Your circle of influence

Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage, to change the things I can;
And wisdom, to know the difference.
Reinhold Niebuhr; Shortened Serenity Prayer; ca. 1930.


The idea is simple: think of yourself as the centre of a set of circles of increasing size. Within each of these areas are things you can influence to various degrees. Deciding how far your personal circle of influence reaches, can help you focus your attention and actions to the things that are within your grasp to have an impact on.

While we can certainly have an impact on the choices of others, the further these people are distant from us, the less effect you can have on them. As an example of this, ask yourself: How many strangers on the internet have you managed to convince to change their ways? Note that the circles of influence vary widely from one person to the next. A private citizen will have less influence over country politics than the prime minister will. But even this prime minister will have no impact on what the weather will be like tomorrow.

Your personal circles of influence

You can spend your whole life shouting at clouds, hoping the world will change for the better. Though you’d likely have more of an impact directing your attention to your own actions, and to the people you interact with on a daily basis.


Draw a circle covering the paper, with your name at the centre. Reflect on what you can influence. As you do this, make sure you cover all the bases. It may be helpful for you to consider what you can influence in the following areas:

  • Your work and tasks
  • Your Relationships
  • Aspects of your own behaviour
  • Aspects of company culture
  • Aspects of company policy / procedures, etc