We Make a Decision…and Then They Change the Rules
A common lament these days… we finally make a decision once and for all – about sending our kids back to school this fall for hybrid learning – two days in the classroom, two days home for online learning – or keeping them home altogether for online learning only, or even weighing the possibilities of home schooling – and they – government officials, public school administrators – change the rules, sometimes twice in one week, sometimes not yet being able to create the new rules for the fall semester at all.
The ongoing unpredictability of coping with the coronavirus pandemic is throwing so many of our “normal” expectations into confusion and chaos. As my friend Stacey told me this morning of her frustration of filling out three different applications for her son’s public school this week because the guidelines keep changing, she is coping with determination and perseverance, yes, liberally sprinkled with humor and f—it.
I wrote about Decision Fatigue last week and suggested practical ways to cope with the weariness and frustration of major aspects of our lives remaining so unsettled, for we don’t even know how long.
This week’s post focuses on the necessity of continuing to make decisions anyway, even when we’re leaning into f—it. Because stepping up and making a decision gives us a sense of choice and a sense of empowerment that are essential to our resilience.
This rest of this post is a direct pass-through of a December 5, 2019 article by Elizabeth Scott on the VeryWellMind website on How to Develop an Internal Locus of Control, essential to empowering ourselves to continue to make decisions and choices May it inspire and guide you, even as you lean into f—it.
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. It is true that many of the stressors we face in life are largely beyond our control, though we can still cope with these things by adjusting how we think about things, working on our personal resilience, and focusing on the things we can control. Other times, we either do have control over what we face, or we have more control than we realize.
When we recognize what we can control, we feel more empowered, so having a realistic view of life and an internal locus of control can help us feel less stressed and more empowered in many situations in life. Fortunately, while some factors are inborn, 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:
Be Aware That You Have a Choice
When you realize that you always have the choice to change your situation (even if this change isn’t your first choice, or is merely a change in how you look at things), it can be liberating and empowering. It is true that when you are experiencing extreme stress or mental health issues, you may not be able to simply choose to have your challenges evaporate, but you can choose the ways in which you find helpful, and you can choose what you do to cope. 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.
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 a 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.
Review Your Options
When you feel trapped, make a list of all possible courses of action. Just brainstorm and write things down without evaluating them first, so you become more able to tap your creativity. This list can be a growing document, not something that you have to come up with within seconds, but it can be helpful in reminding you of your choices and keeping you from feeling trapped. It can remind you of what you can control, even when there are many things that are set.
Ask for Ideas
You may want to also brainstorm with a friend to get more ideas for action that you may not have initially considered. Don’t shoot down these ideas right away, either; just write them down. Sometimes our loved ones have great ideas or can see options that we can’t see when we are coming from a stressed or trapped mindset.
Choose What’s Best for You
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.
Remember Your Choices
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.
Watch Your Language and Self-Talk
Notice your language and self-talk. If you tend to speak in absolutes, stop. If your self-talk is generally negative, work to make your self-talk more positive.
Your attitude affects your stress level more than you may realize.3 You can learn how make the changes needed to keep stress down.