Concern vs. Influence

We’ve all experienced sports situations in which we’re tempted to be distracted or even derailed by things outside of our control.  “The lights in this stadium aren’t very good so my team is going to have trouble seeing the ball.”  “Why did it have to be so windy today?  My team won’t be able to run good times.”  “My players aren’t very talented this year so it’s going to be tough for me to win games as a coach.”

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the difference between our “circle of concern” and our “circle of influence.”  Our “circle of concern” are things over which we have no real control while our “circle of influence” are things we can affect.  Covey writes, “Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence.  They work on the things they can do something about…  Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern.  They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control.”

What Covey describes finds its foundation in the teaching of Jesus.  In Matthew 6:25-32, Jesus confronts our tendency to worry about all kinds of things.  A lot of these things are “circle of concern” issues.  In v. 33 Jesus directs us to instead give our attention to what drives “circle of influence” efforts: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

To “seek the Kingdom of God above all else” is to desire that God’s rule as King in our life, in the lives of people around us, and in every dimension of our world be increasingly evident.  How do you pursue this as a coach?  Let Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 6 guide you:

1. Treasure what’s truly significant.  Matt. 6:25 begins with “That is why” or “Therefore” (depending on the translation you’re using), pointing back to what Jesus said right before this passage.  Here’s the summary of Matt. 6:19-24: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth…  Store your treasures in heaven…  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”  In all that you do your heart is to be set on what God makes clear is of eternal value.  So even in sports situations where things out of your control cause you or your team to be at a disadvantage, you can still make it your priority to glorify God as your King and point people to Christ through your attitude and efforts.

2. Trust God with those things in your circle of concern.  There will always be things that we’re concerned about but we have little or no control over, whether in the sports arena or in life more broadly.  Jesus says, “[D]on’t worry about these things” (v. 31).  Instead, trust God with these things.  Release them to the Lord and his sovereign control.  Don’t allow what is in your circle of concern but not your circle of influence to distract or derail you.

3. Focus on Kingdom impact in your circle of influence.  When your heart is set on the right priorities and you’re trusting God and his sovereign control, you can focus on the circle of influence the Lord has given you.  First, you have direct influence on your own attitudes, words, and actions.  Consider what it means to coach and to live under God’s rule as your loving and holy King.  Second, you can influence the people around you: players, fellow coaches, family members, friends, and others.  When they hear your words and watch your actions, do they see what God’s rule as King is like?  Do they experience God’s good and loving rule in how you interact with them?  Does Christ’s character reign through you?

We all have a circle of concern.  However, the impact of the Christ’s work through our lives happens in our circle of influence.  So rather than giving unproductive attention to those things over which you have no control, focus on what the Lord wants to do in your circle of influence.  Don’t let anything distract or derail you from seeking God’s kingdom above all else.

For reflection: What “circle of concern” issues do you find yourself worrying about?  Release these to the Lord.  Ask him to help you treasure what’s truly significant and focus on having a Kingdom impact on those within your circle of influence.