Excerpted from Scott Halford’s new book, Activate Your Brain
“It’s all your fault!” Humans like to blame anyone and everyone for their mistakes; it’s in our blood. But really, who is responsible for your success? Your parents, broker, life partner, employees—all of whom can hand us opportunities or throw us curveballs. Or is success in your hands and your hands alone? These are two very different ways of framing about who has control over our success in life, and which one we lean toward can have a large impact on our lives.
Psychologists refer to this as an external locus of control (others have control) as opposed to an internal locus of control (you have control). Most people have a mix of the two, but when confronted with a certain situation, many of us will default to one of these two attitudes. Some might say people who are high on the external locus of control will have a harder time succeeding than the people who fall high on the internal locus control. Let’s say you don’t get a job promotion because one of the requirements is that you have an MBA. If you’re internally focused, you’ll likely investigate how to get an MBA and take the steps toward that or make a decision to go on a job path that doesn’t require one. You see yourself as having control over that situation, and you’re able to be proactive. If you’re externally focused, however, you might blame the inflexibility of the interviewer or the rules of the company on the lack of an offer. You’d be less likely to take the steps toward getting an MBA because you would see it as someone else’s problem, not yours.
Oprah Winfrey is a good example of internal locus, because despite the events that took place in her childhood, which involved sexual abuse and growing up in poverty, she overcame these obstacles and is now one of the highest paid celebrities. She did not let her past affect her future.
When we get stuck in our past, we’re essentially saying, “I have no control over my future.” But taking control of our future is one of the single greatest gifts we can give ourselves; when we do so, we get to have a say in the outcome of our lives.