Conversely, when things don’t go well, how much credit do you give yourself for that? To what degree do you see yourself as responsible for your difficult situation (if not for the cause, then how about for the solution, and getting your situation to a better place)?
There’s a concept from the field of psychology called Locus of Control. The basic idea is that everyone has a perception or belief about how much control they have over their lives.
This is a very important concept for all of us, as it LEADS TO BEHAVIORS that either help us move forward, attain our goals, and live happy lives, or hurt us and our chances of this good stuff happening, keeping us stuck.
This breaks down into 2 categories: people have, more or less, either an INTERNAL locus of control or an EXTERNAL locus of control.
People with an internal locus of control (we’ll call it ILOC) see themselves as in control of their lives—that they have the power to influence the direction their lives take and they way their lives turn out.
For example, if someone is 100 lbs. overweight and horribly out of shape, someone with an ILOC will see himself as the one ultimately to blame, and thus responsible, for his difficult condition.
People with an external locus of control (ELOC) see something other than themselves—other people, the environment around them, nature, “fate”, etc.—as being mainly responsible for what goes right or wrong in their lives.
So, if our overweight friend has an ELOC, perhaps he’ll see his poor condition being the result of all the food out there that’s manufactured with sugars, unhealthy chemicals and additives, fat, etc. He’ll blame McDonald’s for making fatty food, which made him fat, rather than blame himself for eating at McDonald’s in the first place. He’ll blame his job, where he sits at a desk all day, or his boss for giving him too much computer work instead of field work. He’ll blame his genes or his “big bones”.
Now, let’s be clear: ALL of these factors may be true, and may definitely contribute to this person being overweight and out of shape! BUT the difference is that someone with an ILOC deeply believes that, despite these challenges, there are still things that she can do to manage, or even conquer, these challenges.
The ELOC person doesn’t see this so much, and tends to passively “give in” to these external forces.
Who has the greater chance of winning in the end—of reaching their most important goals, thriving, and living a full, satisfying life? Who you gonna put your money on?
The ILOC person, of course.
Here’s a helpful metaphor: someone with an ILOC is like a sailor out at sea in the midst of rough waters. He deeply believes that, despite the rough waters, he’s able to greatly influence WHERE he ends up on his journey, based on how well HE applies HIS skills and HIS sailing-smarts.
However, someone with an ELOC is like a sailor out at sea, in rough waters, who takes his hand off the wheel and takes a nap below deck. Why? Because he doesn’t believe how he sails matters—“it’s all up to the wind and the water. I guess I’ll go wherever I’m blown”.
So here’s the BENEFITS of having an ILOC instead of an ELOC:
1) an ILOC is the way reality actually works, and life ALWAYS works best when we’re living in alignment with reality! Hey, whether you believe it or not, you actually DO have control of many things in your life.
2) an ILOC leads us to be proactive in planning and managing our lives and pursuing our goals, rather than always being reactive to life and what happens around us. The one who’s planning and managing and working towards things will ALWAYS go further than the one who’s always “playing defense”.
3) an ILOC leads to a life with less stress, fear, and anxiety. One of the MAIN causes of stress and anxiety is feeling like we don’t have control of the things that happen to us. Conversely, one of the “cures” for anxiety is taking action on things that we can take action on, and controlling what we can control. Sitting on our hands ALWAYS leads us to more stress and anxiety, whereas doing something (ideally, something that makes sense for the situation) leads us to feel more in control, and thus stronger and more fortified.
4) related to our last point, an ILOC leads to MORE optimism and LESS pessimism. If I believe that I actually can “steer my own ship”, then I will see a brighter present and future, regardless of my past.
5) an ILOC leads to faster problem resolution. Since we see that we actually can control much of life, we face problems with that same attitude—“what CAN I control here, and what are some possible solutions that I can execute? What smart actions can I take to move forward?” The ELOC person doesn’t get very far with these questions.
What about you? ILOC or ELOC? The good news is that people can work on this, with the right guidance, knowledge, and strategies, to become more ILOC.
Remember, you DO control and power over enough things in your life to move you where you need to be. Stay tuned, we’ll be saying more about this down the road.
Be well, my friends.
I’m Sean Cox,
I write these articles to provoke you to look at your life--to consider where you currently are and where you could be in the future. I want you to break free from the status quo, pursue your potential, and become a razor-sharp asset.