Stephen Covey’s teachings on Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence help us to divert our energies and attention in the most productive direction, in other words, into the areas that we can actually do something about.

This came to mind last week as I made my way across the English Channel to deliver a day’s training on Motivation in Brussels.

Commuting ain’t always bad! 

Travelling by Eurostar has become one of life’s little luxuries in recent months! A regular business trip to Brussels has been made all the more civilised by not having to take a flight with the inevitable airport ‘herding’. For anyone who hasn’t tried Eurostar it is worth knowing that at no point are you herded. You arrive, wait, then board the fabulously spacious and most civilised train. I can’t recommend it highly enough for its service, speed and ease. On Eurostar I get 2 hours of sensible stress free travel to prepare me for a hard day’s training the next day.

Until it starts to go wrong…

Last week’s journey really tried my patience though. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (my Eurostar journey), lost some of it’s glitter, through no fault of its own. It all started to go wrong when an accident closed the motorway that I use to get to the mainline station where I board a train to London. The diversion took all traffic, very slowly in completely the opposite direction. The diversions, weight of traffic and frustrated drivers then lead to a succession of other incidents and accidents, which gradually saw all major routes in the vicinity grind to a halt. One thing seemed to lead to another..I missed my train, and was unable to transfer my prepaid rail ticket to take another train. Annoyingly I had to pay for another ticket.


Eventually, I boarded a later train bound for London, then got stuck half way at a station due to a points failure. Most passengers got off and waited on a different platform for a new train, only to watch in despair as our original train slid out of the station en route for London sooner than anticipated, leaving the rest of us waiting on a freezing platform for another 20 minutes . The clock was ticking and I began to wonder if I was ever going to arrive at St Pancras in time for my Eurostar departure. Stress levels were building for reasons that were beyond my control.

To cut a long story short, I arrived in time, just. And once I was installed in my armchair of a seat with a tasty snack in front of me and a cheeky glass of wine to put the world to rights, the problems of the earlier part of the journey began to melt away.

Everything that went wrong on this journey was out of my control, so no point getting overly stressed about things. I am out of pocket by one train fare..lesson learned…I won’t pre-book an inflexible ticket in future.

Don’t waste your energy…easier said than done

My reason for writing about this experience is two-fold. Firstly I do find it helps to get things off your chest, and being able to write about my frustrating travelling experience means that in some way it is now over and done the past and I can move on!

Also, by reflecting on the experience I am noticing how I deal with things that are within, and outside of my immediate control. Stephen Covey talked about Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern. Whilst I am concerned about the impact of the failing transport network on my journey and ability to meet my work deadlines, I am also aware that at times such as these it would be wasteful of my energy to invest in worry, anger, annoyance etc. Instead I can invest in the things I can control, such as how to use my time productively, how to think ahead in case I encounter further problems and delays, an importantly, how to minimise the chances of travel problems affecting me again in this way in the future.

Focus on what you can influence

None of us want to encounter travel delays or transport break-downs. But we can all reflect on our experiences and draw one piece of learning into our Circle of Influence, to help us when the situation arises again. How much time and energy are you investing in concerns that you can do nothing about? It takes practice, but life becomes less stressful and we can feel more in control when we are focusing on things that we can do something about.