Author: Dr Seema Rao
Associate Director of Education and Research at Bangalore Hospice Trust, Karunashraya, Bengaluru
‘Change is the only thing that is constant’.
While all of us have been cultured and sensitized to adapt to change, the extraordinary changes and disruption in routine brought on by COVID-19 has been unprecedented and extremely challenging. Uncertainty has become the norm in the wake of the pandemic, with the unending trauma and upheaval impacting our daily lives. We have had a lot of change to get used to, all at once, and adapting to these changes have been difficult. While some of us have been able to adapt to these changes albeit with some difficulty, others have been overwhelmed by these changes.
Stephen Covey in his book,The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, segregates people into two categories; the proactive ones and the reactive ones. This segregation is primarily guided by the variance exhibited when people either react to change or choose to respond to this change. The basic premise for any individual’s behavior is therefore based on how he/she reacts or chooses to respond to the change which they perceive to be either favorable or adverse to them. Mr. Covey goes on to share that ultimately, every individual can choose their path. They can either direct their attention and energy towards the things that they have control over and can therefore actually do something about, or, get overwhelmed by worrying over things that are beyond their control.
These same points can be further demonstrated pictorially using the Circle of Control and the Circle of Concern:
Figure 1: The two approaches based on the Circle of Control and Concern
The Circle of Concern encompasses all the things that we care about, but on which we do not necessarily have control over. The elements in this circle can include an array of things from politics, to economy, to media, to societal attitudes, to the behaviour of your colleagues, the duration of lockdown, etc.
The Circle of Control on the other hand encapsulates all the things that we care about and over which we actually have control over. This circle can cover a range of elements such as personal or family health, our business or work, our behavior, our investment choices, etc.
For example, you are concerned about the deaths occurring due to lack of oxygen during the pandemic (Circle of Concern). Instead of worrying about this, you volunteer to raise funds and procure oxygen at your local hospital (Circle of Control). Thus, you have turned your Circle of Concern into your Circle of Control by expanding your Circle of Control.
It is important to note that the elements for each of these circles will vary for each individual.
It is recommended to imbibe and practice a proactive approach while managing change by re-directing our energies towards those elements which are important to us and over which we can exercise control and influence. Constant adoption of this approach will increase our Circle of Control and make us more effective. On the contrary, if we chose to focus and invest our energies on the elements that we cannot change or have no influence over, we will be reducing our circle of control. By reducing our circle of control we inadvertently choose the victim role, becoming distressed and ineffective.
The idea is to therefore expand our Circle of Control adequately, so that our personal effectiveness increases, and we become empowered and better equipped to handle those elements beyond our control (Circle of Concern).
Adjusting or re-calibrating our actions and reactions to the constantly evolving environment can be facilitated by practicing the below steps:
- Introspecting and identifying the various elements that matter most to us; both within and beyond our control
- Segregating these elements into either the Circle of Concern or the Circle of Control
- By consciously ensuring that our Circle of Control is relatively larger than our Circle of Concern
- By devising strategies and re-aligning behaviours that enable us to handle the situation in a manner that is most beneficial to us and to those around us
It is also encouraging to remember that when we effectively focus on the elements impacting us directly and over which we have control, we can also create a ripple and thereby affect even those things which are beyond our control. Eg. If we take care of our mental health and well being, we might be able to offer our shoulder or hold another’s hand when they might need it the most.
To help get you started on creating your circles, I now share with you, a snapshot of what my circle looks like.. So, what do your circle look like?
Remember the power of choice is with you…
The Circle of Concern or the Circle of Control…you get to choose what you want to focus on!!