There is a psychology concept that we use in the recruiting business for evaluating candidates that is also useful for individuals to apply in evaluating themselves.
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Locus of control refers to the degree to which people believe they can control the events in their lives. People with a high internal locus of control believe that through their actions and thoughts they can control the events and outcomes that affect them. On the other hand, people with an external locus of control believe that events are pre-determined by fate, luck or occur independent of their own actions.
For example a person with a high internal locus of control who unwittingly buys a car considered a lemon, might blame themselves for not doing sufficient research while an externally focused person might blame bad luck, or the car dealer for cheating them.A smoker with an external locus of control might blame the government for not outlawing cigarettes, while a smoker with an internal locus of control might accept that they are choosing an unhealthy activity.
Studies show that people with an internal locus of control tend to actively work to maintain control of events, while externals are less likely to exert effort to influence outcomes.
There is no direct correlation between locus of control and success or achievement, but there is some research that shows that people with an external locus of control experience more stress and have higher rates of clinical depression (ref. Benassi, Sweeney, Dufour – 1988). Whether this is true or not, it is certainly useful to understand the distinction when hiring because some jobs require control oriented behaviour while other roles can tolerate a more passive approach.
So how does this apply to you?
Some things are truly outside our control. You could be driving through an intersection, practicing defensive driving and get blindsided by a speeding car running the light. Short of evasive maneuvers there may be nothing you could have done to avoid the accident. On the other hand, if one were text messaging while driving through the intersection and failed to evade an avoidable collision, then in my books that event is within one’s control.
The recognition that we can’t control everything in our lives is as important as the ability to accept reality, but these are not to be confused with being passive.
Ultimately you are the only person on this earth who will accept complete accountability for your own well-being. While I certainly do believe the universe works for us and I know many of us have others to support us, but these are not always reliable, largely mysterious, and at least unpredictable.
If you expect fate to take care of you, or blame others for the bad events in your life, you may be relinquishing your unique power to shape yourself and your life in a positive way. If you wait for luck to take care of you, you may be waiting a long time and ultimately be dissapointed with the result.