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


recognizing everyday leadership


I’ve heard many undergraduate students refer to leadership as if it is a level of accomplishment that only certain individuals can achieve.  I think these types of conversations are a setback because it means we (student affairs professionals, among others) are failing to show our students that leadership comes in a variety of forms, not just by being on an executive board or getting involved in campus activities.  What about the simple, smaller acts of leadership that are occurring every day?  Why don’t we recognize those as often?

Everyday Leadership

In his Everyday Leadership TedTalk, Drew Dudley defines everyday leadership in terms of “lollipop moments,” moments in which someone said or did something that fundamentally made your life better.  Often, individuals are not recognized for their lollipop moments because the moments are so small and fleeting it is difficult to know their level of impact until after further reflection.

“We let people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it.”

Dudley goes on to discuss how changing one person’s understanding of what they are capable of can change the way we view leadership as a whole.  Leadership is not about the big actions, it is about the small steps that move us forward.

So What? // If you agree with Dudley, then you agree recognizing simple acts of everyday leadership can completely change how we are framing the concept of leadership to our students.  This is powerful stuff!!

Now What? // Many individuals already take a few minutes  to reflect on all the happenings of each day.  If we take an extra minute to actually recognize the individuals that made our lives better on a daily basis, we can help individuals better understand their own capabilities.  Not to mention it feels great to give a heartfelt compliment.

If we help individuals recognize their own capabilities then these individuals are more likely to find the courage to act as leaders.  This alone could change the way we view and define the concept of leadership.

Who are you going to recognize today?

xo vm