How often do you think about Murphy’s law or mutter under your breath “I’m so unlucky”? Do you want to change your luck? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to feel in control of your own life and what is happening around you? I have a secret… You’re already in control and I’d like to take a few minutes to make sense of this for you.
Note: I am aware that this is a larger subject than a few paragraphs will fully encompass. My hope is to simply give you a tool that helps live life. Over the next months and years I will provide many more tools to use. Stay tuned.
You are unique and your situation is unique. Having said that, there are two broad categories that most people fall in. The first category is made up of people who feel as though they are not in control of anything around them. There is a pretty good and reasonable argument for it, too. Governments control how much we pay in taxes, what the rules are surrounding employment insurance, and the consequences of following what society sees as appropriate behavior (anything from driving laws to child abuse). CEOs of large companies control whether you will keep or lose your job in an economic downturn. Your boss controls your work atmosphere and whether or not you enjoy work that day or have too much on your plate to complete. Your partner and kids have control over how angry you get because of their attitudes. In psycho-babble, this is called an external locus of control. Having an external locus of control means you don’t feel in control of your situation in life and of how your day goes.
A second group of people tend to feel very much in control of their lives and everything that happens. I believe there is a great argument for feeling in control as well. In the end, if I don’t like the taxes of one country do I not have the ability to either move to another country or develop a business that makes enough money to not worry about taxes, or even start a corporation so that I pay far less in taxes? If I don’t have job security because I’m not the CEO can I not quit and begin working for myself? If I don’t like the atmosphere at work do I not have the ability to make it better through my own attitude and how I invest in others? If my partner and kids tend to do things in a way that I find I’m reacting to can I not take care of myself in very specific ways so that I’m more ready for interactions with them or begin learning how to better interact with them and communicate my own needs? In psycho-babble this is called having an internal locus of control. That means I feel control of my life comes from inside me rather than outside of me.
If you feel out of control you will have a greater desire to purchase lottery tickets and trust in luck to make it out of a bad situation. You will most likely also complain more about life because it feels like an outlet for the unfairness of life. If you feel in control you probably never buy a lottery ticket because you believe it is better to use your time managing the money you do have or growing a business in order to get what you want. Now, I want you to think for a moment about what you want in life. This isn’t a post about which is right and which is wrong or good vs. bad. This is a post about what you want in life and how you want to interact with those around you. Do you want to feel in control? Do you believe you will enjoy life more feeling in control rather than out of control? I have great news for you: This isn’t genetic! You have learned to feel in control or out of control and because you’ve learned this… you can also unlearn this control thing and relearn and way that matches with what you want in life.
Stephen Covey wrote a book titled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I recommend the book because it is absolutley full of great wisdom. In the first chapter he focuses on this idea of feeling in control and gives a simple exercise to help people not only feel in control but also actually obtain more control in their lives. Basically he says that you have things that are in your control (how you respond to a difficult situation inyour day, what time you get up, how much you invest in yourself and others around you) and things outside of your control (How China makes political decisions, the accident you encounter on your way to work, or a forest fire that is raging in your area of the world). The magic of realizing this is that if you are able to identify what is in your control today, you can focus your energy on those areas and over a very short period of time you will have even more control in those areas. For example, if you consistently work in a more efficient way at work and come up with solutions to problems even though peopel around you are negative, you will begin to be seen as a valuable resource at work and your manager or supervisor will come to you for suggestions (you are now influencing decisions at work that directly affect you). Another example is that if you choose to listen really well to your partner’s or kids’ hearts when they share their frustrations with you rather than reminding them of everything they do wrong on a daily basis, they will start coming to you when they want advice because you are safe for them to be around.
A quick story: I used to try to scare my little sister’s male friends because I believed it would keep them from harming her heart in any way. What it actually did was drive them away from me and, if my sister had a boyfriend, teach them to do anything they were going to do without my knowledge. It dawned on me one day that if I wanted to influence both my sister and her male friends it would be a far better approach to get to know her friends and be someone they could trust and count on. I’m glad to say that I have a good relationship with my sister’s husband. He is someone I respect and value and, truth be told, I really didn’t need to worry about my sister because she’s incredibly capable and makes great decisions on a daily basis. I remember this brother and I meeting for lunch one day as things were getting more serious between him and my sister and telling me that it was important to my sister that I liked him because she respected me. This only happened because I had invested in my sister rather than attempting to scare her. This story isn’t told to say I do everything right or that everything turned out well because of my actions and decisions. Rather, I’m hoping to encourage you with a real life example of how we can influence our own lives and the lives of others around us.
It is a good habit to learn to something and then ask yourself: so what? What do I do with this information? I’ll give you three tips that will start you in the right direction:
1. Start paying attention to the words you and others use around you. Are there a lot of helpless phrases like: What use is it anyway? or The world is against me! As you become more aware of how you and others around you talk, you will begin to catch yourself and eventually change the way you talk and view the world.
2. Be careful with how much time you spend watching the news. While there is nothing wrong with information and news in general, it does impact how you view the world. Media tends to focus on the sensational and those stories which provoke your emotions in a big way. My rule of thumb is: If it’s important enough for me to pay attention to, I guarantee someone will mention it to me at some point in the next few days. It also frees up a lot of my time and affects my attitude as I go to sleep or enter my work day. Replace news with something that helps you smile. A great song or an audio book on a subject you are interested in.
3. Spend more time with one or two people who have an internal locus of control. You will begin learning how they manage life and it will influence you.
Finally, write a comment below this post. Let’s positively influence those around us by interacting and having conversations about these ideas. Now, go make this a fantastic day!