Health is so much more than regular visits with your doctor. Health is a day to day process that requires continual individual commitment.

We are in control of our choices and actions, but not in the control of the choices and actions of others. People around us, are important to us, we love them, need them, help them, work with them. But we do not control them. 

In our lives, we have a circle of control. This circle of control encompasses all the things in our lives that we can directly control. We are in control of what we do, what we say, what we eat, what we drink, where we go.  In short, we are in control of ourselves.

Around this circle of control are all the people in our lives. Our family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers.  These people influence us, we influence them, but we do not control them.  We are not in control of other people.  And importantly, we should not let other people be in control of us.

Let me explain with an example. 

Meet Annabelle.

Annabelle is overweight but committed to a low carb lifestyle and to healthy change.

These two grey circles are Annabelle.

The inner darker circle represents all the things that Annabelle can control, all the healthy choices she can make.  The outer, lighter circle is all the people in her life that she interacts with these people influence her and she influences them. They make up her circle of influence.

On Monday morning (with her good health in mind), Annabelle packs a delicious low carb real food lunch, she puts her sneakers in her bag (so she can walk at lunchtime) and plans to meditate for 3 min in the car park after work.

All these actions are within her circle of control.

The problem is, Annabelle is quite focussed on her circle of influence and not enough on her circle of control. 

She has great plans. But, when she gets to work, her colleague is being difficult, they have not completed their work on time, so Annabelle’s project is delayed,  she looks bad in front of the boss and is angry and stressed. She allows this negative energy to shrink her control and tramps down to the staff room to console herself with a tin of biscuits. The negative energy then permeates her whole day, she doesn’t go for her lunch-time work and is too annoyed to meditate in the car.

When Annabelle gets home, her teenage daughter only wants pasta for dinner, despite planning a delicious low carb curry and cauliflower rice, Annabelle aquacises to her daughter’s request,  she makes and eats pasta for dinner.  That night, despite planning to go to bed at 10, she stays up late with her partner who wants them to watch Netflix together, she even eats the chocolate that her partner offers, each mouthful feels like a failure, but she eats it anyway feeling horrible, sad and out of control.

Unfortunately for Annabelle, focussing on her circle of influence erodes her control.  She is frustrated, feels angry, guilty, and ashamed. She is not in a happy place. She is not managing to work towards her goals of health and weight loss in the way she would like.

So that was Monday. Monday was a bad day.

Annabelle is an intelligent and insightful woman. She doesn’t give up that easy.  On Tuesday morning, she decides to try something different. On Tuesday, Annabelle decides to focus on what she can control, and not let those people around her take her control from her.

On Tuesday morning, Annabelle again decides to pack a healthy low carb meal, brings her shoes to walk at lunch, and plans to meditate in the car after work. 

This time, she really focusses on what is in front of her and what she can control.

At morning tea, her friend Samantha is celebrating a promotion, the tea room is full of cakes, slices, and all manner of confections. Samantha pressures Annabelle to join in with the chocolate cake. “Come on, just one piece…” Annabelle feels pressured, the cake looks tasty, but she focusses on her circle of control and says “no thanks, cake doesn’t agree with me, congratulations Samantha you deserve it!”. 

Annabelle feels good about that.

Later, one of her colleagues is again being unhelpful, but Annabelle doesn’t let this drive her to the biscuit tin. Instead, she goes for her walk, eats her low carb lunch and meditates in the car before driving home.  These simple acts of self-care, not only make her feel better but improve her resilience at a physical and emotional level so the annoying colleague doesn’t get to her nearly as much. 

When at home, she cooks her low carb curry, her teenage daughter is forced to accept that pasta will not be provided unless she cooks it herself. And her partner is happy to accept that Annabelle only wants to watch one hour of Netflix tonight instead of three, so she can be in bed by 10 pm.

By focussing on her circle of control, Anabelle successfully navigates healthy choices all Tuesday!!

She strengthened and expanded her circle of control.

Annabelle successfully changes her attitude. Over the coming weeks, by focussing on her circle of control and not the circle of influence, she stays on plan with her food and movement goals. As she starts to look and feel better, she motivates a few of her friends to try a low-carb lifestyle. Her daughter is happily eating non-pasta dinners and her partner is joining her for the 10 pm bedtime and they are both getting more sleep.  She is expanding not only her circle of control but also expanding her circle of influence with her positive energy.

Dr Lucy & Dr Mary

Real Life Medicine