Discover your true self and align your life journey around your core beliefs, values and perspective.
Designed as both a companion piece to the author's previous book, The Power of Understanding People, and a stand-alone work, The Power of Understanding Yourself provides readers with a blueprint for examining their true purpose and approach to life and a map for achieving greater personal happiness, professional success and self-awareness.
It explores personal attributes related to interactive style, diving deeper into the concepts from the author's previous book, provides exercises for exploring how to connect your current life status to a desired future state and encourages readers to engage in a deep exploration of their core values, beliefs, mission and vision to become their best self.
* Find the key to self-discovery and personal development
* Uncover your true purpose
* Use helpful exercises to reveal the best you
* Develop strategies to maximize your potential
The Power of Understanding Yourself is an empowering tool to help you find your best possible self and flourish.
Locus of Control
You Are the Winemaker
Wine makes a man more pleased with himself. I do not say it makes him more pleasing to others.
- Samuel Johnson
"Life is like stew."
Admittedly, this was an odd way to begin a conversation with a colleague seeking counsel from me - their human resources executive - about a problem at work. Those who had heard the story before, and there were many, knew that this was how I responded to individuals complaining about the petty annoyances that are common in our lives. In fact, I told the story so often that it became known simply as the "Stew Story." It usually followed an employee sharing a grievance about a coworker, a manager, or a customer. They were frustrated about an irritating behavior or an unexpected life circumstance that had complicated their day. Most of the time, our employee-relations manager, who was infinitely more patient with the process than me, handled these conversations. That was precisely why I had hired Dee Dee Bracewell - to protect the employees from me. I was a more directive counselor. Pity the poor employee who chose Dee Dee's day off to air their grievance. After they shared their concern about their schedule, I would begin.
"Life is like stew."
"Stew has broth and chunks of beef, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Life is the same. Most times you find yourself scooting through the broth . easy peazy. It's smooth sailing, moving through that broth. Then, all of a sudden and with no warning, you run into a carrot. Smack dab, full stop carrot collision. Now, it's not the carrot's fault. Carrots are part of stew. Everyone knows that. So, it doesn't make any sense to be surprised by the carrot. I mean, you were bound to run into one eventually since you know - everyone knows - there are carrots in stew. You can blame the carrot, but that's kind of silly since you knew it was going to be there. The carrot is just doing its thing. So, the question is not, 'Why did the carrot do this to me?' The carrot is part of the stew. And the question isn't 'Why did I hit the carrot?' No one gets through the stew without hitting a carrot, a potato, a piece of celery. No, the question is "What do I do now that I hit a carrot?'"
It was usually at this point in my story that the recipient would stand and say, "I think I'll just talk to Dee Dee about this tomorrow."
Delusions, Control, and Disappointment
The story makes a point about locus of control. Since you are reading this book, I am assuming you have a legitimate desire to understand yourself. If that assumption is true, then it follows that you are doing so to enhance your life in some way. Perhaps you want to be happier or find your true calling. Maybe you are seeking a better professional fit or trying to enhance your self-esteem. No matter the motivation, there is one cognitive schema that will provide the foundation for achieving your goal and it is related to your locus of control.
We are all delusional. I have written that in all three of my books. Some of the delusions we manifest contribute to our success and happiness; others provide barriers to the same. For my money, the single most important cognitive orientation for constructing our best delusion is our locus of control. Imagine your entire perception of the world was filtered through one lens and that lens determines if you believe the control of your life resides inside or outside of you. Let me be clear, all of this is a delusion since no one can control how their life will turn out and life cannot control absolutely your experience (unless you let it). It doesn't matter how much you try to control life. In the famous words of Woody Allen, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." So, yes, believing that you can control life is a delusion.
But, orienting yourself to believe that you can impact life, despite what happens to you, is not a delusion. That is an internal locus of control. An individual who has an internal locus of control takes the actions necessary to direct life back to the desired path. They still hit carrots, but they don't blame the carrot. They may say, "Damn, never saw that carrot coming," but they take responsibility for the choices they make that lead up to the impact and for the strategy for returning them to the broth.
One of my favorite interview questions is, "Tell me about a time you disappointed your boss." Without fail, the interviewee shifts in their seat, hems and haws for a few minutes and says, "Gosh, I can't really think of anything." Now, we both know that is a lie. When I ask for a show of hands from my seminar audiences of who has disappointed their boss, every single attendee's hand goes up. We both know that the interviewee has disappointed his or her boss. To make it clear that evasiveness won't suffice as an answer, I just sit there and look at the interviewee. The silence increases the pressure.
"I mean, everyone disappoints their boss at some point, right?" the interviewee offers gingerly. The interviewee is desperately hoping to be taken off the hot seat at this point, but I remain silent. Eventually, the interviewee will cop to a mistake that resulted in the requested example. What they don't realize is that I have almost no interest in the actual situation (unless it involved a felony!). I care about how they frame the episode during our discussion. Do they blame the boss, a co-worker, a customer, the situation? Or, do they share what they learned from the mistake - and how they improved as a result? If it's the latter, that tells me they have an internal locus of control. (Or they had previously attended one of my seminars.)
I've found that people can be taught most things if they have a legitimate interest and the requisite aptitude. Talent, experience, and knowledge are certainly important to success. But given the choice of working with someone who has all those things and an external locus of control versus someone who possesses an internal locus of control and less talent, experience, and knowledge, I will choose the latter every time.
Finding Your Locus of Control
You might wonder how to tell if you have an internal locus of control - which is a fair and important question. The truth is, like most things about ourselves, locus of control is not binary; that is, it's not just one slide switch, it is more than one switch. A person can display an internal locus of control professionally, but an external locus of control in their personal relationships. We all know of people who are incredible performers at work, but who go home to horrible marriages. So, how do I gauge my own locus of control? I recommend two approaches.
In my first book, Live and Learn or Die Stupid, I coined the term Demon Committee Meetings. These generally occur in the middle of the night and consist of a sleepless obsession over something that is bothering you. It might be a mistake you recently made, a task that you must do, an argument you just had; the agenda for a Demon Committee Meeting can be long and varied. You toss and turn, displaying what blues performers have long called a worried mind. I used to hate these sleep- robbing, stress-filled events. Eventually, however, I realized the value of Demon Committee Meetings. They are your mind's way of itemizing the life events that you are externalizing your locus of control.
When you find yourself obsessing over an issue - whether at 2:00 a.m., as is the case with me, or during the day - the first step is to write down a things-to-do action list. I keep a handwritten things-to-do list near me almost all the time. I'm old school, so the act of putting pen to paper provides me a physical outlet for the expulsion of the demons. But you can do this on your phone or other device, too. The key is to immediately convert the mind's obsession to a plan of action. By doing so, you are converting your orientation to the challenge from external to internal locus of control. Meeting adjourned.
Let me give you a personal example. Because of the popularity of my seminars, I am offered book deals before I write the book. Generally, an author would complete a manuscript and then shop it to publishers. Since my situation works in reverse, I am writing my book under a contractual agreement that includes deadlines. It feels a little like attending college classes in that you have a large project, like a thesis, due on a specific date. As a result, it is not unusual for me to obsess - at 2:00 a.m. - about my progress on my current book. If I lay there and worry, this Demon Committee Meeting can last hours, perhaps the rest of the night. But, if I get up and add, "write 2,000 words" on my daily to-do list, I immediately feel better. I might go further and add, "map out mileposts for book progress." Almost without fail, the Demon Committee Meeting will conclude and the demons disperse. By the way, even though you are reading the final version of this book, it is my current book as I am writing this, so, yes, I wrote this chapter after yet another Demon Committee Meeting. We are all a work in progress.
The simple act...