27. Circle of Influence

The circle of influence is a great tool and I used it for many years. Stephen R. Covey described it in his book “The 7 Good Habits of Highly Effective People”. 

The idea is that you focus on the things you can influence and control, and you forget about the things you cannot control. 

27.1 Illustration

“Don’t cry over spilled milk” is a proverb that dates back many hundred years. Some may say it is from the writer James Howell in 1659. But you can go even further back and find that the stoic philosophers advocated to focus on the things you can do something about and refrain from using time and energy on the things you cannot change. In fact, there is one thing you can control and influence at any time and that is your own reaction.

Stoicism was founded 300 years BC and teaches the development of self-control and how to overcome destructive emotions. Further back in history Buddhism which started 2500 ago also had thoughts and techniques regarding “spilled milk” in the form of destructive emotions such as stress, fear, sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, resentment, anger, frustration etc. The Buddhists used mental techniques and meditation as antidotes against destructive emotions because they understood that destructive emotions are ………. Yes – destructive and a block against success. 

This video clip will show a few wise words from a Buddhist regarding spilled milk: 

The idea of cause is that we cannot do anything about the past. Happened is happened, done is done, the golf shot we just did is done and gone. The only thing we can do is to control our reaction. It might be difficult to stay positive, but in golf it is necessary simply because we cannot let the past bad short have any bad influence on the next shot we are going to make. 

Moreover, the next shot is something we can do a lot about. We can mess it up by letting the past bad short having influence or we can do our routines and techniques to make sure the next short is as we want it. 

27.1 Tiger Woods and his twisted angel

Tiger Woods won his 15th Major on Augusta National in 2019. The golf course was wet and slippery. Many were talking about the conditions of the golf course, but Tiger says:


TIGER WOODS: The one smart decision I think we really made was on Tuesday, when it just hosed down rain. All the guys who went out and played said it was useless to go out there because it was gonna be so much faster come Thursday. I just did drill work and worked on technique.


Notice Tiger Woods last sentence and his action. He just went into his mental bubble, his comfort zone, which he can control. Tiger Woods did his “drill work” when others complained. 

Tuesday on the 14th Tiger drives it into the left behind a couple of trees. It is a difficult shot, but he hits it well and gets on the green. More importantly for us today, hundreds of people are following Tiger Woods around the cause, and they stand very close to him when he does the shot. They are totally quiet when he swings, after the stroke however, Tiger Woods runs to the fairway to see what happens to the ball. The crowd starts running with him, but the security guards try to stop them. This is where the situation turns dangerous to Tiger Woods. A security guard attempting to keep the audience back comes chasing to keep them back but slips on the wet grass and tackles Tiger Woods’ ankle. I must say it is a very clean hit to Tiger’s ankle. 

The pure security guard does everything he can to keep the spectators back and to avoid clipping Tigers ankle but unfortunately you can see Tiger’s ankle give in, you can even imagine the sound it makes when the security guard hits the ankle for full speed. It is a grim sight and Tiger is not able to walk or run away without a very serious limp. This is a scary moment at the 2019 Majors at Augusta National but Tiger Woods’ reaction is the most remarkable. He limps, seriously, and he is not able to walk probably after collision. At the same time, he concentrates fully on the ball and the game. This is an extreme situation, and his reaction is extreme. You can see his pain, but you cannot see any mental reaction. You cannot see any distraction. Tiger Woods is still in the game, and he is still focused to the full extend. He pulls a birdie on 14th and the next hole 15th

In my mind this is truly amazing, and this is an example of extreme focus. It is also an example of “The Circle of Influence”. Tiger cannot do anything about the past but he can focus on the shot he has in front of him. Here is the quote from Tiger Woods:


TIGER WOODS: He (The security guard) was just trying to do his job. Look, it was slippery out there. He tried to put the brakes on, and unfortunately my right knee went around my left. And that’s what hurt. It did hurt. My LCL in my right leg, I definitely felt it. But, I gotta go play, so off I went [and birdied the hole]. … You know, when you play in front of a lot of people, things happen.