There is a fundamental disposition that will affect if you win or lose, and the level of success you would reach. It is how you think about control.
Your level of happiness is directly linked to how much autonomy, control or choice you have in your life. Generally speaking, the more autonomy you have, the higher your level of wellbeing. It is a key driver in job satisfaction, one that Cal Newport highlights in his book ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’. To feel fulfilled in your career, you have to have a say in what you do and how you do it.
That is why entrepreneurship is attractive to some of us. We are control freaks. As tough as the journey is, the thrill is in going for your dream and charting your course. For better or worse, I have always thought the safest hands for my destiny are still mine. Because I can control where I am going and what I am going to do.
So, control is necessary for a better life, and is something we all crave. The pursuit of self-development or any kind of education or growth is a pursuit of control, over self, over our circumstances, over our results. We do things to get other things. Sure, you can’t control everything, and you shouldn’t try to. But you should exercise control over the few things you can.
In psychology, there is the concept of locus of control, which is the extent to which a person feels they have control over the events in their lives. It is split into two.
Those with an external locus of control believe that things are outside their control. The deciding factor on the things that happen to them lie in things external to them – their environment, some authority figure, some circumstance. They are victims. They spend time complaining, hapless and helpless to change, waiting for someone else to come and fix it.
The flip side of that coin is the internal locus of control. These people feel like the things that happen to them are within their control. If not what happens, then at the very least, their interpretation or response to it. They are in control. If they don’t like something, they can change it. If they hate their job, they can leave. If they don’t like the city they live in, they can move. If they don’t like the results they have been getting, they can change their actions.
Sure, there are a lot of things that are not in our control. At least not directly. But there is a lot that is. If we are to reach our potential, to push and strive to be more, to be more capable, more successful, we have to take more control.
And the truth is, you have more control than you think.
You have problems, you have obstacles, but there is always a way, always something that can be done. No matter how small. Once you make the decision that you have some control, the mind starts to work and churn out solutions. It is the mindset of the successful person. To take charge, and know that no matter what comes, good or bad, there is always a way to deal with it. If you are stuck in a seemingly impossible situation, you start from anywhere. You simply solve the first problem you can, and then the next, and then the next, and eventually you are on the other side.
In failure, the choice on how to react is in your control. Let the sting hit you, feel the pain, and when it has run its course, pick yourself up and continue. Even the huge things in our lives that seem out of our control – the leaders we have, the government we live under, the economy, things can change if enough of us band together to exercise our locus of control.
You have to take a hard look at the things in your life and decide, is this thing really an obstacle, or am I using it as an excuse? Dealing with it might be difficult, but it is probably not impossible. You don’t have money, okay, learn to make some. Learn a skill and freelance, look for a job, sell something you don’t use any more. Do something about it. Anything. Just take control.
You want to be fit but can’t go to the gym? Exercise at home. You want your business to grow? Set up better processes and go knock door to door selling your products and services.
You can’t take on a heavy load, without taking on more control. When you take responsibility, you are saying that it is on you. The things you want, the heights you want to climb, the things you want to accomplish. It is all on you. You truly have to accept that and do what is necessary.
You can max out your potential. But it starts with taking control.