Spheres of Control

I’ll be the first to admit, I like to have things under control. I plan and plan and try to make things perfect. But the truth is, I can’t control everything. I need to get better at letting go.

This is something I’ve been working on for a while, and it’s probably something I’ll be working on for the rest of my life. I like to have everything under control and planned out.

But I’m learning that there are things I can control, and things I can’t. I tend to get so worked up and overwhelmed about the things that I can’t even control. It’s not healthy. It’s not good.

I studied psychology in college, and a term I would come across was “Spheres of Control.” This term is exactly about the things you can and can’t control.

Let me explain what it means, in case any of you might not know this term. The closer things are to the center of the circle, the more control you have over them. So you can control things like your own thoughts, feelings, actions, decisions, and moods. The next circle is the sphere that you can influence. These are things like your productivity at work, your reputation, other people’s choices (you can’t make the decision for them, but you can offer advice), and things like that. Maybe you don’t have direct control, but you can shape them. The outermost circle are things that you have no control or influence over. Think of things like traffic, celebrities, your past, and other stuff. These are the things that exist in your life and can’t really be changed by you.

I don’t know about you, but I focus a little too much on that last circle when it literally does me no good. I worry so much about what I can’t change. And that’s not healthy. It literally does no benefit to me or anyone else.

I don’t have some magical answer. Truthfully, it’s a lot of reminders of “hey, this isn’t good. Stop that.” Sometimes I need external reminders as well. My friends are often quick to point out when I fall in this spiraling trap. And I am grateful.

But I also recognize this is still a problem. And I’m hopeful that if it’s a problem for me, then it’s a problem for others. And while I don’t want anyone to suffer, I also don’t want anyone to feel like they’re alone or that no one cares. Maybe you see a bit of yourself in this. And then it’s being able to change the patterns in your head.

Fun fact: your brain lies to you. Especially if you’re someone like me, who can focus a lot on that outer circle, your brain really lies to you. So you gotta learn how to recognize and redirect those lies. I’ve seen a recommendation of pretending that those lies are said to you by an annoying teenager, a Karen, or a backseat driver. It’s someone who annoys you, but their opinion doesn’t have any affect on your life.

And so, the things that have no affect on your life are the same things that you don’t need to let affect your thoughts. And trust me, this is just as much for me as it is for you. It’s a constant reminder that I only have limited control over my own direct self and not much else outside that. That’s all it is. That’s what you have direct control over. Anything else outside of that is either influencable or not worth your time.

2 thoughts on “Spheres of Control

    • It’s definitely not an easy concept. But, like most things, it’s something that you can train your mind to do. I know that I worry about these things, and I doubt that I’m alone. I like to highlight my struggles in the hopes that other people can relate. I agree with you and I appreciate you recognizing that this is a struggle


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