Circles of Influence
by Joshua Hoyt
In my role as a school counselor, when I work with people, I try to help them understand the things that are in their control and those that are outside their control. I start by making a circle and have them list things over which they have control. These can be true or false beliefs; this is not important at this point in the exercise. The person will typically list different things like school work, eating habits, different people, etc.
As they list the items, we also determine how much control they have over each one. The more control they have, the closer to the center of the circle they place that item; things over which they have less control go closer to the outer edge of the circle. We then talk about the things over which they do not have control (once again, the truth or falseness of the beliefs is not a focus at this point). These are placed outside of the circle. The less control the person has over the thing, the farther away from the center of the circle it is placed.
One item that I like to use as an example is weather. Most people will say, “I have no control over that.” I then explain to them how cloud seeding works, and that if a person had enough know-how and money, they might actually be able to influence the weather. This is when we start to discuss the beliefs about what a person can and cannot control. We also talk about how a person gains control through the choices they make, money, education, who they know, etc. By this time, our circle begins to expand or contrast, depending on the individual’s awareness of their circumstances.
When creating our characters, each one also has a circle of control that will determine who and what that character can influence. As we develop our characters, it’s helpful to come back to this circle as we write to see how things have changed for that person. It is helpful to remember the things over which they really do have control versus those things they believe can control.
How your characters’ choices expanded or contrasted their circles?
Joshua Hoyt is a school psychologist by day, a father of four and a gamer when he’s not spending time with his family, and an author in all the other spare minutes. He is the author of How to Diagnose Your Character: Using Psychology to Create an In-Depth Character and Order of the Rose. Check out his blog where you can follow the exciting adventure of “The Old Man” and his website to be the first to learn about new releases.