I have five kids. Five wonderful, loving, playful, relentless, challenging kids. When they do something wrong, and they often do, they tend to blame circumstances in the external environment for their mistakes. Many kids, and people, do this all the time. I sometimes do this if I don’t catch myself. Blaming people is an ineffective coping mechanism that helps us to feel better about ourselves. Linked with self-deception, it is a condition that we should strive not to find ourselves in.
This “External Locus of Control” is a belief that circumstances are beyond our control. That “others” are responsible for our malfunctions and that our luck is to blame for our misfortunes.
A contrarian belief to the aforementioned mechanism is an “Internal Locus of Control”. This coping style sees life as a challenge. When Arthur Rubinstein plays Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto number two he “eats” the piano (my dad told me this when I was young, sitting with him listening to an old vinyl record). He has so much passion when he plays this piece that he takes complete control of the instrument and you can actually hear it! Go download it if you don’t have it and you will see what I mean. This mastery and total control of the piano (by the way it is a challenging instrument to play to say the least) is exactly the same coping style that we need to have when it comes to life’s challenges.
Having an internal locus of control means that we see every stressful event, every sad occurrence, every setback in a different way. In a challenging way. The stressful event becomes a challenge to overcome, the sad occurrence becomes a growing experience, and the setback becomes something that we can learn from and perhaps a new beginning (cue Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music: when one door closes, another one opens).
Look! I know that it is sometimes very difficult to have this kind of higher level attitude. I find myself getting angry sometimes at my kids who are obviously trying to teach me to be patient and to look inwards at my own soul or to just wait for them to understand.
You see, developing an internal locus of control takes time, patience, and education. Think back to your own kids, or when you were a kid. Remember how everything seemed like it was not your fault and it was very easy to shift blame to someone else? Developing a internal locus of control requires us to grow up and to accept the responsibilities of our lives.
I do believe, however, that this level of control must be present in ALL that we do, not just our higher level relationships or our work lives. Learn to tune into your internal locus of control when you drive, when you interact with strangers, with everything. If you don’t, then you may someday look in the mirror and not recognize the person that stares back at you. You see, a healthy internal locus of control is the closest thing that you can get to total honesty with yourself. Your kids will appreciate it, I promise!
By the way, a Locust is spelled with a "t" at the end...
"Lean into it!"