Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
you are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagoner (1999)
The Pandemic has left some people feeling out of control and powerless. This massive upheaval to our lives has stopped in its track so many of our usual habits and behaviours, leaving us unable to carry on as “normal”.
When something as big as this happens we try to make sense of things. We do this by asking ourselves the question why.
Why is the one question, as humans, we like to ask: a lot.
Why did this pandemic happen?
Why has it happened now?
Why has this happened to me? Them?
What’s mostly unconscious though, is that each of us has a tendency to look for the answer in a certain way. It’s a pattern of behaviour we’ve adopted from an early age and it tends to stay with us for life, but if we become aware of it, we can change it.
This pattern of response, wonderfully unique to you, is called your â”Locus of control”. It’s the source in you where you place the responsibility for what happens to you in your life.
Phil McCraw says:
“As you go about your day, your locus of control maps out who or what you think is responsible. Its how and where you assign blame for your difficulties and credit for your accomplishments. It lies deep at the bedrock of your self concept.”
To feel back in control and agency during this pandemic, you need to know your own pattern and how it affects the lense through with which you look at the world.
Lense One: Internally focused: People who have an internal locus of control tend to make sense of their life by focusing on their own actions, behaviours and characteristics. They believe that anything that happens is down to them and that if anything positive happens it’s because it’s something they did.
Lense Two: Externally focused: Those who have an external locus of control take no responsibility for what happens to them. They believe that someone or something else is responsible for what happens in life. They believe that almost nothing in their life is within their control.
Lense Three: The Chance People: These are the people that believe that everything in life is down to luck, fate or accident.
Getting into Reality
To find your agency in this pandemic (and in life generally), it’s important to begin to notice which lense you have a tendency to look at life through. To find agency it’s about facing the facts and being clear, in reality, what you have and do not have control over. You may be able to influence too in certain situations, but not always.
If you’re internally focused, be careful that you don’t fall into the trap of trying to use self guilt and manipulation of others to support your belief that you have control over everything.
Likewise, if you’re externally focused you may find yourself blaming others, which will never get to the heart of the issue or help you move forward in your life or career.
Being someone of chance means living in constant chaos and watching life rather than living it.
The pandemic is an opportunity to explore your own locus of control, to take a look at your personal and work life and start to map out.
- What are you genuinely in control of
- What are you not in control of
- What are you able to influence