Sifting – Chapter 16: Locus of Control

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 16: Locus of Control

Bob: Sift?

Sift: Hello, Bob.

Bob: I don’t want to be addicted to busyness anymore. I like the way I feel now – more grounded, centered, and focused. What else can I do to nurture this feeling and eventually be more like this all the time? Does that make sense?

Sift: Yes, Bob, that makes sense, and there are many things you can do to maintain these feelings. One of the next best steps you can take is shifting from a predominantly external locus of control to a predominantly internal locus of control.

Bob: I think I know what you mean. I need to stop letting external influences, especially other people, dictate how I think, feel, and act, don’t I? I need to stop caring what everybody else thinks of me?

Sift: Not exactly. I am only suggesting that you tip the scales in favor of valuing your own opinion related to the choices you make in life as much, or more, than the opinions of others. It is fine to listen to others, and even be influenced by others, as long as in the end, the choices you make are your own and you take full responsibility for them as being your choices. Failure to fully transition through the passage from adolescence to adulthood often causes people to maintain a predominantly external locus of control long after it is necessary or useful.

Bob: Huh?

Sift: In terms of one of the normal passages of life, people spend most of their formative years in a “What does everyone else want?” mode of operating. In other words, they predominantly seek and receive a lot of external guidance when making choices. This is totally appropriate when you are younger and helps you learn how the world works, especially if the authority figures and teachers in your life are grounded, centered, and wise. But that is not always the case. Sometimes, through their words or actions, they teach you things that will not serve you well as an adult. Often in such cases, people are just passing on illogical or inappropriate ideas that they learned from influential people in their lives. For this reason, it is a good idea, as an adult, to sift through all the significant lessons you learned as a child and adolescent that might not be serving you well in your current circumstances.

Bob: How do you know if they are serving you well or not?

Sift: If ideas and beliefs that drive your actions generate joyful feelings and productive results, they are likely serving you well. If they generate ongoing patterns of sadness, fear, anxiety, frustration, or failure, it might be time to question, and perhaps alter, your beliefs. Remember, your emotions are an excellent source of internal guidance.

If things in your life progress as they should, you eventually transition to more of a “What do I want?” phase of life. This should not be a self-centered phase; it is more a matter of taking full responsibility for your life and deciding what you want to do with your time, talent, and energy that will serve you and the world. The world, in this case, means any element of your world, your family, your employer, your community, or the world at large.

Bob: So what do you mean when you say some people fail to make the transition?

Sift: Some people never make it to the phase where they become more self-directed and autonomous. They never take the time to fully examine their beliefs and make sure they are their own beliefs. They never transition and adopt more of an internal locus of control. They, in effect, borrow their beliefs from others, most often their parents or main caregivers, and live their lives on a foundation of borrowed beliefs, rather than beliefs they have fully processed and accepted as their own.

Bob: What kind of beliefs are you talking about?

Sift: All your beliefs. For example, your beliefs about relationships, marriage, money, religion, politics, parenting, trustworthiness, abundance, scarcity, and everything else that relates to the major choices you make in life.

Bob: These are things I can explore in my journal, can’t I?

Sift: Yes, that is a very good idea. Reflect on these issues. Explore them in your journal. Talk with trusted advisors and friends. Do whatever works best for you to fully process beliefs that you learned from others.

Bob: Make them my own if I plan to allow them to influence my choices, right?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Sift, let me see if I understand you correctly. Are you telling me that as an almost 40-year-old adult, I have not fully transitioned into adulthood?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Wow, that’s an eye-opener. So I need to develop a more internal locus of control?

Sift: Right, if you truly want to remain grounded, centered, and focused, that is a great place to begin. Bob, there are two more topics closely related to this topic and your question that I think we need to explore.

Bob: Even without knowing what they are, I can already tell you, “Yes, I want to explore them with you. What are the topics?”

Sift: I think it would be helpful for you to understand strokes and psychological tapes.

Bob: I’m in! Let me make a few notes in my journal to remind me of some thoughts going through my mind right now, and then let’s talk all about strokes and tapes.

Sift: Take your time, Bob.


End Chapter 16

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Make sure your beliefs are your beliefs (and not borrowed from others). 

  1. What does it mean to have a predominantly internal locus of control?
  2. Does having an internal locus of control mean you should never care what anyone thinks of you?
  3. What are some of the main benefits of having an internal locus of control?
  4. Are your beliefs regarding marriage, relationships, money, religion, politics, career, parenting and others significant areas of life really yours?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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