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Don’t Be a Lifestyle Masochist

Posted by on Apr 1, 2012 | 16 Comments

Before reading this post, take this short online test here: http://www.psych.uncc.edu/pagoolka/LocusofControl-intro.html.  You will get a score from 1 to 13, write it down.

Ever notice people bitch about a lot of stuff?  I just scanned my Facebook news feed.  Of the first thirty stories, twelve are a complaint of some sort.  Almost all of the complaints involve work, bills, relationships, or body image.  Essentially, all are things that can be changed.

Yet people don’t.  Why is it we have a tendency to subject ourselves to misery day after day?  Simple changes would solve the problems.

Don’t like your job?  Quit!

Too many bills?  Stop buying shit you can’t afford!

Your partner sucks?  Get a different one!

Too fat?  Eat less and move more!

Back in my psychology teaching days, we used to talk about the idea of locus of control.  It is a measure of the amount of control we feel we have on the events around us.  Locus of control comes in two flavors- internal and external.

People with high internal locus of control believe their actions directly shape their world.  They usually don’t complain about their lives.  If something sucks, they feel empowered to change it for the better.  They make shit happen.

People with high external locus of control believe their actions have little impact on their world.  They attribute their plight to things like chance, fate, or “god’s plan.”  They don’t think they can change their world, so they don’t bother trying.  These people also tend to bitch and whine frequently.

In my former career as a teacher, I worked with several colleagues that fit in both categories.  The high internal group was always trying new stuff and experimenting.  They would try out new teaching methods, classroom procedures, or even seemingly trivial stuff like seating arrangements or lighting.  They were never happy with the status quo because they knew they could make things better.

I also worked with a few high external folks.  They never tried anything new.  They complained ALL THE TIME.  If they had a ‘bad class”, it was always because they got stuck with the “bad” kids, someone had a vendetta against them, the parents of their students sucked, or my personal favorite- society was going down the shitter.

Any guesses which teachers were more effective?

How About You?

Back to your score.  If you scored high, you have a high external locus of control.  I’d predict you also complain a lot on Facebook.  :-)  If you scored low, you have a high internal locus of control.  Odds are, you don’t complain because if something makes you unhappy, you change it.

If you did score high, don’t worry.  It IS possible to change your locus of control with a little work.  The root cause of the problems associated with a high internal locus of control are centered around the idea of feeling as though you have no alternatives.  The easiest way to resolve this problem is to explore your options.

Let’s make up a fictional scenario.  I don’t like the look of my calves.  They’re just too fat.  Instead of following my instinct and complaining about the plight of my chubby calves, I’m going to take control of the situation by identifying options then making something happen.

Step One- Identify the problem.  This is easy- I want my calves to look better.

Step Two- Brainstorm possible solutions, no matter how ridiculous.  Hmmm… here are the first options that come to mind:

  • Lose weight
  • Start weight training to build muscle
  • Get calf liposuction
  • Wear long pants all the time
  • Replace all my household mirrors with “skinny” funhouse mirrors
  • Get lots of calf tats
  • Amputation
  • Start hanging out with friends that have even fatter calves, thus giving the illusion that my calves are spectacular
  • Ditch the raised heel shoes I wear all the time (couldn’t resist throwing that one in)

Step Three- choose the best possible option from the list.  Since losing weight and building muscle kind of go hand in hand, I’m going to choose this one.

Step Four- Make a plan then set it in motion.  This is the meat and potatoes of this entire idea- you’re taking charge of your life and making changes.

Step Five- Assess your progress on occasion.  Not only does this help you stick to the plan, it also reinforces the idea that you’re in control of your own destiny.

Conclusion

It’s relatively easy to develop an internal locus of control and take control of your life.  Stop blaming your life situation on events outside your realm of control.  Don’t be a lifestyle masochist.  We’re not giving out awards to the people that suffer the most, especially if your suffering involves trivial matters that can be easily changed.

Let’s face it- our time here is limited.  Every day could be our last.  While we often repeat this cliche, we rarely take it seriously.  Do something that matters, and start today.  Far too many people fail to really make a dent in the universe simply because they don’t believe they have a choice.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Understanding locus of control can be a powerful first step toward living a life worth living.

If you’re not happy, do something about it, damn it!

Feel free to share this post with anyone you think needs a wake up call.  Better yet, when you see someone complaining about a trivial matter on Facebook (or other social media), simply link to this post.  ;-)

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16 Comments

  1. Diane
    April 10, 2012

    I find myself having this conversation frequently. My choice of answer to several of the questions would have been “both.” I don’t think there is a “master plan” and I am certainly proactive. However, I agree with Chris about limits placed by physical, environmental and circumstantial issues. Its pretty amazing to see the extent to which people can push those limits, but I have to be careful in recognizing that there is privilege involved in the outcome of the choices I make. Outcomes that would be inaccessible to many people around the world, and I am not referring to material gain.
    Do I consider myself lucky? Of course. Then I do the best I can to build on and spread it.

  2. ramzev
    April 4, 2012

    Dr. Hook
    I got stoned and I missed it lyrics

    I was sitting in my basement.
    I just rolled myself a taste
    Of something green and gold and glorious
    To get me through the day.
    Then my friend yelled through the transom
    “Grab your coat and get your hat son,
    There’s a nut down on the corner,
    Givin’ dollar bills away”
    But I laid around a bit
    Then I had another hit.
    Then I rolled myself a bomber.
    Then I thought about my mama.
    Then I fooled around, played around
    jacked around a while and then
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned and it rolled right by.
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned… oh me… oh my.

    It took seven months of urgin’
    Just to get that local virgin
    With the sweet face
    Up to my place
    To fool around a bit.
    Next day she woke up rosy,
    And she snuggled up so cozy.
    When she asked me how I liked it,
    Lord it hurts me to admit,
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned and it rolled right by.
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned… oh me… oh my.
    I’m makin’ no excuses

    For the many things I uses
    Just to sweeten up my relationships
    And brighten up my day.
    When my earthly race is over
    And I’m ready for the clover
    And they ask me how my life has been
    I guess I’ll have to say,
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned and it rolled right by.
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned and I missed it.
    I got stoned… oh me… oh my.

    Not sure how it fits here but, he is a doctor…

    • Erik
      April 4, 2012

      Ha, I’d forgotten about that one, maybe I was s+++++d and missed it. The lyrics I posted kind of sum up both a pro-active, personal responsibility ethos along with a fatalist outlook at the same time …. which is my reaction to the survey’s hyper dichotomizing. I only meant to post the first stanza though–Jason needs an editing button for us klutzes.

  3. Erik
    April 4, 2012

    Dr. John
    Right Place Wrong Time Lyrics

    I been in the right place
    But it must have been the wrong time
    I’d of said the right thing
    But I must have used the wrong line
    I been in the right trip
    But I must have used the wrong car
    My head was in a bad place
    And I’m wondering what it’s good for

    I been the right place
    But it must have been the wrong time
    My head was in a place
    But I’m having such a good time
    I been running trying to get hung up in my mind
    Got to give myself a little talking to this time

    Just need a little brain salad surgery
    Got to cure this insecurity
    I been in the wrong place
    But it must have been the right time
    I been in the right place
    But it must have been the wrong song
    I been in the right vein
    But it seems like the wrong arm
    I been in the right world
    But it seems wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong

    Slipping, dodging ,sneaking
    Creeping hiding out down the street
    See me life shaking with every who I meet
    Refried confusion is making itself clear
    Wonder which way do I go to get on out of here

    I been in the right place
    But it must have been the wrong time
    I’d have said the right thing
    But I must have used the wrong line
    I’d a took the right road
    But I must have took a wrong turn
    Would have made the right move
    But I made it at the wrong time
    I been on the right road
    But I must have used the wrong car
    My head was in a good place
    And I wonder what it’s bad for

  4. Jesse
    April 3, 2012

    My problem: People don’t seem to be annoyed or negative enough for my liking on facebook. I take matters into my own hands and bitch about my muffin top, my stupid boss, and peice of shit car. This creates a bit of a problem with the theory.

    …Just kidding. I’m a winner.

  5. ramzev
    April 2, 2012

    I scored a 2; I’m happy with that.

  6. Corey
    April 1, 2012

    It’s better to have some of both: you can change things about yourself;f and the world, but realize that you wont always succeed and sometimes shit does just happen and you get screwed. I wouldn’t want to meet a 0 or a 13, personally.

  7. Juha
    April 1, 2012

    Interesting post, but I don’t think I belong too well into either group. ;) I mostly let the “fate” control things but believe that it’s a lot about attitude and ability to adapt into situation which matters.

  8. Tess
    April 1, 2012

    While I agree with a lot of what you said, I think there are plenty of people who have a strongly internal locus of control but are not happy or effective — because they blame everything on themselves. “I didn’t get that job because I said such stupid things in the interview” / “If I had just studied another 20 hours I would have passed.” / “If I could just put that horrible experience behind me, I wouldn’t be so afraid to try new things” –> rumination and depression.

    I got a relatively low score (3), and I think I have often been guilty of the above. It only works well if you believe that you not only have control over things, but that you have the power to change them/change yourself.

  9. Tyler
    April 1, 2012

    my thoughts exactly. Take control of your life, one can’t always be “the victim”. On the flip side, there is a lot of bragging on Facebook, that gets just as old as complaining. Good post man, keep this stuff up! Thanks!

  10. Trisha Reeves
    April 1, 2012

    Hm, I got a 4. I guess I have a more internal sense of control. But I kinda already knew that.

  11. Troy
    April 1, 2012

    What do you do if you scored a 7? ;^)

    • Chris
      April 2, 2012

      i scored a 7 too. ya move on. Test offered extreme answers landing on one side or the other. Lifes not so black and white. Do your own shit sure but consider your environment too. No amount of faith or bolloxs is gonna result in me getting my hair back. there are limits in this life. “be awesome within your environmental limits” How catchy is that? Be good on a t shirt.

      • Aaron
        April 2, 2012

        Reality has no locus bias.

  12. Rosemary
    April 1, 2012

    Interesting post! FYI: I believe you switched the meaning of the score in your post– a low score has high internal control, and high score has mainly external control.

    • Jason
      April 1, 2012

      Thanks Rosemary, correction done!