example, let’s take the pandemic. In the Circle of Control, we wear a mask, wash our hands, and socially distance. Perhaps we take additional Vitamin C or increase our antioxidants. In the Circle of Influence, we train our teams on health and safety protocols. We may call our parents and ask them to please stay home rather than visiting Aunt Virginia for Sunday coffee.

In the outer circle is where things get messy. We spend time judging the behavior of others. We might consume the news and opinions of others to the point of frustration or anger. If we see someone post photos of a gathering, we may comment on their behavior in an unkind way. Why? It’s completely out of my control, yet I think the world needs me to weigh in. Guess what? There’s nothing I can do about it! Time to relocate to the inner circles!

I keep this image on my desk at work. It is a constant reminder to redirect my energy toward the inner circles because that’s where my hotel and my team need me. That’s where your organization needs YOU. In 2021, I invite you to keep this image or one similar in your workspace as a reminder to stay in the right circle. It’s not always easy, but the outcome is always worth it.

Sometimes being in the middle is a good thing.

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Comments (1)

  1. paula henkel:
    Mar 25, 2021 at 08:07 PM

    excellent reminder !