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Yesterday we covered the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence, but there is a third Circle the Stephen Covey omitted in the 7 Habits but which he described in his 1994 book First Things First, so today we’ll briefly cover this one that, if accepted, might just change your view of how you do your work. Then we’ll finalise Habit 1 with another consideration and a recap of how Being Proactive can breed our success.

The third Circle lies within the Circle of Influence and Covey called it The Centre of Focus.

While the Circle of Influence was where we should focus our mental efforts in preference to the Circle of Concern, the Centre of Focus he described as containing ‘the things we are concerned about, that are within our ability to influence, that are aligned with our mission, and are timely.’ He went on, ‘when we set and achieve goals that are in our Centre of Focus, we maximise the use of our time and effort.’

So many people, and so many organisations (particularly public sector) dissipate and diversify and dilute their efforts by adopting new work, imposing new protocols and practices on their front line staff, so that what was once their primary aim becomes just another thing to get done. This is an example of where, instead of bearing down on their Centre of Focus, leaders try to expand their Circle of Concern in the mistaken belief it provides influence, to the point at which the Circle of Influence actually shrinks, and then throttles the Centre of Focus. (Ask any police officer dealing with another ‘partnership’ initiative. Well meant, but dilatory.)

Working in your Centre of Focus means being better at what you do, better service provision, and greater self-esteem.

The final example of proactivity is how we address mistakes. Making a mistake has consequences, we know that. The first time we make a mistake, we reap the consequences and we learn. That itself demonstrates a principle – we can choose and control what we do, but the consequences are dictated by principles outside of our control.

Covey suggested that mistakes are in our Circle of Concern – they are in the past, unchangeable. Once made and the lesson learned, our next choice is in our Circle of Influence – we choose better. Focusing on the error is reactive, focusing on the solution is proactive.

All in all, many things lie in the Circle of Influence, the ultimate locus of Proactivity and exercise of Habit 1. Making and keeping commitments, punctuality, goal-setting and acting with those goals in mind, taking responsibility for communication, defining your personal mission, thinking ‘we’ not ‘me’, personal renewal and personal integrity – everything succeeds or dies in the Circle of Influence.

If you are reactive and let emotions, moods and circumstances direct your reaction, you are not living – you are ‘being lived’. If you live a life based on your values and not your moods, you are truly going to discover that your life is effective. You will get the results you want, and you will achieve them consistently.

Dr Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, says three things control happiness – genetics, circumstances and the things you can control. But of the three, it is the latter – being in control – that has the most impact. In essence, he is saying you should spend as much time as possible in your Circle of Influence, ideally in your Centre of Focus. Charles R. Hobbs and Hyrum W. Smith said the same thing – that greater personal leadership and management are precursors to the higher levels of self-esteem that bring peace of mind.

Tomorrow we start to explore where you find what makes you happy.