I often used to worry about everything. Will Arnav come to my party? What if it rains? Will I waste the whole day on the field waiting for it to dry up? What if Jasmine gets a better score than me? This kind of thought pattern became a part of my daily mind behavior, especially when I was tasked with responsibility. As if that was not a big enough challenge for me, I used to pile on my worries and unnecessary concerns making my already challenging task, even more difficult. I was fed up and frankly, exhausted from this type of thinking so I decided to fix it.
I began analyzing my thoughts and figuring out why I was getting worried so much. I asked myself if I could change it.
After conducting a root cause analysis, I realized this problem was self-inflicted! I was thinking about factors that I had absolutely no control over. I was worrying about things that I couldn’t even impact in the slightest way. Things like weather, people’s opinions, and external circumstances made my mind restless. I soon realized that this type of mental chatter wasn’t helping me focus on my goals. I was minimizing my chances of succeeding in everything. So, how could I reverse that and maximize my chances of success? How could I stop worrying about uncontrollable factors and focus solely on the factors that I had control over?
This is the thought process that led me to differentiate between the controllable and uncontrollable factors in my life. In fact, I went one step further and identified three buckets where my energy was expended:
The Concentric Circle of Life
Imagine you are at the center of this circle. Each circle are factors that influence your life in any given moment, event, and/or circumstance.
The closest circle to you, which is the yellow one, contains the factors you have complete control over in your life. For example, your thoughts, (the way you choose to respond to stimuli), are completely in your control. Your words and actions, which are also part of the yellow circle, are derivatives of your thought. So, your thoughts, words, and actions are 100% in your control. In other words, the yellow circle illustrates your response to external stimuli.
As you travel outwards, one circle at a time, you’ll see your control over those factors reduce. The two middle circles, that are in blue, are not completely out of your control, hence, you have some influence over them. For example, how someone else feels and acts can be influenced by the way you act towards them, (if they let it)!
As you move further away from the center, the factors shift from being influence-able to being uncontrollable. The uncontrollable circles are in red. Forces of nature and genetics cannot be impacted by you regardless of what you think, say, or do. No matter what you try to do, the factors in the red circles will always play its course. You have no influence over them.
Now the question is, where are you focusing your energy on? The yellow, the blue, or the red?
You are living your life by chance. You either believe in fate or destiny and are not taking charge of your own life. Your focus is on factors you have absolutely no control over. When tasks and situations need you to focus on your thoughts, words, and actions, (yellow circle), you instead focus in the red, the uncontrollables, which proves futile. It’s helpful to be aware of the red and know that they will occur as they are supposed to, uninfluenced by you. For example, this awareness can help you prepare for a rainy day. If you know the chances of rain are high, you can prepare appropriately with a raincoat and an umbrella instead of spending your energy worrying about getting wet. You worrying about the rain won’t make it go away. It will cause you unwanted stress and anxiety but by living in the yellow, you can choose to respond to the stimuli, (rain), in an appropriate manner.
You are hoping people, external circumstances, and situations work in your favor. Sometimes they do, because you attract them by focusing in the yellow, but since the yellow is not your sole focus, the chances of the blue factors being favorable are not in your control. You still would not have complete control over the blue circles and your success and well-being would be dependent on them.
You are making the choice to take charge of your life. You hardly make excuses and choose to be responsible for your journey in life. Living in the yellow increases the chances of the blue factors working for you as well. Also, since you cannot control the red factors, the fact that you are living in the yellow would increase your chances of achieving your desired result.
Remember, each circle influences every moment, event, and/or circumstance in your life. The crux of this lies in the understanding that there are circles in this figure that we cannot have control over and there are circles where we have influential impact and absolute control. Once this is understood, the question to ask is- where do you choose to focus your energy on? The factors that you have control over, or the factors that you don’t?
Nevertheless, just because you’re living in the yellow, doesn’t mean everything will happen your way. It just means your thoughts, words, and actions are in your control and you choose when and how to use them. You acknowledge that blue is not fully in your control and the red is completely not in your control, so you spend your energy in the yellow. The person who practices being in the yellow increases their chances of obtaining the desired result. If the person is not living in the yellow, that person is leaving it up to the blue and red, in other words, uncontrollable factors to deliver results.
In other words, you can choose to live in the red, blue, or yellow but you are essentially wasting your energy by living in the red and blue because you have little to no impact on those factors. However, by spending time in the yellow, you are tilting the odds towards you because at least you are taking charge of what you CAN control! Imagine a world where you are hoping that your goals are accomplished, and you are completely neglecting to work on your thoughts, words, and actions? In this case, your entire life is left up to chance and you are left feeling powerless. You go through life hoping the blue and red factors are favorable but never actually have an impact on it. You become a mere spectator, not a player.
It’s completely a choice but it is yours. Which circle do you want to live in?