Sunday Story: Internal Locus of Control
Seeing as we were talking about the benefits of having an Internal Locus of Control perspective the other day, I thought I would share a quick story about it, from the memory banks of the life of TFS.
If you are brave/stupid enough to watch daytime tv you will this sort of dumb shit on a daily basis:
“Mr BankMan gave me credit limit of 5 grand so I blitzed it and now can’t afford the monthly repayments, why did he let this happen”
“Oh no I gambled all my money away. There should be better laws to stop people like me doing this, and also I want my money back”
“Supermarkets sell healthy food far too expensively, so I feed my kids on 80p chocolate bars and microwave meals instead, it’s their fault we’re all fat… waah waah waah.”
I think everyone can see the folly quite clearly in each of these extreme cases of failing to take personal responsibility for their own lives. But lest us get all high and mighty laughing at these tragic beings, it would be prudent to take a look at ourselves every so often, on the off chance we might be falling into a similar trap ourselves.
There are many examples I could use from my life where I’ve been too quick to blame others when I should have been looking at the man in the mirror but the following story particularly sticks out because it spans the course of about 10 years before I finally actually did something about it.
When I was 18 I went on a “lads holiday” as you do, to magaluf in Majorca. Ick. Anyway the less said about the holiday the better but one night, whilst acutely inebriated, I fell off a wall and kind of jarred my hip. It wasn’t immediately that painful but over the coming months the mild irritation in my left hip and upper thigh grew into a larger problem as I started to change my posture, the way I sat, and before long I found myself no longer being able to sit down in a normal position for longer than about 5 minutes without some considerable discomfort.
Naturally I went to the doctor, who immediately prescribed some strong painkillers. For 3 months. These did nothing for the problem but did cause me to feel sick for pretty much the whole time. Looking back, I really think the doctor should have made a much bigger thing of getting the ligaments and muscles back to full strength around the affected area by taking matters into my own hands and doing some bloody exercise. Sure, there was some mention of doing some stretches and so forth. But really for an otherwise fit and healthy 18 year old lad, the solution was simply to do some running and some squats/burpees, starting off slowly of course but gradually building up speed, intensity and length of workouts as the muscles got back to full fitness. However my Locus of control, which was seemingly still all over the shop at this age, combined with the (multiple) Doctors inability to tell me to get up and work those muscles that were lacking the strength to support my already skinny arse frame, meant that this issue went on for years longer than it should have done.
Seeing as the moral of the story is internalising responsibility we will quickly skip over the doctors mentioned “inabilities”, indeed, they can be forgiven for having to endure many years of patients complaining about suffering which has been clearly been brought on, and subsequently perpetuated by themselves (due to ignoring doctors suggestions) .
I will hold my hands up, I sat around complaining about it. For years. I made some lame attempts at finding alternative ways to find “a cure” – signifying an external locus of control once again – but the obvious one of simply becoming a fit, healthy eating and regularly exercising human being somehow eluded me. This would have signified an internal locus of control, which I obviously did not have at this time in my life with respect to my health. This is strange for me to own up to as I’ve always thought of myself as a non-complainer, and certainly someone who believes in the idea that my own actions have reactions and consequences. But looking back at the evidence, I can’t argue… I used to have an external locus of control with regards to my health at best, and possibly in areas of my life at worst. For shame TFS!
How did I finally internalise my locus of control? Was it some sort of spiritual awakening? Did MMM come round and punch me in the face? The real story is somewhat less dramatic and also kind of by chance, in that it was completely unrelated to this particular issue
I signed up to run the London Marathon.
This naturally forced me into thinking much more about healthy eating (Which I actually pretty much completely fucked up on… a story for another time) and also to exercise a lot more. Hey presto: Within a few months I could sit down again a lot more comfortably*
Internal perspective beats external any day of the week. Always look at yourself in case the root of a problem is with you, instead of blaming others. Own up to it and do something about it. Obviously not everything will end up being your fault, and there are many things not in your control, but there are also many things that you can that you probably don’t own up to. Another mini lesson is that signing up to do something extremely challenging can pay dividends you didn’t even imagine, but that is a story for another day.
I can’t say for certain that if I’d learnt about this “phenomena” – from a charming and witty personal finance blog that also dishes out some common sense advice on life perhaps – earlier I would have taken a blind bit of notice. But I would like to think that I might have done.
So if there is anyone reading this with a problem that they think is outside of their control, be it a health, money, or anything else, please take a long hard look and see if it is all really “their fault”, or are there factors you can change now to make a positive difference yourself. If you think about this and realise there are, take action.
*It’s still not completely “back to normal” and I’m not sure it ever will be, but maybe with even more exercise, I’m thinking some targeted strength training etc, you never know. This is all up to me of course to take upon myself and is the major reason I want to take up some more physical challenges. Back ↑