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The Teaching Space Podcast

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Mar 1, 2018

Episode 11 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores Covey's circle of influence and circle of concern.

Podcast Episode 11 Transcript

Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands. 

Today we're going to be talking about understanding your circle of influence and circle of concern. This concept comes from Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

I'm not one of these people who stands by absolutely everything in that book, but there is one thing that I find myself using in my teaching role all the time, and it's having an awareness of my circle of influence and circle of concern. 

That's why I thought it would be a really good topic to cover in isolation for an episode.

Having an awareness of my circles is really helpful for working out where to focus my effort and energy. It allows me to prioritise effectively.

For those of you who've not come across the circle of influence and circle of concern, let me explain what they mean.

Circle of Influence, Circle of Concern

It would be far easier if I had a video podcast because I would have a flip chart at this point and be drawing circles on them, so please just use your imagination for now. 

Circle of Concern

Your circle of concern is a big circle that contains everything you are worried or concerned about at the moment.

It could be a couple of learners in your group, your class. It could be something health-related. You may be worried about your finances or the finances of a member of your family. You might be concerned about the environment or something political going on right now.

Anything that you're concerned about goes into your circle of concern.

Circle of Influence

Your circle of influence contains some of those things from your circle of concern because it's all the things you are worried about that you can actually change. It the things you can influence; the problems you can do something about. 

Your circle of concern, generally speaking, is far bigger than your circle of influence.

I imagine the circle of influence inside the circle of concern.

Your circle of influence and circle of concern can dictate whether you are a proactive person or a reactive person. I suspect that most of us want to be proactive in our professional and personal lives.

Proactive People

Proactive people tend to focus on things in their circle of influence, things they can actually do something about. That's where their energy goes and as a result, they see success, and that success ultimately means that their circle of influence gets bigger.

Reactive People

Reactive people tend not to focus on things that are in their circle of influence. They look at things that are broader and in their circle of concern. In other words, things that they might not have the power to change. As a result, their circle of influence can shrink.

Design Your Life

The idea behind all of this really is that you design your own life and it's far better to focus your time and your energy on things that you can do something about.

When you start dealing with young people in an educational environment you want to really make a difference.

In many cases we do, but sometimes you need to make a decision where you focus your energy, and I think the circle of influence and circle of concern can be really helpful for working that out. It can also be really helpful when you're working out how to manage the enormous workload that we have as teachers.


I think one of the reasons why the circle of influence and circle of concern thing works so well for me is that I'm very motivated by wins. I don't mean that I'm competitive. What I mean is that if I focus my time and energy on something and I am able to influence it and I get a result, a positive result, that motivates me to move onto something else and something else and something else.

The reason why your circle of influence grows is in this situation is that the more wins you get, the more confident you get, and the more influential you will appear to people around you in your organisation.

It's a really, really simple concept, but one which many, many people can relate to.

Take Action

Over the next week when you're dealing with prioritising, when you're dealing with difficult situations, think to yourself, "Is this in my circle of influence or my circle of concern?" And handle it accordingly.

Time for a Quote?

I wanted to sum up this episode with a profound thought-provoking quote. I've been looking around online and actually what I came up with, this kind of surprised me a little bit. I'm going to read a tiny bit of Reinhold Niebuhr's famous Serenity Prayer.

Regardless of your religious persuasion, this isn't something that's going to happen regularly, by the way. I'm not going to read prayers on the podcast. It's just not how I roll. This really sums up the circle of influence and circle of concern. It goes something like this:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

Isn't that fab?

Wrap Up

This has been a really short and sweet episode. I just wanted to introduce you to this fantastic theory from Stephen Covey and it is one that definitely, it plays a part in my day on a regular basis, and that's the reason I wanted to share it with you.

That's all from me today. I hope you've enjoyed episode 11 of The Teaching Space podcast. If you have please consider hopping over to iTunes and leaving a positive review. By doing so, you make it far easier for teachers to find the podcast. If people are searching for an education podcast the more people who leave a positive review for The Teaching Space the more people who will find it, so please consider doing that.

Thank you very much and I hope you'll tune in to the next episode.