How control helps us thrive

If you really dislike the feeling of being “out of control”, the chances are you have a high “desire for control”. But the problem with having a high desire for control is it can cause your stress levels to head towards the red zone, feed your unhelpful perfectionism, and very soon lead to anxiety.

So if having an excessive desire for control isn’t good, what sort of control is helpful? Great question.

In order to thrive in life, personally and professionally, you’ll need to develop your core … your core psychological foundations. One of your core psychological foundations is an internal locus of control. When you have an internal locus of control, you believe that:

  1. You have a direct influence over the events in life you can control; and
  2. You have strong coping skills over the events in life you can’t control.

Planning a holiday?

Your primary control comes into play here. What the heck is primary control? Answer: (1) above is a bit of a clue. What can you directly influence when planning a holiday? Where you’ll go, how you’ll get there, how long you’ll be away, who you’ll travel with, what clothes you’ll pack, what time of year you’ll go, what insurance plan you’ll buy, what activities you’ll do, the type of accommodation you’ll book etc. When that holiday turns out exactly how you imagined, much of the applause can go towards your primary control, your direct influence - your planning and organisational skills.

There are some folk that will plan, organise, double-check, triple-check all of the above because their desire for control is a bit on the excessive side. They’ll work themselves up into quite the stress lather before and during the holiday!

The dream holiday doesn't always go to plan

Your secondary control comes into play here. Secondary control? Answer: (2) above is a bit of a clue. Even if you are the holiday-planning master guru, life isn’t always that predictable. The accommodation isn’t quite like “what it said on the tin”, maybe travelling with Aunt Betty wasn’t the best idea after all, and sometimes the weather decides to do the opposite of the predictions. This is when we need to have strong coping skills over those events in life we can’t control. We need to be flexible, adaptable, resilient, positive, and be able to stay calm. Having strong secondary control allows us to be that calm person.

When we have good secondary control, our “desire for control” is healthier. We all want some control, but an excessive desire for control isn’t healthy for our mental wellbeing.

The Thrive Programme teaches people how to build their core psychological foundations so they develop the control that thriving people use every day.

Michelle Carlyle is a Licensed Thrive Programme Consultant. “Everyone has the capacity to thrive in every aspect of their lives.”

Click on each link to find out more about The Thrive Programme for Organisations, The Thrive Programme for Business Leaders, and The Thrive Programme for Individuals.