What colour are your glasses?

I’m referring to spectacles, not wine glasses by the way.

I have some friends, and even family members, who always seem to look at life through very gloomy glasses. Regardless of the weather, it’s awful. Regardless of the meal, it wasn’t enjoyable. Regardless of the situation, it was someone else’s fault. Their starting position is always negative. Why is that?

Your sense of power and control
I remember reading about internal and external “locus of control” during management studies. If you have an internal locus of control, you:

  • Have a positive outlook on life and a ‘can do’ attitude. You believe that you have (or can learn) the internal resources needed to shape your life and achieve the goals you set yourself
  • Believe that your successes and failures in life are largely down to internal reasons (i.e. ones that you can control). E.g. “I passed my exam because I studied a lot” or “I did badly in my exam because I didn’t study enough.” As a result, you are likely to put effort into achieving success in whatever is important to you
  • Believe that you can strongly influence your physical and mental health
  • Don’t tend to have strong religious beliefs or, alternatively, believe that your religion gives you internal resources and strength
  • Don’t tend to believe in the paranormal, spiritual or magical
  • Have faith in your own views, or seek to weigh up the evidence, rather than automatically deferring to other people’s opinions.

And of course, for those with an external locus of control, then all of the opposite is true. For example, they:

  • Tend to have a more negative outlook on life and a more helpless attitude towards certain situations. They don’t believe that they have the internal resources to adapt, make changes and achieve their goals. They think that they need outside help, a significant partner, or some external support.
  • Believe that their successes and failures in life are largely because of external reasons (i.e. ones that are uncontrollable). E.g. “I was so lucky to pass my exam!” or “I didn’t pass my exam because the case study was heavily biased towards retail.”
  • Don’t believe that they can do much to stay healthy and stress-free
  • Are likely to listen and automatically defer to authority, experience, education and significant other people.

Here’s what’s interesting ...
When we use the term “locus of control” it suggests it is something that is a part of who we are. It’s set in stone. We can’t change it. But you can. So let’s instead use the term “sense of power and control”. Sense of power and control refers more broadly to whether you feel internally skilled and powerful in the face of events that were caused by outside influences.

Another very important point to note is that having an internal sense of power and control and making internal attributions does not require you to go hard on yourself.

There is, for example, a big difference between thinking, ‘OK I failed my exam because I didn’t spend enough time reviewing the prescribed reading. I’m going to review a lot more over the next couple of months so that I pass next time’ versus ‘I failed the exam because I am useless at those marketing subjects’. The first thought leaves you feeling in control and motivates you to study and change your situation, whereas the second probably results in annoyance and feelings of ‘what’s the point in trying again?’

What is your sense of power and control?
You are probably reading this blog and self-assessing whether you currently have an internal or external sense of power and control. What is it?

How to change your sense of power and control?
If you go back and read those bullet points, you’ll see that many of them start with the word “believe”. Your sense of power and control is based on your beliefs. If you change your beliefs, your sense of power and control will change. Can you change your beliefs? Yes, you can. But I’ve reached my blog word count, so I’ll talk about beliefs in another blog very soon.