The temperature in my son’s high school classroom was 85 degrees.
At least that’s what he said when I asked why he sometimes has a hard time focusing during chemistry class.
I get it. I remember certain classrooms in high school being particularly hot or cold. I also remember not liking science all that much. In fact, just about anything could cause me to lose focus during my high school career. Nevertheless, I had to find a way to get my mind back on task.
The same goes for my son.
Our conversation eventually turned to what we can control and what we can’t control. I drew a circle, and inside it, I wrote things that he could control (his focus, his attitude, the amount of work he does, willingness to ask the teacher questions, etc.). Outside the circle, we wrote things he can’t control (temperature of the classroom, the teaching style, behavior of fellow students and the fact that the school district requires four high school science classes, etc.).
But this advice doesn’t apply only to teenagers. As professionals, we too benefit by focusing more on what we can control and less on what we can’t. After all, we are just grown-up high school kids, right?
In our lives, it’s easy to get wrapped up with things we can’t control – the pandemic, inflation, the fact that Vladimir Putin is an asshole, etc.
Same thing applies when we’re working in our sales roles. We can’t control what motivates our prospective clients, but we can take steps to discover it. You can’t stop macro trends from disrupting your industry, but you can control your response to that disruption. You can’t single-handedly fix the global supply chain crisis, but you can find ways to not only survive it but maybe even profit from it.
All things that fall under your control can collectively be referred to as your “circle of influence.”
In his famous book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stepen Covey explains the circle of influence. He tells us to focus on what we can impact. He states that a positive and proactive focus on the things we can control will actually have a secondary effect of increasing our circle of Influence.
Those people who focus on the things within their circle of control tend to be proactive. Those who focus outside the circle tend to be reactive.
A proactive sales professional might say: “I lost the sale because I failed to establish how my product solved the client’s problem, next time I will pay closer attention to the prospective client’s values and motivations.”
A reactive sales professional might say: “I missed out on the deal because my team members didn’t prepare me enough for my sales presentation. They need to pull their weight next time.”
The problem with being reactive is that it turns you into a victim. You’re not going to find a lot of successful victims in the sales profession.
So, how can you help yourself focus more inside your circle of influence and consequently be more proactive?
Well, attitude is important. So are things like discipline, emotional intelligence, organization and time management. But there are three words in particular that you must keep front of mind:
Responsibility, authority and accountability.
Every individual has responsibility for himself or herself. Nobody else can or should make decisions for you. Fortunately, each of us has the authority to carry out that responsibility. Nobody has the right to take away the power you have over your own life. Finally, we are accountable for the decisions we make – good or bad. You live with the consequences of your decision-making and actions.
While responsibility, authority and accountability come with a burden, they are also liberating. Success begins and ends with you. People who abide by these three words enjoy more success and lead richer lives.
Not only will these three words make you happier and more successful, they’ll actually EXPAND your circle of influence. People who lead healthy, proactive lives/careers, ATTRACT people.
In other words, victims’ circles of influence get smaller over time. Proactive people grow their influence.
So, in a weird little twist, if you focus only on what you can control, there will eventually be more stuff under your control. Pretty cool if you ask me.