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
- 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.
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.