How Much Can You Control?

JibberJobber ControlI saw an article on Twitter talking about trauma and PTSD, two topics I’m interested in. It’s a great article, especially if you or someone you know might be struggling with either (I bet everyone knows someone). The article is titled FIVE LIES WE TELL OURSELVES ABOUT TRAUMA.

Here’s just one snippet that really jumped out at me:

Jason: Early on, my therapist at the V.A. asked me what percentage of my daily life I believed I could control. My answer was 85 percent. He said that the average person will answer somewhere around 50 percent, and that trauma survivors often choose a much higher number, like 80-90 percent. In reality, he said, the truth is actually about three percent.


Makes me think that every bit of what has happened to me, good and bad, has little to do with what I’ve done, or me.

Makes me question how much control we have in our job search (or marriage, or anything). I have always believed that I have had a lot to do with the success of my career, relationships, etc. But THREE PERCENT?

I’m sure there’s a reason for that number. I’m not sure that every therapist would agree with it. Years ago I blogged about locus of control, which is the idea that we believe we have control over, or have a part in dictating, outcome.

I could imagine an argument that we have very little control over our “daily life,” where the emphasis is that we don’t control much of what happens, but we control how we react to it. I can see that side of the argument, and I agree that we need to react well, and that’s on us.

But if we don’t control more than 3%, why try? Why get out of bed? Why pick up the phone, why do your job, why not just life come at you?

I have now talked myself out of the 3%. We have control over more than 3%. Sure, there is luck, circumstance, environment, etc. But the people who want more control take control by making decisions. Go to school. Start a business. Go to the networking meeting. Move to a safer neighborhood. Use better language. Groom yourself. Do something. Be smart about it. And don’t sit there and remain a victim.

Control the 3% the therapist gives you. Then go out and find 3% more you can impact and then control. And another 3%.

Grow into your control.

2 thoughts on “How Much Can You Control?”

  1. “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius

  2. Nice to hear somebody using the word “control” without it being a dirty word. 🙂 It doesn’t help dialogue to decide that certain words *always* mean this big negative thing.

    Anyway, I’ve read elsewhere that a strong feeling of “self-efficacy” (that one is capable) is a better predictor of happiness and success than high self-esteem.

    And, of course, being able to let go of those things we really can’t change (or haven’t changed yet)!

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