Do you ever get the feeling that life is happening to you? You get a phone call; your boss needs you to work late. You try to record your favorite TV Show; it doesn’t record properly, and you miss the season finale. You want to go for a walk with an old friend, but the day comes and you’re feeling too sick to go out. All of it seems unfair, and it all feels totally out of your control; it has a way of making you feel powerless.
This happens to everyone, so if you’ve had these experiences, don’t worry; you’re not alone. What you do need to know about though, is locus of control. Another way of describing the term is location of control; is your sense of control inside yourself, or outside yourself? That is to say, on a day to day basis, do you feel like what’s most impactful are your own decisions, or decisions you can’t control? The more you feel like your actions affect the outcome of your life, the more positive your outlook tends to be.
Let’s look at the examples in the first paragraph again; your boss called you to work late. You might feel like that’s happening to you, but remember: you could choose not to go to work, to turn your boss down. You could choose to quit on the spot, if you wanted to! Though you were called in, you still have control. Your TV show doesn’t record properly; you could get ask if a friend has a copy, or you could find the show online, or you could get a new TV recorder, or find out what went wrong with the old one; you still have a good degree of power. You’re too sick to go out with a friend, but you can call and see if they want to go out on another day, or if they want to just come over and chat instead; you can still make decisions.
Locus of control is important for seniors and caregivers, because if either feel like they don’t have it, it can have devastating impacts on their mental health. In fact, everyone reading this article should remember that feeling like you’re in control of your life is good for your health. For caregivers, it’s recommended you ground your reasoning for giving care in positivity; you don’t care because you have to, but because you want to. In the same vein, seniors who are facing changes in their physical and mental capabilities should remind themselves of what they can control, and take an active role in their own lives.
That’s one of the reasons the Government of Manitoba sponsors self managed home care; by continuing to live at home and determining what level of care is provided, both caregivers and seniors gain more agency. With agency comes a feeling of control, and that feeling of control brings ease and peace. While you can’t ever control everything, recognizing what you can control can bring you happiness.