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An informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur

Locus of Control
By Paul Tomori
Saturday, August 08, 2009 at 14:40:07 (EDT)

"Locus of control is a term in psychology which refers to a person's belief about what causes the good or bad results in his or her life, either in general or in a specific area such as health or academics. Understanding of the concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become an important aspect of personality studies. Locus of control refers to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them. Individuals with a high internal locus of control believe that events result primarily from their own behavior and actions. Those with a high external locus of control believe that powerful others, fate, or chance primarily determine events. As seen at Wikipedia.org"
Several blog posts ago, I wrote about the Illusion of Helplessness. I described how the more one 'owns' his or her actions, the more likely they are to actually be empowered to self-direct their lives. I know a lot of happy and healthy people don't agree with that notion. Many people believe in fate or the influence of higher powers. However, I can't think of a single successful businessperson I have met or read about who believed that their life was somehow pre-destined to turn out successfully. Without exception, all of these people took the bull by the horns and created the path necessary for their achievements. ALL of them faced huge obstacles, seemingly insurmountable at times. Yet, they persevered, because they believed (or day I say, 'knew') that nothing was going to be handed to them.

Personally, I don't want anything handed to me. I want the pride of accomplishment. I want the pride of overcoming any so-called insurmountable obstacles that block or impede my progress.

So, this past week, I experienced two business situations that play into this topic.

The first was that I received word from our primary contact at one of our long-running clients. We were advised that effective this week, our contact was not going to be part of their organization any longer. It wasn't clear whether our contact was quitting or had been 'let go'. Usually when people do not say it's one or the other, it means they were let go (against their wishes). It's not my place to speculate in this particular circumstance and I quite liked working with this person, but for illustrative purposes, the timing was coincidental to this blog preparation. One thing this person said led me to think that their approach in general might be undermining their own potential for being the master of their own destiny: the person said: "I have always believed that everything happens for a reason".

Ya, I know... It's a commonly spoken but kind of sappy and empty sentiment. What exactly does it mean? Clearly, it indicates a low locus of internal control. For his sake, I am hoping that this was just the immediate response to an unpleasant situation. Hopefully, this person will realize that by taking back the internal locus of control, they will empower themselves to recover that much more quickly.

The other situation was a meeting I had with a group of people who are front-line staff for a large organization. I was answering questions and training them a little bit on one of my company's software applications. It's been a long time since I have seen such a down and out group of people. At first, I wasn't sure whether I should be taking their glumness personally or perhaps that they were disgruntled about my company's software. I rejected the latter hypothesis knowing that this particular software application was almost unfailingly well received... So, it must have been me! Or, maybe, they were just an unhappy bunch! The meeting progressed and one statement that one of the attendees said revealed it all. I was pressing them to explain to me how I might improve a certain feature of the program so that they could conduct their jobs more effectively. She said: "Paul, we don't really care if you make this feature of the program better or not - we are all paid by the hour anyway".

Silently, I was astonished. I sometimes forget that not everyone has the same approach to work (i.e. loving it), that I do. Are these people feeling so helpless and stuck that they would tolerate the daily humdrum of jobs they clearly despise? I left thinking "these are the kind of people who buy lottery tickets (i.e. assigning control to an unlikely but hopeful EXTERNAL event".

If only they had more of an internal locus of control, since they will not likely ever win the lottery as their ticket away from their current job hell.

Hey, I am not one to say that all you have to do is believe that you can control everything in order to gain such control in actuality. There are many many things outside of one's locus of control. However, there are SOOO many MORE things within that locus of control and all one needs to do to get started is at least give the benefit of the doubt that THEY can actually effect a desired change... or at least influence it strongly.

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