Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Can-do method for success
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
I saw this today: “Success comes in Cans. … Failure comes in Can’ts.”
I agree! If only it were that simple! Let’s examine the genesis of “cans” and “can’ts” and how they may get rooted, then fertilized, then full-grown in our psyches.
At the risk of sounding “psycho-babblish,” I am going to explain some terminology that, I hope, will make perfect sense. Then we can keep the message, but discard the “psycho-babble.”
Locus of Control: This is part of an individual’s belief system regarding the causes of his/her experiences as well as the factors to which that person attributes success or failure.
So, to carry that further, an internal locus of control means that you believe YOU have control, for the most part, on the outcomes in your life. On the other hand, an external locus of control means you most likely have attributed your success or failure to OUTSIDE influences, such as luck or fate or a bad luck of the draw.
Why is this important? If we are examining the “can’ts” in life, we most likely are coming from an “external locus of control” whereas the “cans” in life are mostly because of an “internal locus of control.”
“Oh, no! I failed that test! I just knew that teacher didn’t like me and that she favored other students in the room. That’s just not fair.” (External)
“Oh, no! I failed that test! Next time I must be better about studying the notes, highlighting the significant material and preparing more wisely.” (Internal)
With external control, and along with the fact that you might have given away power to the outcomes of your life, comes even more potential bad news:
- Anxiety! Is it any wonder that if you feel little or no control over your achievements, success and potential, you also might feel highly anxious? After all, that makes life feel out of control.
- Low Self Confidence! After repeated failures, some folks shy away from ever taking future risks. After all, “chances are high that I will fail, so why try?”
- Fear! “I’m afraid I’ll fail again, so I just have accepted the notion that I’ll have to do without.”
- Anger! “Life’s not fair! Why does HE get all the recognition?”
- Resentment! “She has all the luck, looks, charm, talent and charisma. No one notices ME.”
So what about OWNING the majority of the control in your life? A person with internal control does not claim that the world is always a rosy place but DOES focus on solutions that s/he can come up with rather than blaming other factors for the failures, struggles AND successes that are encountered. And there is more good news:
- Confidence! “I believe that I was successful because I surrounded myself with positive influences, I worked hard and I believed I could do it!”
- Determination! “I may not have achieved the goal the first time, but I will work harder and focus more … and NEXT TIME I will have a better chance!”
- Realism! “I didn’t get that job because he was a better candidate … but I will focus now on how I can improve!”
- Attitude! “I think I can, I think I can … I KNOW I can!”
- Less Stress! “I know the task ahead is rigorous; therefore, I must take the time and energy to prepare accordingly!”
SUCCESS! Mostly smooth sailing ahead for the one who believes in the gifts, tools, confidence and hard work that must be activated to achieve the goal!
It is absolutely true that when we shift our focus from the things that may have caused failure to the things that YOU CAN DO to lead you to success, YOU have taken the driver’s seat and YOU are driving the car!
And, as a bonus, psychologists (like me!) routinely state that a high internal locus of control is linked to critical factors such as life success, less depression, job satisfaction, goal orientation and confidence!
Now … let’s get rid of the psycho-babble and spring forward with gusto by owning the responsibility for our outcomes! Because, after all … Success comes in Cans!