Grasping for what you can’t control?

Learn how to focus on what you can control and let the rest go!

So often we find ourselves expending a great deal of energy trying to change the outcome of a situation we find ourselves in. Stress can cause us to see everything as an urgency that must be controlled. Stress can also lead us to adopt our assumptions as the truth, causing us to exert even more effort to bring circumstances and even people into our control.

This is a common topic that comes up in coaching with my clients a lot.

Below are some real-life scenarios that my clients have brought to a coaching session:

  • I need to work on how I am “being seen” by leaders and other people
  • Two of my peers cannot get along and are causing issues for my team
  • My team’s performance is a reflection of me as their leader and it’s exhausting me
  • I need to deliver feedback so that the person won’t feel bad


All the above topics have the same root cause – how can I control this situation? My go-to model for these situations is something that I call “The Circles of Control”. This simple model is based on a similar exercise found in Stephen Covey’s bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

My clients love this exercise as it serves to help them think about what they can and can’t control with greater clarity and specificity. I often have client draw it out as we are talking in a coaching session.

Start with an empty sheet of paper.

  1. Draw a large circle.
  2. Next, draw a medium sized circle inside of the big circle.
  3. And finally – draw a small circle inside of the medium circle.
  4. Label the big circle “Things I do not control”.
  5. Label the medium circle “ Things that I can influence”.
  6. And lastly, label the small circle “Things that I can control”.


You should have something like this on your paper.


Grasping for what you cant control


Most of my clients start laughing at this point. They quickly realize that what they can control is limited.

Other times, we use the circles to focus on a specific situation with the client listing what goes in each circle. There is a lot of erasing and moving from the little circle to the big circle!

While it’s important to recognize when we do not have control over a situation, it’s just as important to recognize what you do have control over – YOU! Most of the time, this is the only thing in the smallest circle.

This insight brings great relief. Clients imaging the energy they will have to focus on things that are within their power to change!



Give it a try and let me know how it impacted you –

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