Kids & The Happiness Advantage: Part 5

Ohhh….this is SUCH a good principle!


Welcome to the 5th Principle - The Zorro Circle. Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, explains this principle as limiting your focus to small, manageable goals that can then expand your sphere of power.


“One of the biggest drivers of success is the belief that our behavior matters; that we have control over our future. Yet when our stresses and workload seem to mount faster than our ability to keep up, feelings of control are often the first things to go, especially when we try to tackle too much at once. If, however, we first concentrate our efforts on small manageable goals, we regain the feeling of control so crucial to performance.”


This past year has been SO hard with feeling like we do not have control and the ripple effects of that have hit our children. Children already struggle with not having a sense of control, because, well, they are kids! As much as we want to let them have control over the majority of their lives, we know that is not possible.


The interesting thing about control is it does not necessarily have to mean we actually have control over something, it’s how much control we think we have. As we have been talking about throughout each of these blog posts, our mindset is what really matters here. Psychologists have two terms for the types of control. We either have an ‘internal locus of control’ or an ‘external locus of control’. As you can imagine, those with an internal locus of control believe that their actions affect the outcomes in their lives while those with an external locus of control believe that factors outside of their control are what creates the outcomes in their daily lives. I am sure you can see which mindset creates more success and happiness in life. By cultivating a mindset of internal locus of control and believing that you have the power to create and control your success propels us to work harder and then when we work harder, the belief in our abilities grows.


According to Achor, when we embody the mindset of internal locus of control, we have higher academic achievement, greater career achievement, and are happier at work (which we could extend to school as well.). This mindset can really affect every facet of our lives.


We can strengthen our disposition to an internal locus of control with a couple of actionable ideas:


  1. Circle of Control - Using this *FREE* worksheet, your own paper, or through a discussion with your child, note what types of things are in their control and what types of things are not in their control. For example, they can control their own actions and reactions towards others, but they cannot control how someone reacts or acts towards them. One thing to keep in mind regarding control and our mindset is that it takes practice. To help strengthen your child’s ability to handle what they can control (and what they can’t), find simple ways throughout the day to allow your child to practice having control. For example, instead of packing their snacks for them each day, give them a few options to consider and let the power of choice rest with them. You might be surprised! Giving them more control of things that may seem innocuous to us will help to empower them to feel more in control of their choices.

  2. Incremental Change - goals are a wonderful thing and I am sure that our children are aware that they have goals in school (i.e. - reading levels) and outside of school (i.e - scoring a goal at soccer). Unfortunately, that goal can seem pretty daunting for them, because they do not necessarily see all the smaller steps that help them reach that goal. So, to help our kids thrive in this, we can map out those smaller goals with them. Breaking a goal into smaller, actionable items can help relieve the pressure of the larger goal and build success along the way. Each successful step completed helps create a stronger internal locus of control and fuels the fire to keep going. For a fun guide, you can use this printable.


Just as the Masked Hero, Zorro, was once unable to take out ten men with one swipe of his sword, we too, cannot take on everything at once. Nor can our children. We can take the time to determine our circle of control and continuously modify it as our lives and our children’s lives grow and evolve. Then, as we approach goals and guide our children with theirs, we can build success through smaller incremental steps.


Learning about control also involves a lot of letting go. Take some time to honor that part as well. Let go of what does not serve you or your children and be intentional about the goals you create together and what you allow to be in your circle of control.


What are some things that you have found to be in your circle of control and what are some things that you have had to let go of? How did your discussions with your children go about the circle of control and incremental change? Share below, on our Facebook page or join our discussion in the book club.


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