Empowerment: Understanding Your Locus Of Control

If you want to find empowerment, you need to begin in your mind. I’m not talking about using power over others. I’m talking about discovering your own power to move forward and succeed in your life. And in the process, helping others.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article called, Victim Mentality: Blaming Outside Sources For Our Problems. It’s interesting how the post came about. It stemmed from a comment on another post called, How Consumerism Is Making America’s Poor Poorer. It seems that both posts touched a sore spot with many readers. Sorry, sometimes the truth hurts.

I have observed that sometimes, overconsumption or victim mentality can hold people back from making progress in life. If someone struggles with poverty to begin with, this could keep them from making steps forward. But we can all find more empowerment. It begins with understanding the way we think. Not all is lost. 

The Good News Is That There Are Solutions

This post isn’t directed toward the poor. It’s directed toward everyone and anyone who struggles with self-doubt. Have you had times in your life when you didn’t believe in yourself? I know I have. I still do at times.

Hell, I could never surf like that guy in the photo. Or could I? More on that idea later. First, let’s look at some excuses for not following through with forward steps in our lives.

  • I can’t exercise because there aren’t any good gyms in my town.
  • I’ll never start a business because it costs too much money.
  • I can’t get ahead because the tax system takes all my money.
  • I’ll never build a house because the permit process is too complicated.
  • I got divorced because my ex was always nagging me.
  • I’ll always be in debt because my job doesn’t pay enough.

What’s the common theme in these statements? They are all excuses and they all place the blame on something outside of ourselves.

Introducing Locus Of Control

I’m not a psychologist, so here’s a link to a brief explanation of locus of control. It goes something like this:

A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything.

When I posted about victim mentality, dozens of people on social media responded by saying that I was being insensitive to class, gender, and race. They told me that my view was one of white male privilege. And so it is. But by pointing the finger back at me, people had another thing to blame. I’m not being judgmental here. I know how it works. I’ve done the same thing myself.

Essentially they said something like, “Well, you were able to overcome your poverty because you’re a white male. But not everybody can do that because the system does not favor everybody.” Sound familiar? It’s another excuse that points the blame at outside forces. It’s working from an external locus of control.

Finding Empowerment

Understanding locus of control is the beginning of finding empowerment.

If you operate primarily from an external locus of control, you know you have some work to do. If you have a mixed locus of control as I do, your work is less, but you can still make progress. But if you operate solely from an internal locus of control… you are superhuman and can stop reading this post right now.

The point is that knowing your locus of control is the start of empowerment. Knowledge and education is essential to any kind of self-improvement.

In future posts, we’ll dive deeper into ways to shift your locus of control from external to internal. But for today let’s consider surfing.

Me Surf That Big Wave? Are You F*&#ing Crazy?

I’m a crappy swimmer. I’ve never been very athletic. I have weak core strength. The ocean is hundreds of miles away. I’m over 50. And most of all, I’m scared shitless of deep water. I could never surf that big wave.

Note: I’m operating from an external locus of control here. But let’s rethink this. I don’t actually have any desire to surf, but if I did, here are some steps I could take to reach my goal:

  • Take swimming lessons and become a stronger swimmer.
  • Practice swimming at a local pool daily for a year.
  • Develop more core strength at home.
  • Hire a surfing instructor.
  • Make a trip to the ocean and try surfing.
  • Practice and ride a big wave.

I can do it! I know I can.

Okay, so I’m not going to take up surfing, but I am practicing karate. When I was younger, I never believed I could become a black belt in karate. Well, I’m currently a green belt and I see nothing getting in the way of achieving a black belt. I can do it! That’s an internal locus of control. 

Internal Locus Of Control Can Work In Any Area Of Life

  • You can say, “I can’t get an education because I don’t have enough money.” Or you can say, “I can get an education because I’m smart and there are programs that can help me pay for college.”
  • You can say, “I can’t get a job because there are no good jobs in my town.” Or you can say, “I can get a job, even if it’s something I don’t really like, and even if I have to travel to the city.” 
  • You can say, “I can’t start a business because I don’t know how.” Or you can say, “I can take some courses, read some books, and start a business.” 

I think you’re getting the idea. And the idea can help you find empowerment. It doesn’t matter who and where you are. Anybody can learn how to use an internal locus of control. Is it simple? Probably not. Will it take hard work? Absolutely. But with some intentional choices and time, anything is possible.

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James Ewen
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