Last night I sat down to watch a film. As my girlfriend was out I was able to choose a film that was not a romantic comedy and lasted more than 90 minutes. After much deliberation, and the realisation that there was nothing good on any of the over 200 channels on cable, I settled for a DVD I have watched umpteen times. My choice was the Departed.
The opening credits of the film see Jack Nicholson’s character say the following;
“I don’t want to be a product of my environment -I want my environment to be a product of me.”
Immediately when I heard those lines I thought how true this was and is especially true when we are bombarded with news from media broadcasters informing us how poorly the economy is doing, the number of unemployed is rising, cost of living is increasing etc. Only recently the US congress has passed a deal that will see spending cuts of $38bn until September this 2011 and Portugal have had to ask the world for emergency loans so they could pay back their already spiralling debt.
The people of Portugal must be wondering what they can do about the problems faced by their country. Well, the reality is that they themselves can do nothing about the bigger economic picture. They can’t govern whether other countries are going to loan the money that Portugal needs to pay off its debts, they can’t control the austerity measures that will be apportioned to any loan that is agreed. They can’t control what will happen to the market value of their property, or worst case scenario, what will happen to their currency if they default from the Euro. However what the Portuguese can influence is their personal future. By investing in themselves and pursuing success in whichever field they pertain too they can control their own environment.
The Locus of Control
As the environment around you changes you can either apportion success or failure to things you have control over, or to forces outside your influence. Which mindset you choose has a bearing on your long term success.
There are two types of people according to the Locus of Control. Those that have an internal control, and those that have an external control.
People who develop an internal control believe they are responsible for their own success. I am sure if you were to ask the most successful sports people in the world; LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, then they would say that external factors such as noise, weather, illness could all affect their game but they personally could not control those factors.
What they could control however is the amount of training that they did and also the amount of effort that they put into every training session or match. Successful people know in their mind that if they perform to the best of their abilities they will succeed because the external factors affect everyone.
Those that have external control believe that powerful others, fate or chance control their destiny. Everyday you listen to the news and somebody is complaining about lack of opportunities that come their way. Opportunities don’t present themselves. You not only have to uncover them you have to reach out, grab them and take action to make sure you leverage the true potential of these. If you sit around and wait for them to land in your lap, chances are you will be waiting a very very long time.
If you swapped lives with Richard Branson or Donald Trump for a year, what do you think would happen to their houses, jobs and bank accounts over that year? Do you think when you switched back that the house would be the same and that the bank account would still have the same number of zeros? Do you think that with a luxurious environment, living in Trump plaza or on Necker island would mean that suddenly you would be able to make hundreds of millions of dollars? Would you be able to hand back the keys to Trump Plaza in a better state than when you took over?
We may not have the political connections to control the environment or economy at large but we all have the ability to control our own destiny. You just need to ask yourself the question. Am I a product of my environment or is my environment a product of me?
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