I have a theory that I believe strongly influences whether or not we succeed at what we want. I understand that’s a big promise and it’s going to take a bit of explanation, so bear with me.
My hypothesis: When we are happy with our actions, we take credit for them. When not, we blame them, not us. In effect, good results are internalized, bad results are externalized. This is critical because where we place that control determines our future results.
For example, you surprise your husband with a thoughtful gift for no reason other that being a loving life partner. He walks in the door unaware and discovers the trinket — with a loving note — centered on the coffee table, asking, “What prompted this?” Per my premise, because you’re pleased with yourself for being so considerate, your reply will be internalized. “I just wanted to do something nice for you; no special reason.” Notice you spoke in first person; you owned the action.
As another illustration, the results of your diet are finally showing, and the scale, the measuring tape and your friends’ comments are all reflecting it.
“You look great!” says your friend. “What are you doing?”
Your reply: “I’m eating better and exercising more.”
See? When happy, we lay claim to our actions. Yet, should the situation be frustrating or what we deem as unsuccessful, we abandon it quicker than one can shrug his shoulders and say, “Who me?”
You’re having an ongoing conflict with a family member, spending your days walking on eggshells. The first reaction of the voice between your ears is, “What’s the matter with him? Why is he so touchy?”
Notice that shift; no longer are you the center of your observations; it’s now about him. In effect, you’ve “externalized” the control, because as long as it’s about him, there’s nothing you can nor need to do — except grin and bear it.
When times are slow in your business, an example of an externalizing question is, “Why isn’t anyone buying?” Wouldn’t it be more helpful to bring that within by asking, “What do I need to do differently?”
This realization came to me as I stood on the scale, lamenting that my weight isn’t coming off as quickly as I would prefer. That means I have to — yet again — adjust some of my behaviors. Yet, instead of saying to myself, “What am I going to do to knock off these five pounds?” My inner dialog was “Why isn’t the diet working?” It might seem a petty distinction but it is an essential one, as it steers our course.
When I inquire of myself, “Why isn’t it changing” (whatever that “it” happens to be), I relinquish my power and control to “it,” making it an entity of its own. Since the power to change is now within its realm and not mine, I am without resources, transforming myself into a passenger or worse … a victim.
Should I turn the question inward, asking, “How can I increase my sales,” or “How will I deal with his moodiness?” I am empowered for more than when I wait for divine intervention, or for him to “get a clue.”
“What can I do to change my situation?” provides options. Regarding my weight, that might be eat less and exercise more; but these alternatives fall within my control. Unfortunately, they also demand I take responsibility, and that’s not so fun. I might not be happy with the options, but at least I have some; and I can be glad about that.
Scott “Q” Marcus is the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com. He can be reached at 707-442-6243 or email@example.com.