One recent morning, I was standing next to a woman in a local café. She appeared agitated, but I didn’t really think about it as I added a bit of cream to my coffee. A few seconds later, one of the staff approached her. “I’m sorry for the delay,” he said. “We’ll have the order ready in ten more minutes,” and then he disappeared into the kitchen. The woman looked at me with a mixture of anger and frustration. “This always happens to me!” she said.
I didn’t know what to say. But it got me thinking about locus of control. People with an internal locus of control believe they can influence events and outcomes. People with an external locus of control blame outside forces for everything. In simpler terms, it’s our general outlook on life. It might be the difference between an optimist or a pessimist. Some people say, for instance, that the glass is half empty. Others say the glass is half full. You get the idea.
We are most cognizant of locus of control when confronted, in the moment, with a challenge or opportunity. Imagine yourself as the woman in the café. How would you have responded, especially if this was the second or even third delay? As much as we’d like to think we’d display patience and understanding, the truth is many of us let our emotions take over.
Consider how this impacts decision making. Many times, it determines the situational outcome. If you think back on the common challenges you’ve faced, the ones you handled through an internal locus of control had a better outcome. Why? Because your positive outlook provided you with the confidence to take a step back and think more clearly before acting. We all get moody at times. But that’s the worst time to deal with challenges, since our locus of control tends to be externally oriented. (ie. “Nothing’s going right today. I can’t seem to do anything right. This is turning into a s—tty day.”)
So what’s the fix? Well, there isn’t one with three quick steps. Adjusting your outlook on life is a life skill that requires patience, discipline, perspective and a sense of humor. After all, laughing in the face of the unexpected keeps us sane. So here’s the challenge – The next time the order is delayed, you lose the sale, someone cuts you off, or the dog pees on the new carpet, stop to consider your state of mind before responding. That extra breath may save you time, money, heartburn or a treasured relationship. Do this enough and you’ll master your locus of control.
P.S. As I write this, I am waiting for the alternator in my car to be replaced. It died unexpectedly on the way to a speaking engagement today and I am marooned at a dealership. It’s going to be long wait and expensive to repair. How would you deal with this challenge? Me? I’m writing this post.