Taking Ownership

The Two Circles:

Do you perceive yourself as an active agent in your own life or a passive recipient of your circumstances?
The Two Circles describes two different ways that we can choose to view the world. This mental model teaches us to take ownership of our lives by escaping from the artificial limits of a false perspective.
An image showing the contrasting perspectives of living in the victim circle vs. the circle of choice.
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The victim circle

When we’re living life in the victim circle, we focus on how the world affects us. This can lead to some negative consequences, like:
– Feeling helpless in a world that controls us
– Feeling like something external to us must change for us to be okay
– Feeling like we have no control, no choice, and no ownership of our own lives
– Blaming others, worshiping larger-than-life personalities, living complacently

Ultimately, when we live in the victim circle we live a reactive life, driven by our emotions.

The freedom circle

However, when we live in the freedom circle, we recognize our own agency in the world. This looks like:
– Recognizing that we can influence the world around us, regardless of what is happening externally
– Recognizing our choices and our ability to take responsibility for ourselves.
– When we choose to live in the freedom circle, we are responsive not reactive. This means that we recognize our emotions, but don’t make decisions based on them. Instead, we are driven by the truth and our own values.

There are only three things we can control

The secret to moving from the victim circle to the freedom circle is accepting a difficult reality: we can only control three things. When we move from the victim circle to the freedom circle, we do so by acknowledging this reality and changing one of these three things.

First, we control our choices. No matter what is going on around us, we have the opportunity and power to make decisions––including how we choose to behave. What we do is up to us.

Second, we get to control how we view others, ourselves, and the world at large. Our attitude is a decision, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Finally, we get to control in whom we place our trust. Ask yourself this simple question: do you trust God in all circumstances?

The two circles within the Mood Curve

Since having a victim mentality is sacrificing your ability to choose, relying on others to make you okay, you can be a victim no matter what part of the mood curve you’re currently in.

If you’re only okay in some circumstances (e.g. the performing phase of the mood curve) or when others treat you a certain way, you’re still in the victim circle.

However, just like you can be a victim in any part of the Project Mood Curve, you can also choose to live in the freedom circle in any part of the mood curve. Even in the storming and quitting phases of the mood curve, you can take ownership of the three things you can control.

No matter what is happening around you, you can take control of yourself and exercise influence.

Your circumstances will challenge you; however, you always have the ability to make choices. You are an agent, not a victim. You have an impact; your choices matter.

The Two Circles and the Proper Use of Emotions

Circumstances often prompt an emotional response. While this response may cloud our judgment, the emotions themselves are not the enemy. Rather, they must be appropriately recognized. Our emotions should not determine reality; instead, they should let us know that something valuable is at stake.

Being informed by emotions is a Freedom Circle activity; being controlled by emotions is a Victim Circle behavior. A person’s action or a specific circumstance can trigger an emotion in you, BUT it is your choice how to respond to that emotion.

What are examples of the Victim Circle posture you see in your own life (ex: blame, defensiveness, etc.)? Which of the three things you can control do you most struggle to own? What are some things you can do to be more intentional about recognizing the Two Circles at play in your life?
Additional Resources
Free download of Servant Leadership tools flashcard packet
Podcast Episodes
Blog Posts
How to Escape the Victim Circle
The Only Three Things You Can Control
There Is No Rescue from the Arena of Circumstance
The Easy Perspective Shift That Will Transform Your Life
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