The authority of decisive mistakes (Part 2)

We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them” in this quote Kahlil Gibran highlights the value of knowing how our decision making process works.  As we are still trying to answer the question: How do I know I am making the best decision?

We now know that we have personal authority. How we distribute this authority is an important part of our decision making process. This distribution is influenced by our locus of control and its twin sister locus of causality.

Locus of control is the place from which control is exercised. We constantly move between an internal and an external locus of control.

If we have an internal locus of control we choose how to react. With an external locus of control we allow someone or something else to dictate how to react. (Keeping or giving your personal authority).

Locus of causality is the place from which things are caused. Again this locus moves on an internal or external continuum. We can take initiative (internal) and make things happen or we can allow things to happen to us (external).

In my mind, the departure point of every decision making process starts with either an internal or external locus of control and causality.

Let me try and make it practical. In every decision we make, we either depart from an “I have the power to choose how I will influence the outcome of this decision” or “I will allow something or someone to dictate how the outcome will be determined”. And of course there are plenty of combination’s of these two continuum’s.


The challenge is, like Noam Chomsky rightly said, is not to fall for the constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume, but to make your own decisions with insight.

“A wise man makes his own decisions; an ignorant man follows public opinion” – Chinese Proverb

By choice


2 thoughts on “The authority of decisive mistakes (Part 2)

  1. i appreciate the whole external internal locus thing.

    what about circumstances creating range of choice – surely if i’m stuck in poverty i have ‘less’ scope to choose than someone who lives in wealth?

    i understand that still in my poverty it would be better ‘locus internal’ than the poverty determine my future – yet aren’t we often helpless?

    • Hi Theunis

      I found the beauty of life is in its simple complexity. We can never wrap the whole truth in a single sentence.
      You are right that some circumstances limit the choice someone might have. What I found profound in my reading was that the first scholar to introduce this truth of internal locus of control to the western world was Victor Frankl. As a Jew, he lived and witnesses the power of internal locus of control in the Nazi concentration camps (read his “Man’s search for meaning”). What struck me that very few situations could be worse than those concentration camps and even in that hell, an internal locus of control liberates a human being. Powerful is it not?
      My logic then states that if it worked in those circumstances, it can work anywhere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s