the circle of influence & what it means for college students

I have a distinct sophomore-year memory of calling my dad in tears, complaining I was not able to do everything I wanted to do.  I wanted to be involved in everything so I could make as big of an impact on my community as possible and, as a result, I became incredibly overwhelmed.  In response to my call for advice, my dad introduced me to the Circle of Influence.

What is the Circle of Influence?

Imagine a circle.  Picture you and each of your concerns (big and small) in the middle of that circle. When you think about all of those concerns at once, they easily become overwhelming. Now, picture an additional circle – the Circle of Influence – that encompasses the concerns you DO have control over/can do something about.

The key is to focus on your circle – the concerns you are able to control – so you can function at full capacity.  While the circle might expand or shrink depending on the context (resources, source of support, energy, etc.) it is important to check-in with yourself to be sure you not pushing the limits of your circle to the point of exhaustion.

Circle of Influence

What does this means for our students?

Sophomore-year Veronica was definitely performing outside of her circle.  It took someone else’s perspective to help me understand why I was feeling so overwhelmed.  As student affairs professionals, we have the opportunity to support our students when they are reaching too far beyond their circles. Additionally, we can proactively provide them with the resources needed to guide them away from going beyond the point of influence.

What does this look like in practice?

Continue teaching students the importance of prioritizing.  When students are able to name their values and identify what is of significance to them, they are better able to focus on a specific range of experiences to achieve a depth of growth as opposed to being overwhelmed by the breadth of opportunities.

Area of Focus

Don’t get me wrong – the purpose of college for many students is to explore opportunities so they are better able to identify what is valuable to them and that’s great!  But sometimes getting involved in too many opportunities is counter-productive.

Remember: just because a circle of influence decreases in size doesn’t mean it decreases in value.Tweet: Just because a circle of influence decreases in size doesn't mean it decreases in value. @vmroman18

Thanks, Dad : )

xo vm

// concepts adapted from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by S. Covey

// read about recognizing everyday leadership


2 thoughts on “the circle of influence & what it means for college students

  1. Luke says:

    I like how simple this concept is, while still being hugely applicable to daily decision-making and prioritization. Cool stuff!


    • vmilagros says:

      I appreciate this, Luke! I was hesitant to share the post because I learned this lesson years ago and thought it might be TOO simple/obvious, but it is a lesson I still keep learning over and over. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

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