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A Test For Success: Do You Have This Trait?

Smarter Faster BetterJust finished Charles Duhigg’s new book, Smarter Faster Better, subtitled The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize winning reporter for the New York Times, and not surprisingly is a great (non-fiction) storyteller.  In his book he takes us from the cockpit of a crashing airliner to a white-knuckle championship poker game with $2 million up for grabs, in order to show us how to get better at doing whatever we do.

It was packed with insights, and a delight to read. And I found myself asking if I personally had one trait that he says (in fact, researchers for years have been saying) is indispensable: an internal locus of control. In brief, do you take responsibility for what happens to you (internal locus of control), or do you tend to blame others for your life and circumstances (external locus of control)?

Duhigg writes…

“Researchers have found that people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves for success or failure, rather than assigning responsibility to things outside their influence. A student with a strong internal locus of control, for instance, will attribute good grades to hard work, rather than natural smarts. A salesman with an internal locus of control will blame a lost sale on his own lack of hustle, rather than bad fortune.”

“‘Internal locus of control has been linked with academic success, higher self motivation and social maturity, lower incidences of stress and depression, and longer lifespan,’ a team of psychologists wrote in the journal Problems and Perspectives in Management in 2012. People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer, and report greater professional success and satisfaction.”

“In contrast, having an external locus of control – believing that your life is primarily influenced by events outside your control – “is correlated with higher levels of stress, (often) because an individual perceives the situation as beyond his or her coping abilities,” the team of psychologists wrote.

This insight strikes me as being hopeful, and at its core…Christian. We are, after all, called to be responsible for ourselves:

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV)

And therefore, in the end, taking responsibility for oneself is the first step toward becoming a Christian. For in order to embrace the gospel, I must first admit that I am a sinner – I have made my choices that have landed me where I am in life…and I need a Savior.

But surely all people, Christians and non-believers, would fall at different places on the internal or external locus of control scale, and Duhigg happily prescribes some help in growing our internal locus of control:

“Internal locus of control is a learned skill,” Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychologist who helped conduct that study, told me. “Most of us learn it early in life. But some people’s sense of self-determination gets suppressed by how they grow up, or experiences they’ve had, and they forget how much influence they can have on their own lives.”

“That’s when training is helpful, because if you put people in situations where they can practice feeling in control, where that internal locus of control is reawakened, then people can start building habits that make them feel like they are in charge of their own lives – and the more they feel that way, the more they really are in control of themselves.”

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Day Peter Did Good

Talk about moments of highs and lows – the disciple Peter had them both.  In his lesser moments, sometimes he’s almost a comical figure, as in Matthew 17 where on the Mount of Transfiguration he starts babbling about setting up tents, and God the Father has to tell him to zip it.  But there are other good ones too.   The “command me to come to you on the water” from Matthew 14 comes to mind.  And then there is the time in Matthew 16:22, where he takes Jesus aside…and begins to rebuke Him.  I’ll bet he still gets teased for that in heaven.

And yet sometimes, he also did really well, didn’t he?  Matthew 16 not only tells the story of Peter’s foolish correction of Jesus, it also tells the story of his greatest triumph – recognizing Who Jesus of Nazareth was:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13 – 16 (ESV)

It was a glorious moment for Simon Peter, and yet Jesus says something very instructive for all of us immediately after his confession:

 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 16:13-17 (ESV)

Let’s not miss this, because sometimes a cursory reading of this section makes us think that Peter had quite the spiritual foresight. Nope. That’s not quite right.  Apparently, Simon Peter was not to be praised for his incredible insight.  Nor was he to be patted on the back for his surpassing knowledge of spiritual things.  No, Jesus just says he was…blessed.  Not blessed because he was so darn smart – but blessed because the Father had chosen to reveal Jesus’ identity to him.

Sorry Peter, you do need to own your failures, but even your greatest moment…was a total gift from God.  Kind of like all of our greatest moments too.

Tomorrow, Friday, January 23rd: Matthew 17

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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