Who Runs Your Work and Your Life?

One of the important distinctions between people is their belief regarding who runs things, particularly things that are important to us. Some of us feel we have a great deal of control over what happens to us; others feel we have very little control.

I’m not sure which attitude is more accurate. But I know that believing you have more control over events and their outcomes is more useful and productive: it tends to make you more aware, more proactive, more energetic, and ultimately more successful. At a minimum – even if you’re born with a cloud over your head – cultivating the feeling you have a good deal of control over your work and your life helps to maximize the outcomes you generate.

That’s one reason I’m hoping this column will help you identify where you fall on the spectrum between “total control” and “zero control” over events and outcomes.

Once you know where you are, you can take some steps to move closer to where you’d like to be on that spectrum.

To get you started, here are a few statements that can help you recognize your attitude about who controls what happens to you. For each one, consider which of the two responses is closer to what you feel and believe about yourself:

  • My disappointments generally result from:

Bad luck – or – Personal mistakes

  • Other people’s evaluations of my work generally result from:

The evaluator’s personal like or dislike for me – or – The quality of my work

  • My past successes have resulted from:

Being in the right place at the right time – or – My hard work and ambition

  • How much or how little I prepare for upcoming tasks, projects, and goals:

Has very little to do with the outcome – or – Is all important

Is idealistic and foolish – or – Can make a major difference

  • My attitude regarding the importance of luck is:

Its importance cannot be overstated – or – The harder I work, the luckier I get

  • My skills, talents, and abilities are:

Largely fixed and unchangeable – or – Still improvable if I try hard enough

Did this exercise help you recognize more clearly how you feel about your control over events and their outcomes?

While it’s true no one can have total control over the outcomes of the tasks, projects, and goals they undertake, it’s equally true that feeling powerless saps your strength. That’s why it’s important to find a satisfactory balance between driving hard toward what you want and letting go enough to enjoy life’s opportunities and pleasures.

I’ll offer more about this topic and these ideas in the near future.

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