Essential Magic Articles

Locus of Control

by Kevin Weber

Awhile ago I was flipping through the stations on the radio and came across Laura Schlessinger.  If you've never heard of her, she's basically an advice columnist in radio format, taking calls from people experiencing problems or hardships.

I listened as a female caller explained that her spouse had cheated on her, and Dr. Laura asked a really jarring question: what had the woman done to make the husband be unfaithful?  I mean, the woman's husband had cheated on her... and the host was asking what the woman did wrong?  Did I hear that right?!

Less than a minute later, a male called in - ironically, someone that had cheated on his wife.  I grimly expected Dr. Laura to question, again, what the woman did wrong.  Instead, she focused on the faults and mistakes of the man.

I turned the radio off, trying to reconcile what just happened.  How could she "blame" the woman, and then a minute later and in the same situation, "blame" the man?  It took a bit, but I finally figured out what was going on.  It was an issue of Locus of Control.

Ultimately, there are two things that affect the happenings of a person's life: their choices and, well, everything else.  Psychologists refer to this as Locus of Control.  Focusing on the internal and controllable forces on your life is having an Internal Locus of Control; focusing on the things that "aren't your fault" is having an External Locus of Control.

What about that first woman, looking at things with an External Locus of Control?  It's the husband's fault!  He cheated, and nothing excuses that... but... now what?  If she doesn't have any culpability at all - if there's no choice she made along the way that was a misstep - then what power does she have to prevent it from happening again?

Instead, things were looked at from an Internal Locus of Control.  What aspects of the situation did the woman have under her control that she could change?  What things could she do differently to make sure it never happened again.  External Locus, she's powerless.  Internal Locus, she's in charge.

So... what on earth does this have to with Magic?


I finally figured out today why I'm better at Magic than my friends at the coffeeshop.  Up until today, I just figured it was because I'm better at fundamentals and at tactical play.  Nope.

After my friends lose during Thursday Night Limited, they typically say something like:

"I just couldn't topdeck my removal."
"I got land flooded."
"You just got off to too quick of a start."
"My sealed pool sucked."
"Man, you were drafting the right colors tonight."

Notice the common denominator?  The first two revolve around their deck being unlucky.  One involves the luck of what packs they opened for their sealed pool.  And two don't even involve them at all, but focus on what their opponent did.

What are some typical things that come out of my mouth after I lose?

"Man, I really misplayed that one."
"Yeah, I spent that Resounding Thunder way too easily."
"I wish I hadn't blown the math on that combat phase."
"I should've known you were holding the Agony Warp."

Common denominator here?  All four are about how I screwed up.

Last edited 4/21/2009 10:47:11 AM Page 1 of 2  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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