In the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, talks about the circle of concern and the circle of influence.
I think this is a great example of how to view poker. There are some things that we have control over and some things we don’t. Many people focus too much energy on the things they don’t have any control over, the cards, the fish that sucks out on them, the bad beats etc. etc.
Circle of concern / Circle of influence
In life and poker we all have things that matter to us. In life we are concerned about where we live, our health, our finances, the economy, the war in Iraq, the weather, etc. etc. In Poker we are concerned about what cards we get, what table we sit at, bankroll management, playing a hands correctly and being a winning player etc. etc.
We can place all these things and more inside our Circle of concern, but there are certain things we have influence over and that we can control. In life we can control our finances and our health, and in Poker we can control our bankroll and our ability to play hands correctly ~ these things lie in our circle of influence.
Some things just lie in our circle of concern, they are out of our control, there is nothing we can do to change the weather, the war, the economy… and in poker you can’t decide what cards you get dealt, or what table you sit at in a live tournament. These things are in our circle of concern.
In life and poker to be effective and successful we can’t spend too much energy focusing on our circle of concern, there is nothing we can do to change it. We need to focus on our circle of influence, and take action to improve the things that we can change. The more we do this, the more the circle of influence expands.
Proactive people control their feelings. No matter what the weather, rain or shine, they carry their own weather with them. Proactive people are still affected by external stimuli – the weather, their upbringing, the economic situation – but they choose to respond in a way that is driven by their own values.
For example; I think every poker player knows the feeling when you play a live game and you sit down at a table with strangers. Some times you get a “good table”, its nice and friendly and the atmosphere is good, however sometimes you can get a table that is not to your liking, maybe the table is unusually quiet and there is a bit of an atmosphere, maybe some one is being rude and there is tension at the table. An effective poker player won’t let these external stimuli negatively effect their behaviour and game. These are things that are mostly outside of their control.
Some players however will focus so much on the things that they don’t like about the table and all the things outside of their control, which has an even more negative impact on their game, because their focus is on their circle of concern and not their circle of influence.
The problems we face all fall into one of three areas:
- Direct control
- From our behaviour
- Indirect control
- From other people’s behaviour
- No Control
- From past or situations
We can solve our direct control problems by working on our habits. These fall within our circle of influence. In life we can give up smoking, take more training. In poker we can manage our bankroll more effectively, improve our game through learning more, etc. etc.
Indirect control problems can be solved by working on our methods of influence. We can employ empathy, for example, in order to encourage people to change their behaviour towards us, we can do this for example in our job, our relationships and also at the poker table.
As for our no control problems, we have to control our response to them. We have to choose to smile and accept. They are outside our control, but can still be inside our circle of influence. Our influence lies in our response. In poker this is very important, especially when we experience bad beats, or run into a monster hand. We need to learn to accept these things and not allow them to put us on tilt.
To be successful in life and in poker you need to realise that change comes from the inside and works out. We need to strive to change ourselves in order to change the world around us.
Suppose you have a friend who appears to be more successful than you. They have more things – a holiday home, a boat, etc. They have a better paid job. More friends and respect in the community. Worry about these things and being jealous or envious is focusing your energy on your circle of concern. All of these things are out of your control and there is nothing you can do about them. If you desire the same things, then you must focus on your circle of influence. You should be more productive, improve your employment prospects, be more sociable, get involved in your community. That’s the route to the job, the holiday home and the respect.
In a poker tournament you can’t look at the person with the big chip lead and be consumed with jealously or frustration, that is not going to help you win the tournament! Or if you are playing 0.25/0.50 cash games you can’t be jealous of your mate playing 5/10, you need to take more action, to learn more, practice more, and play better to get your bankroll to a stage where you can play at this level also.
Consequences and Mistakes
Everybody makes mistakes! In Life and in Poker, you will always make mistakes. Because mistakes happen to us, they are in our circle of concern, however our response to our mistakes are in our circle of influence. It’s not so much the mistake that matters, but it’s what we do after the mistake.
The most successful and effective people in life and poker make mistakes, but they acknowledge it, learn from it and move on. Some people keep making the same mistakes over and over again, they don’t acknowledge it was their mistake, they don’t learn from it and they dwell on it, rather than moving on.
So I guess the moral of the story for anyone is not to focus on all the things you can’t control, focus on what you can change and improve on, focus on the things you can influence, learn from your mistakes, and when bad things happen, just accept them and smile!