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Category: Reslliency

The Caveat of our locus of control

The Caveat of our locus of control

In leadership courses one talks about the difference between those with an internal locus of control as opposed to an external locus of control.   One’s locus of control is the perceived source of one’s outcomes in life.

An internal locus of control is embodied in slogan’s like “just do it”. Our North American culture epitomizes that potential within people who believe “desire + effort = guaranteed success”. The lack of results is a result of inadequate effort and/or belief.  When something good occurs we look to our internal locus of control – we worked for it, we deserved it or we ‘attracted’ it courtesy of those visualizations and affirmations we repeated daily.

Meanwhile those with an external locus of control believe that outcomes are a result of fate, or luck.  Perhaps the answer is in the stars, and one’s horoscope is checked to explain results.  Despite having had the desire and exerting effort the results allude us, remaining as difficult to grasp as one’s own shadow. Consequently when something bad happens we are viewed as inadequate in a world that is internally referenced.  We should just ‘get over it’, pull up our boot straps and ‘carry on’.

The challenge with an internal  locus of control is that it is a very me centered philosophy.  It isn’t  bad or wrong it just has limits.  The problem with an external locus of control is that it also has limits and creates apathy.  After years of life of trying to accomplish xyz and being beaten up, by myself and others, for not accomplishing xyz I’ve realized that we need a balanced locus of control.  We can do what we can do, and when we can’t impact that which is beyond our control, it is healthier to know when to walk away, applauding ourselves for what we could do and moving on.

If you are successful the internal locus of control is a wonderful perspective, but on those days when life takes a down turn and we loose our job,  our relationships flounder, or health issues surface unexpectedly – then the internal locus of control  looses some ground.   Neither my son nor I wanted the cancer diagnosis that came at the age of 21.   However the woe is me of an external locus of control doesn’t put you on the path to recovery, few people want to spend time with a pessimist or a drama queen. Nor does the path of apathy create results.  Pacing is pivotal, to stay on track without feeling overwhelmed.

Many movies reiterate the mentality of “I can do it”.  Hollywood blockbusters abound. There is a whole coaching and personal growth movement with numerous speakers from coast to coast that want you to believe that if you just do the right stuff, think the right stuff – you too can have XYZ  I”m not going to discredit them as I believe that too – but I do believe there is a caveat in there as well. It is this caveat that is rarely mentioned, as it undermines book sales.   XYZ may not arrive as XYZ it may arrive as xyz, xzz, vyz, or xvz,  Variations on a theme perhaps but it doesn’t make it more or less right or wrong.   Can we accept the alternative without beating ourselves up for not having  XYZ.

“ we live in a world that in a strange way discounts itself. If we’re unhappy, unemployed, or broke, we’re encouraged to see the issue as a personal problem and we’re supposed to solve it by focusing on whatever it is about us that might be causing the problem. But there might not be anything about us that’s leaving us unemployed or broke. The problem might be, to use a technical term, structural. – meaning that what feels like a personal shortcoming is actually the result of social or economic conditions, circumstances that you won’t be able to change no matter how much you might change yourself  . . . .   it helps to be aware of these factors, because if you’re not, you can start blaming yourself for a lack of connection [or anything else] when the problem doesn’t have anything to do with you. “

When I read this in Emily White’s book Count me in – the penny dropped.   This is where the shortcomings of those that try to have an internal locus of control and those that keep trying to fix something that can’t be fixed feel as if they are spinning their wheels.  It can be depressing.  Some things – okay many things – are beyond control and cannot be altered.   I’ve spent twenty years exhausted trying to shift a relationship dynamic that won’t budge as I’m only a small portion of the equation and lack sufficient weight to tip the scales in my direction.

Mother Teresa  has a quote – It struck a chord whenI first saw it on a framed print in a friends home back in 1991.  From an article written by Harriet Heyman Mother Teresa states “prayer without action is no prayer at all – You have to do your work as if everything depends on you, then leave the rest to God.”

I like this quote as it balances the intrinsic and extrinsic aspects of our locus of control.  Yes honour the intrinsic- do what you can do.  In my life – I work on gaining the clarity as to what can I impact and to put my energy there and to have compassion for myself and others when results fall short of aspirations as a result of external influences.  Hence relinquishing that driven ‘at all cost’ and surrendering recognizing that there are aspects at play that are far larger than ourselves.



Count me in White, E.  (2015) . Count me in. Toronto, ON: McLelland & Steward.

Harriet Heyman, (July 1980,)  Life Magazine
Philip B. Kunhardt Jr. Managing Editor


Do you have weeble power?

Do you have weeble power?

Do you remember weebles?  Maybe not – I could be dating myself  here.  Weebles are those egg shaped characters weighted inside at the base.  The commercial jingle was – “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

Are you resilient? Can you bounce back – Physically? Mentally? Emotionally?  When you are given a push do you topple or just wobble?  Life will press against us  – testing our centre of gravity.  The economy, world events, the stock market, transitions, business and personal situations,  be it a lay off or a health crises, among a hundred other issues that could challenge us. At the end of the day … they all impact us and our resiliency is tested.

Resiliency is sometimes easier said than done. Is your strength of character strong enough to rebound? Can you adjust to changing circumstances? The inner core of our being is where our strength lies. It involves deeper levels of internal power and strength.  Our real power – that internal chutzpah is cultivated over time. It is important to be able to take the hits that life throws us and then bounce back adjusting and adapting to new situations.  When we have the ability to return to a state of equilibrium we know we can take on more challenges and more risks. With weeble power we have the confidence to move forward and reach new levels.

Trusting that you will find your weeble within.



I remember the location and the student that said it. I can still picture his face under his ball cap with his feet outstretched before him, sitting in the front, two rows in from the wall on my left.

I was their Rookie English Teacher at the University.  A native Canadian in the middle of the Mexican mountains, still adjusting to mexican ways and a foreign country.  I had my knickers in a knot about something.  I don’t remember what now but this wayward student who was half my age pegged the truth with a bullseye in that moment.  Relajrse – as my brain riffled through my sparse but growing Spanish vocabulary the meaning hit me as I found the transition.  Relax – one word yet it shot through me like an arrow as my brain captured the translation, grasped the meaning and let it take hold. Relax – I could relax in this moment and not take this issue, which I’ve long since forgotten – so seriously.  The issue that had my knickers in a not that day was probably irrelevant a week later – but the lesson of that one word uttered through the classroom – took hold and has stayed with me for several years now.

Life will move forward and that which needs to happen will happen. In this moment I can say what I can say and do what I can do and I can relax as there is nothing more that can be done. Somethings are just out of control and beyond my sphere of influence.

Ahhh yes – Relarjse.

Start Again

Start Again

“Start again, start again” the words reverberate through the speakers filling the quiet meditation hall. That is the way with meditation.  We connect with breath briefly before the mind wanders off on yet another tangent.

Each time we sit the opportunity exists to start again, to start fresh.  Whether it has been a split second or a few moments or if we are lucky a longer time frame before our focus wandered, we return to breath and start again. With tender awareness we accept that the mind will wander and with gentleness and compassion for self we start again.

I recall having a conversation with someone who was  in addiction recovery where I taught yoga. He had ‘lapsed’ – we talked about it and how he now knew what another one of his triggers was and he was in an opportunity to Start Again.  Our paths crossed about a year later. After another stint in a different recovery centre he was approaching one year of sobriety.   This time more successful than the previous.

New Years  Resolutions and many of the tasks on our to do lists or our goals and best intentions can be sidetracked in a myriad of ways.  All that there is to do is Start Again.