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Take Back Control


Last Friday I took a lockdown holiday.  I turned off my devices, went for a long hike in the morning, read novels and magazines in the afternoon and had a BBQ in the evening.  I hope that you are keeping an eye on your need to take a break, particularly if you are continuing to work during lockdown and possibly home-schooling, self-isolating or caring. 

However, this blog isn’t about taking a break.  But it is about control which does relate back to my decision to take a lockdown holiday, as you will see.

The Locus of Control

I had a conversation on LinkedIn last week with someone who is active on the job market.  She is doing all the right things in terms of networking activity, making new connections, making direct approaches to her dream organisations, preparing for interview, etc.  However, she is not getting any interviews.  Whilst this is disappointing for her, I sensed that this person was not in the depths of despair.  She had worked out that she needs to focus her activity on things that are within her control rather than dwelling on the things that are outside her control.  She is smart!

During my coaching training, I learned about the locus of control.  It’s a psychological concept pioneered by John Rotter in the 1950s and relates to your belief system regarding the causes of your experiences and the factors to which you attribute success or failure.

The concept is usually divided into two categories: internal and external.  If you have an internal locus of control you attribute success to your own efforts and abilities and are thus more motivated and likely to learn.  If you have an external locus of control, you attribute your success to luck or fate and are more likely to feel anxious and not in control of your life.

Locus of control is often viewed as an inborn personality component but there is also evidence that it is shaped by childhood experiences – if your parents encouraged your independence and helped you to learn the connection between actions and their consequences then you will tend to have a more well developed internal locus of control.

On a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being completely internal locus of control and 10 being completely external locus of control, where do you sit?

If you are more towards a 10, then I have good news for you because you can move the dial.

Take back control

A great and powerful question that I will often use as a coach is “which parts of this situation can you control?”.  I think this is an excellent question, particularly in our times.

What in your life feels stuck at the moment?  Which parts of this situation can you control?

Usually there are plenty of things we can control.  We may not be overly enamoured with the options but we can control and change things.  At the very least we can control our actions, our attitude and how we think which will, in turn, change how we feel.  This is liberating and empowering.

Here are some approaches that may help you to strengthen your internal locus of control:

  • Brainstorm your options. Write down all of your ideas without evaluating them first (you can also ask friends and family) – no idea is a bad idea.  When you have a list, evaluate each one and decide on the best course of action for you.  You may end up with the same answer you had before the brainstorming session, but this exercise can open your eyes to the amount of choice you have in a given situation.
  • Break your goals down into steps.  Look at your bigger goals and focus on the steps that you can control right here and right now.  It can be useful to look at your strengths and reflect on how you can use your strengths to move beyond the next step.
  • Take responsibility.  This doesn’t mean you should blame yourself but you should acknowledge the part you play in events without considering yourself a victim.  So when the results are good, give yourself a pat on the back and when results are bad, accept the consequences with dignity and focus on how you can improve next time.

And now for my holiday

It is very easy in this current climate to feel a bit out of control.  Locus of control is not completely black and white.  Obviously, you personally have little control over the global pandemic that has so radically changed the way we’re living.  These sorts of things can’t be controlled and you need to be realistic about that in order to move past them as quickly as possible.

One of the impacts of this on me has been that I’ve hardly taken any time away from work as it’s difficult to create a “break” in lockdown.  I kept telling myself that I couldn’t take a break just because I couldn’t physically remove myself from where I live and go to a hotel / campsite / B&B – that’s out of my control.

Not true.

After a bit of good brainstorming (see above) I created my ideal holiday day and really enjoyed!

How can you take back control? 

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