Circles of concern and control

This is part of my Letters To My 20-Year-Old Self.

You direct your attention in one of two places: your circle of concern or your circle of control1.

1. Your circle of concern is enormous. It encompasses everything you can’t control but still worry about. Sports. Politics. TV shows. Extended-family drama. You obsess over these but have zero control over their outcomes.

2. Your circle of control is tiny. It includes: what time you get up, how many fruits and vegetables you eat, how well you do your job, your attitude toward others, and the progress you make toward long-term goals.

You see, time is limited. You have 16 waking hours each day, and your aspirations demand a lot of time. Furthermore, you have limited emotional energy. Don’t waste it on trivial matters, e.g., a sports team’s loss or today’s political polls. (And if you’re determined to follow a sports team or watch TV, timebox it to an hour a day, or seven hours per week!)

Focus on what you can control. Eat the right foods and the right amounts. Make sleep a priority. Nurture relationships. And prioritize your education. In some cases, you may have to sacrifice one of these to take care of the others.

This is common knowledge. But not common practice.

Take action:

Identify one item in your circle of concern that eats up your emotional energy. (Emotional energy is more scarce than time!) Brainstorm how you’ll remove this item from your circle of concern.


  1. I came across these ideas in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”