Finding Your Internal Locus of Control

If there is one key to becoming the person you want to be, it's finding your internal locus of control. Create a life for yourself where you control access to the most important things. This requires a simple two-step process that takes a long time but which is actually pretty easy.
  1. Only value things which you can control.
  2. Work toward controlling those things you value one step at a time.
Disclaimer here: There is nothing in your life you can utterly control. But there are plenty of things you have some control over. Most things in the world you have approximately zero control over.

Here are the things you can control:
  • Your behavior.
  • Your emotions.
  • Your values.
  • Your creative projects.
  • Your resource allocation (time, money, will)
  • Your social sphere.
  • Your home.
Controlling any of these things is impossible in the short run. You can't just go out and become a new person with a new life today. But these are things in what Stephen Covey calls your Circle of Influence. You can control them to some extent.

On the other hand, you can't control most things. You have virtually no control over other people, not in any significant way. You can try to make demands, guilt, trick, please, encourage, give feedback, beg, but you can't make someone like you. You can't change people.

How do you control what you can control, though? If you're like me, you feel like you don't actually get to make that many decisions about how you spend your time or what feelings you have. You either feel like you're bogged down by commitments and living out a script somebody else has written out for you or you're riding an elephant and that elephant's just going wherever it wants.

Start small. Find exactly one thing you can do once that is utterly and completely in your control. Maybe sit down and meditate for 2 minutes, have a tall glass of water, or go for a 10 minute walk around the block. Do you see how incredible it feels to make a decision and follow through on it without being told what to do? When was the last time you did something without being told to do it by your boss, teachers, family members, friends, or advertisements? That's called personal leadership. It's called being proactive. It's called being independent.

To be honest, when you're trying to control your life for the first time, it can be brutally hard to accomplish much. You're not used to having free will, so you have to start small and not get ahead of yourself. Walking around a block sounds like an easy activity, but it's hard when you have to be the one to tell yourself to do it. Make it so easy, that it would be an absurd proposition to try to weasel your way out of it. Do it in response to a specific trigger every day and stop thinking about it. You'll still be following a script - except this time, you get to write it.

Once you've built your first habit for several weeks and have started to build a feeling of control, move onto another one that's just as easy. Add another line to the script and follow it like you're a computer following a programming script. Control isn't deciding to follow lines of code others have written for you. It's writing the code.