• Matthew Broom

Taking Action: Focusing on Your Circle of Influence

When playing poker the only thing completely in your control is your decisions. The decisions you make are based upon imperfect information, but focusing on the probability of your hand being a winner is your best bet. The cards on the table are the environment that we all get to make choices in. The cards you’ve been dealt can change that environment. Focusing on how you play the cards is within your circle of influence. Almost everything else at the table falls into the circle of concern.

Our lives are structured similarly to this. We are all dealt a hand and how you play yours is up to you. The political and economic landscape that we operate in is mostly out of our control. But, quite often, we get stuck in this circle of concern instead of focusing on our circle of influence. Stephen Covey in his seminal book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People describes the two circles like this:

"Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about." — Stephen R. Covey

Circle Of Concern (reactive): Things over which we have no real control.

  • Examples: The economy, North Korea, building Trump’s wall, the weather, millennials (lol)

Circle of Influence (proactive): Things that we can do something about.

  • Examples: How much we save, educating ourselves, exercising, building relationships, training your probie.

It is easy to find ourselves in the circle of concern because it requires no action. It’s just noise. As some of the guys at my station say about folks who like to talk it but don’t walk it: “You’re like a catfish, all lips and no ass.” Commiserating about how you don’t think you’ll be able to retire because of [insert excuse] won't get you any closer to retiring.

On the other hand, focusing on your circle of influence is all about action. As we say in the fire department, it is about taking pride and ownership. When you take pride and ownership of your retirement, you take action.

After you decide to take ownership, you might calculate what it would take to retire well. And that number might sound like a tall order. But then you break it down into what it takes to get there by investing every month for the next 30 years. All of a sudden, your goal becomes a reasonable number. Then you create a budget to see how you can tweak your cash flow to make that investment amount possible. And now you are on the road to success because you focused on your circle of influence.

Obviously, this line of thinking applies directly to your finances, but it is applicable to almost every facet of life. We all have the same number of hours in a day. Figure out what matters to you, focus on being proactive in those areas, and build the life you desire.

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