Research has shown that those with an internal locus of control--that is, they feel that they control their own destiny, rather than their fate being largely determined by external forces--tend to be happier, less depressed, and less stressed. Fortunately, if your locus of control isn't as 'internal' as you'd like it to be, there are things you can do to change your locus of control and empower yourself. Here's a process to practice:
Time Required: A Few Minutes
- Realize that you always have choice to change your situation. Even if you don’t like the choices available at the moment, even if the only change you can make is in your attitude, you always have some choices.
- When you feel trapped, make a list of all possible courses of action. Just brainstorm and write things down without evaluating them first.
- You may want to also brainstorm with a friend to get more ideas that you may not have initially considered. Don’t shoot down these ideas right away, either; just write them down.
- When you have a list, evaluate each one and decide on the best course of action for you, and keep the others in the back of your mind as alternative options. You may end up with the same answer you had before the brainstorming session, but this exercise can open your eyes to the amount of choices you have in a given situation. Seeing new possibilities will become more of a habit.
- Repeat this practice when you feel trapped in frustrating situations in your life. In more casual, everyday situations, you can still expand your mind to new possibilities by doing this quickly and mentally.
- Notice your language and self talk. If you tend to speak in absolutes, stop. If your self talk is generally negative, read this article on the effects of negative self talk and how to make your self talk more positive.
- Phase out phrases like, ‘I have no choice’, and, ‘I can’t…” You can replace them with, ‘I choose not to,’ or, ‘I don’t like my choices, but I will…’ Realizing and acknowledging that you always have choice (even if the choices aren’t ideal) can help you to change your situation, or accept it more easily if it really is the best of all available options.
- Your attitude affects your stress level more than you may realize. This article can help you to learn more about mental and personality factors that influence your stress level, so you can make changes to keep stress down.