If the past months of the COVID-19 pandemic have taught us anything, it is that we must be flexible with our plans. Creating a vision for life, preparing to be able to contribute in some way to the world, have been made difficult by the unpredictability of life since 2020.  Education, travel, even local recreational pursuits are not able to be planned and carried out reliably in this atmosphere.  Over everything looms a degree of uncertainty.  What’s a person to do?  What happens to setting goals and achieving them?

We must develop our sense of  personal empowerment, self-control, self-discipline and cultivate an ‘internal locus of control’ .  This is critical in unsettled times.  What is an internal locus of control?  It is a fancy psychological term that means you look at the world and evaluate your place in it from the perspective that you have power over what happens to you.  It is a way of taking responsibility for much of what happens in your life, and persevering through adversity.

With an internal locus of control, we feel as though we have a say in our future, that our successes and failures are mostly determined by what we do.  Not by what happens to us.  We not only think, “I run things!”  We live this powerful mantra by taking positive action, small steps towards our goals each day.

People who have an internal locus of control are found to be more resilient, they bounce back quicker and better from difficulties and tests.  They persist, and persevere.  They do not allow setbacks to become permanent derailment.  They fall down, then get up, having learned something from each experience.  They are not quick to make excuses for themselves or for their mistakes.  They get smarter and wiser with each misstep. 

Thinking “I run things!” is not delusional, unless you sit and stare at walls (or videogames!) and do not arise to make life happen as you wish.  Thinking this way is empowering and can inspire you to action.  It can make you keep looking for work despite rejections.  It can help you find new opportunities when doors are shut. 

People with an external locus of control feel as though they are always the victim.  Life seems out to get them.  Things happen to them and they feel powerless, without hope of making things different.  We must not embrace this perspective, even with a pandemic raging, even when the world is clearly spiraling out of balance.  Hold on, take a deep breath, and remember you can run things.   Shift that attitude.  Change perspectives.  Look at your power, your strengths, embrace them, and then take action. Create a Plan B (as in Better), and always think, “I run things”!

For more on this topic, check out, “Gritby Angela Duckworth: “Many successful leaders and businesspeople are lauded as “great geniuses,” but psychologist Angela Duckworth argues that talent and intelligence matter less to success than grit: the personality trait behind perseverance, hard work, and goal-setting. In Grit, she explores what grit is, where it comes from, how it drives success, and how you can develop it…”  Read More at Grit Book Summary by Angela Duckworth (shortform.com)

By Cheryl Peek-Ball, MD, MPH