Zorro Circle Happiness Advantage Principle #5

Principle #5 The Zorro Circle

author: Shawn Achor; these are my notes to get a quicker read of the amazing book “The Happiness Advantage”
How limiting your focus to small, manageable goals can expand your sphere of power. Zorro first gets to master his small circle before allowed to greater feats, which one by one, he achieves. But none of these achievements would ever have been possible had he not first learned to master that small circle.

The Mask of Zorro (1998)


Circle of control

One of the biggest drivers of success is the belief that our behaviour matters; that we have control over our future. Yet when our stresses and workloads seem to mount faster than our ability to keep up, feelings of control are often the first things to go, especially when we try to tackle too much at once. If, however, we concentrate our efforts on small manageable goals, we regain the feeling of control so crucial to performance.
By first limiting the scope of our efforts, then watching those efforts have the intended effect, we accumulate the resources, knowledge, and confidence to expand the circle, gradually conquering a larger and larger area.

Zorro Circle The Importance of Control

The most successful people in work and in life are those who have what psychologists call an “internal locus of control”, the belief that their actions have a direct effect on their outcomes. People with an external locus, on the other hand, are more likely to see daily events as dictated by external forces. People with an internal locus look for what they might do better or might improve, whereas people with external locus don’t just duck blame for failure, they also miss out on credit for success, which undermines confidence and dedication.

Losing control:The Dueling Brain

Our actions are often determined by the brain’s two dueling components: our knee jerk-like emotional system(let’s call him the Jerk) and our rational, cognitive system(let’s call him the Thinker). The oldest part of the brain, evolutionarily speaking, is the Jerk, and it is based in the limbic(emotional) region, where the amygdala reigns supreme. Thousands of years ago the amygdala sounded the alarm, flooded our body with adrenaline and stress hormones, and sparked an immediate, innate reflex- a “flight or fight” response.
We have also developed the Thinker, that rational system in the brain that resides mostly in the prefrontal cortex. This is what we use to think logically, draw conclusions from many pieces of information, and plan for the future. The Thinker’s purpose is simple, but it reflects a huge evolutionary leap: think, then react.
When we’re under pressure, the body starts to build up too much cortisol, the toxic chemical associated with stress. Once the stress has reached a critical point, even the smallest setback can trigger an amygdala response, essentially hitting the brain’s panic button. When that happens, the Jerk overpowers the Thinker’s defenses, spurring us into action without conscious thought. Instead of “think, then react” the Jerk responds with “fight or flight”. we have become victims of what scientists call “emotional hijacking”.

Regaining Control, One Zorro Circle at a Time

The first goal(or circle we need to draw) is self awareness. So, whether you do it by writing down feelings in a journal or talking to a trusted coworker or confidant, verbalizing the stress and helplessness you are feeling is the first step toward regaining control.
Next should be identify which aspects of the situation you have control over and which you don’t. Separate things you have control over and which you don’t. The point is to tease apart the stresses that we have to let go of because they’re out of our hands, while identifying the areas where our efforts will have a real impact, so that we can focus our energy accordingly.

The point: Small successes can add up to major achievements. All it takes is drawing that first circle in the sand.



Author: tedvanderende

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