Liz and I are in Shanghai where I’m presenting at a conference, and in our preparation for travel, Liz, who is a self-confessed over-preparer and what I loosely refer to as an optimistic pessimist (Liz wanted me to write ‘realist’… so ok!)… anyway, we got chatting about our Wills, and what we need to let our sons know – just in case something goes wrong while we are travelling internationally.
Now, if you’re an optimist like me, the reason why having someone like Liz in your life is wonderful, is you just don’t think about that stuff, but thankfully Liz does all the worrying… leaving me free to go on my optimistic and merry way.
But our conversation does have some relevance to us all when it comes to how we view the level of control we believe we have in our personal and business life and success.
Without going down the academic explanation, locus of control theory is basically whether you believe you’ve got a high degree of influence over what happens to you in life (an internal locus of control), or whether you believe external factors pretty much govern everything that happens to you (external locus of control).
For my part, after completing some of the assigned positive psychology assessments, I wasn’t surprised at all that my results showed that I have a strong internal locus of control.
And while I do think others can influence some results and situations in my life, and that chance certainly plays it’s hand every now and then, the combinations of my locus of control, self-efficacy (belief that I have the capability and resources to achieve my goals), self-esteem, and optimistic approach to life, are all working together, aligned with my natural positive nature, to allow me to broaden and build my resources to live a happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
Or is all of that just my way of convincing myself that I’m in control?
I’m convinced that I can’t control everything that happens to me, but I can control how I respond. That’s not to say that I’m in control all of the time, but I am confident that I have the personal resources (self-efficacy) to handle most situations in my life.
What about you?
There’s a wonderful little book by Richard Carlson PhD called “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff” (Read my review here) that resonated with me when I read it in the late 1990’s, and it’s been a constant resource for me ever since, and I highly recommend you grab a copy of it.
There’s a fair bit of research that suggests the need for a sense of control in our lives is evolutionary. We as humans seek meaning and are by nature goal seeking beings – as we set goals (large and small), we try to control ourselves, control others and draw on the resources available to achieve those goals… thus, giving us a sense of control over our lives.
The key of course is in understanding what is within our control and what is not.
We can choose to control our thoughts (but not always control them); we can choose to control our feelings (but not always control them) and we can choose to control our actions (but not always control them).
And there are so many things that are just beyond our control, and this is where acceptance is important. Acceptance of that which is out of our control is different to being fatalistic. If it was all ‘fate’ it really wouldn’t matter what we did… but it does – doesn’t it?