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May 8, 2017

You Don't Have to be a Control Freak to Take Charge

Ian Moss

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As luck would have it, you're reading this blog. Or did you make a rational, informed choice to take a look, having browsed the Mind Tools website? What was the controlling force that landed you here?

Only you can answer those questions. But "who's in control?" is a concept that has fascinated thinkers throughout history. And it continues to do so...

Google executive Mo Gawdat, for instance, touches on the idea of "control" in his book, "Solve For Happy," which was inspired by the sudden death of his 21-year-old son. "My theory was I was born happy and the more I engaged in life the more unhappy I became," the engineer says in an interview. "I was very unhappy, I was complaining about everything and I was constantly trying to control the world down to a T."

What Gawdat describes, as well recognizing his control issues, is an imbalance. By trying to manage everything, it appears he lost sight of what was actually within his power – his happiness.

I read of Gawdat's problems and his subsequent enlightenment, and it reminded me of the Serenity Prayer, attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian/philosopher of pre-Google times.

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

Could You Have Taken Control?

The theme of Niebuhr's prayer is understanding the difference between what you can control and what you can't, whether that's in everyday life or in the workplace.

We often face difficult decisions or sometimes have seemingly insurmountable problems to solve. And we've all heard, or maybe even said ourselves, "I didn't have a choice." But was that really true? Did we have options? Could we have taken charge?

These are not the easiest questions to answer. But Mind Tools has a practical quiz that can help you to enrich your knowledge of your characteristics in this important area. Are you the kind of person who believes that his or her destiny is in his own hands? Or are you the sort who is convinced that everything, or at least many things, is beyond her control?

The quiz is based on a concept known as the locus of control, which originated in U.S. psychologist Julian Rotter's 1966 research into how far people felt that their own actions could affect the outcomes in their lives.

Key to Your Success

One of the main features of the study is a continuum or spectrum, with external control at one end and internal at the other end. If you believe your own efforts, qualities and choices are the key to your success then you have an internal locus of control.

If  you have a tendency to believe things, such as getting that promotion, are beyond your powers then you have an external locus of control. It is, perhaps, not surprising that people who lean toward an internal locus of control tend to be more successful than those who over-rely on fate.

But, if you think that matters are out of your hands, fear not. The good news is that, by taking the quiz and gaining some self-knowledge, you can take steps to develop or improve your own internal locus of control. The first stage in this process is to recognize that you do have a choice... that you do have a degree of control... and that you likely don't need divine intervention.

I tried the Mind Tools quiz, and came out as having a slight leaning toward an external locus of control, so I clearly have some work to do! Why not try the quiz for yourself,  and let us know how you got on by adding your comments in the box below?





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6 comments on “You Don't Have to be a Control Freak to Take Charge”

  1. Good post! We will be linking to this particularly great article on our website. Keep up the great writing.

    1. I love the serenity prayer too Karlee. It is my reminder to do what I can where I can have some influence and to recognize times when I have no ability to influence/control!

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