By: Ethan Hsiao
Some teens dream of walking on the Moon or sitting in the Oval Office, while others aspire for a Hollywood star or a Pulitzer prize. I, on the other hand, have a bit of a peculiar goal in mind:
As strange as it may seem, my greatest wish in life is to learn how to draw a perfect circle.
It sounds ridiculous, yet it’s one of the hardest feats of human ability. Go ahead, try it. No matter how steady your hand, there’s always a lump on one side, a sharp point on another, or a strange break in the middle. Throughout my entire life, I’ve only drawn a handful of decent circles and, even then, they’ve always had some minor blemish. Truth be told, it might be impossible for me. I’m hoping the same doesn’t hold true for you. Today, I’ll be sharing my best three tips for drawing a perfect circle.
Tip #1: When you first start out, draw your circle smaller than you’d initially expect. It’s a lot easier to expand once you understand the basics.
Tip #2: For most people, the circle isn’t ever going to be perfect. Try and focus on one issue at a time like line thickness or curvature.
Tip #3: Keep in mind that there’s a number of variables which can make it harder or easier to draw your circle (writing utensil, type of paper, muscle stiffness, air humidity, etc). Look forward when you fail and don’t give up.
There you have it. The top three tips for drawing a perfect circle. This has been fun, but it’s time to go now. Ethan, out.
Okay, maybe that’s not what you were expecting, especially from a nonprofit that’s dedicated to dealing with stress. The three tips above do provide keen insight into how you can draw a perfect circle — just not the one on paper and not in the way you’re thinking.
For one moment, imagine that everything, from the environment we live in to the people who live in it, falls within one of three circles: the circle of control, the circle of influence, or the circle of concern. As the names suggest, our circles can only hold so much. And, that’s totally okay. The circles are a tool meant to help people stop worrying about the things in their life and, if learned correctly, can be an effective mechanism for fighting anxiety and learning resilience.
Remember Rule #1? Understand the basics? One of the most important ideas in mastering the perfect circle is understanding where these circles actually extend to. The circle of control is the smallest circle of the three because there’s very little you can fully control; after all, the list of things you have “complete authority over” is surprisingly short. You can control your actions and everything directly changed by them, but that’s truthfully the extent of your power.
The second circle is the circle of influence; compared to the circle of control, it’s considerably larger. The main difference between influence and control is that there’s “no ambiguity in control” . Simply put, if anything is up to chance, it falls under the circle of influence; that makes it the sort of middle man between certainty and uncertainty. For instance, you can influence the grade you get from your English teacher but you can’t actually control your teacher’s actions, thoughts, or perceptions. You can sway your friends, family, and daily schedule but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a car and a homework-free day. Sorry!
That leaves the outermost circle, the circle of concern, which refers to everything that’s completely out of your hands. The weather, unfortunate events, global pandemics — these are all things that rest in the circle of concern. Nothing you do or say will ever change these realities.
So, moving on to Tip #2: “focus on one issue”. More simply, don’t stress yourself out with anything that’s in the circle of concern. Use your energy more efficiently by dealing with what’s directly in your power. The best recommendation is to spend the majority of your time in the circle of control, working your way outward to the circle of influence, and ending before reaching the final circle. When you’re faced with a particular worry, ask yourself “What can I realistically control?” or “What circle does this fall into?”. Rest easy knowing that you’re doing everything you can; it’ll make your efforts more productive and certainly more comforting. Trust me on that one.
Now, you’re probably wondering how Tip #3 ties into all this circle talk. As far as we know, the circles don’t change according to air humidity… do they? Perhaps the better question is whether you change. From day to day, things come into our grasp and others move out, meaning that you should learn to be flexible and adapt to your environment. Most of all, change your mindset from reactivity to proactivity; it might sound like a massive leap of faith (planning your future before it even gets there?), but it’s more or less about how you face and frame your experiences. It means that you anticipate any hardships or windows for growth, and rather than letting it smack you in the face, you smack it first.
As Psychology Today explains, proaction “spots and prevents problems”, “identifies, pursues, and captures opportunities”, and “creates a new personally-chosen, desired future through a strategic change of trajectory”. Aside from a tedious read, this definition provides a solid foundation by which you should live your life. Rather than passively moving along through your daily routines, you should critically consider your situation and look for the best possible “you” in order to amplify the good in your life and let go of the bad. Keep in mind, however, that all of this depends on Tip #1 — know what’s in your control. This will prevent yourself from going down the good ol’ rabbit hole of “what-if” or spiraling into negativity.
Especially now, we need to focus on the circle of control. The future is uncertain and, to an extent, that’s terrifying. But, it’s also something we’ve had to deal with our entire lives. Even before the pandemic, there were things that we simply couldn’t control. I can guarantee that this one chapter of your story won’t define you any more than the ones in the past have — you’re stronger than you realize. So, moving forward, all I can ask is that you remember the three tips to drawing a perfect circle. That way, you won’t end up back where you started.
You’re armed with the newfound knowledge that there are some circles that can never be mastered — at least on paper.
Bateman, Thomas. “Why Proactivity Is the Superpower You Can and Should Develop.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 8 Nov. 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/getting-proactive/201811/why-proactivity-is-the-superpower-you-can-and-should-develop.
“Circles of Control.” Claire Newton, www.clairenewton.co.za/my-articles/circles-of-control.html.
“Discover Your Circle of Influence and Control. You Have More Power than You Think.” Then Somehow, 6 May 2020, www.thensomehow.com/circles-of-influence/.
“How to Stop Worrying - The Circle of Control.” Customizing Life, 23 Jan. 2019, customizinglife.com/stop-worrying/.
“3. The Circles of Control, Influence and Concern.” Talkingabout, www.talkingabout.com.au/3ControlInfluenceConcern.