Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Locus of Control (Updated 8/15/05)

After making plans to meet up with a friend, I make my way over to a part of town that I've never been. The directions seemed easy enough. I approached the road to turn on and waited at the red light. The traffic lights full cycle around me though my light did not change. I shrug, pull up a bit to maybe trip the sensors, and I continue to wait. By now there were several cars behind me. Another cycle through and my light still didn't change. Now I'm frustrated, the cars behind me are honking, yelling and waiving at me to go.

What the hell do I do? I can't run a red light! But at that moment the intersection cleared. Maybe it's a stop and go when it's clear kind of a red arrow light? I have no idea. So I throtle it through and nearly cause a major pile up, not to mention three cops were close by and they pull me over with a predjudice!

I explain what happened and apologized for my stupidity. The officers first question? ... "How long you gonna be stayin' in Boise?" Yeah, I know "out-of-towners go home!" is what he was really thinking. And I was thinking right back at him "I don't really like this *&%# town so much right now either, but thanks very much for your encouragement!"

Our successes and failures; good and bad experiences, in life are the seeds of growth. How we perceive them and what we do with them shape who we are. What portion of those are we responsible for "creating" through our own choices, perceptions and beliefs? What is left to fate, chance, and external forces?

A Locus of Control is the perceived source of control over our life experiences. People with internal locus of control believe that they control their own destiny, convinced that their own choices, skill, ability and efforts determine the bulk of their life experiences. In contrast, people with external locus of control believe that their lives are determined mainly by sources outside themselves - fate, chance, luck or the choices and actions of others.

I could blame the city for faulty lights, blame Boise natives for yelling and honking ... And I did! And though I can't control any of that, It made me feel better to pin the blame. Although, it really made no sense to dwell in that blame as I did for the remainder of the day. Ultimately, regardless of the pressure and new surroundings I'm in, I made the choice to turn against the light and I suffered consequences for that choice.

The movie 28 days with Vigo Mortonsen of Lord of the Rings fame, made a powerful impression on me. Vigo plays a major league pitcher in rehab for an addiction and in one scene he's teaching Sandra Bullock how to pitch. He said in part "You can control the way you stand, your grip on the ball, the motion of your arm; but once you let go of the ball you have no more control. You can't worry about what happens down there. You can only worry about what you can control right here. "

We could eventually atribute our bad experiences in life to a decision that we've made at some point. However, better decisions in our lives wouldn't nececarily lead to less blame of external forces.

This makes it difficult to define a healthy locus of control. It would be different for everyone. Though a balance between accepting your share of responsibility for your successes, because they are yours, you've earned them, while giving credit to external forces where credit is due; and accepting your share of responsibility for your failures while withholding blame against objects or people that we can't control ... may seem to be the path of a quality life, although the quality of life is not measured by how things seem; It's measured by how much we grow as individuals.

Vigo taught me that we have to maintain control within ourselves while letting go of the blame on fate and external events; those things that we can't control, regardless of the pressures of those forces. Our decisions and perceptions ultimately do create our experiences. A healthy locus of control then, is the fertilizer that nourish those seeds of growth.

"You live, you learn" Alanis Morisette

That is how I see the world; how do you see it.