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In times of change, use the sphere of control to help you stay focused

In times of change and uncertainty, many of us go into ‘control’ mode to create order. Whilst this has some benefits and can be productive, the anticipation of change means many try to control the uncontrollable - leading to overwhelm, anxiety and burnout.

Focusing on the things that are outside of your control, leaves you spiralling into unhelpful inner chatter and worrying unnecessarily. We’ve all done it - writing stories in our minds of things that might happen, planning for every eventuality, exhausting ourselves thinking ‘what if’.

The Sphere of Control (popularised by Stephen Covey) is a great tool to help you focus on the things you can control. By doing this you will have more impact where it matters and you save yourself a lot of energy and worry. It's also a great tool to help you build and maintain resilience when practiced over time.

How to use it?

  1. Describe the situation that is worrying you or causing you concern. Outline in as much detail as you can, all of your concerns about the situation

  2. Taking those concerns, inspect them and identify which you can influence and which you have direct control over.

  3. If you find yourself thinking 'I can't do anything about that', check that that is really the case. What would need to happen for you to be able to influence or control it? Is there one small thing you can do to make this happen?

  4. When you've inspected your concerns, you will be left with a diagram of what is within your control, within your influence and everything outside of your control.

  5. The opportunity here is to focus on the two inner circles.

Naming that which is in your control is sometimes enough to feel a sense of power and agency. If you want to go further, create a priority order for yourself and commit to a couple of actions you can take to alleviate your concern.

You can apply this model to all kinds of scenarios in life and work to help you work through issues or changes and focus on the areas you can make a real difference.


Gemma Brown is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) accredited with the International Coach Federation, working with individuals and groups to navigate successfully through transitions - be it career, relationships or life in general. Her belief is that when we confidently bring our whole selves to all areas of life, anything is possible. Transitions exist in both our personal and business life, and so often, the two fiercely overlap. Coaching with Gemma focuses on you as a whole, enabling you to identify your strengths, build confidence and to live a life with increased purpose and direction. Gemma works face to face with clients in the Cambridge area as well as via Zoom. For more about Gemma, visit her 'About' page or contact her directly.

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