Locus of Control

“It is man’s duty to live in conformity with the divine will, and this means, firstly, bringing his life into line with ‘nature’s laws’, and secondly, resigning himself completely and uncomplainingly to whatever fate may send him.”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

A core principle in the stoic philosophy is to focus on what you can control and accept the rest.

There are two benefits to doing this

  1. Focusing on what you can control puts your limited resources to the best use because they actually have an impact. If you try to change the things you can’t control you will not get anywhere and waste your time and effort.
  2. It’s a keystone in the door arch to happiness. Obsessing over things you cannot change only makes you frustrated and sour. Accept what you cannot influence and attain peace of mind.

We all know someone that keeps complaining about the same things repeatedly. They lament about the unfairness of it all, how difficult or impossible situations are and spend their (and your) time and energy on discussing this repeatedly.

If instead, they would think to themselves, “Is this something I can influence?”, they would arrive at one of two conclusions. First, in case they can influence it, they can think about what it would take to change this and if they are willing to put in the resources. Second, if they find that they cannot influence it, they should be able to let it go.

It’s totally fair to not change something right away, even though it bothers you. Maybe you don’t know how yet, or you don’t want to spend your resources on it at this point. It’s not okay though, to keep complaining about it after you’ve made the decision.

How to identify your locus of control

The difficulty is to know where your locus of control is. Sometimes it’s easy to recognize what you can control. For example, you’re probably not under the delusion that you can change the weather. However, more often than not, you need to think about it a bit. In fact, you should think about it, since only by challenging the impossible and making sure that it truly is so can paradigm-shifting innovation happen. If you give up too soon, you might miss some new untrodden path and stay in your comfort zone.

Your locus of control will also inevitably change over your life since your resources and power change naturally. So even though something is currently out of your reach, it might not be years from now. So yes, focus on what you can control, but challenge your reasoning behind it from time to time. You might be surprised what impact you can have.