The Narrative Fallacy And How To Shift To An Active Mindset

The Narrative Fallacy And How To Shift To An Active Mindset

Your narrative defines your locus of control which, in turn, defines what your mindset is, and which, in turn, defines your life. Here’s how to fix all of that.

No time? Listen to it instead

One of my closest friends and I have an argument that has been going on for years. It’s not heated debate, and it’s more of a casual back-and-forth that we have with the idea. The argument is about their philosophy of Maktoob or “already written”, and my philosophy of “I make my own luck”.

The more we’ve talked over the years, the more times we’ve taken pages from each other’s books. In hindsight, the argument has entirely been about active mindset and the locus of control. They taught me how to respond better, and I believe I taught them to act better. In the end, we both got an active mindset.

 While the world is a harsh place, we put less emphasis on what’s inside us – in our own strengths, willpower and so on. In fact, we go as far as to find media, books, movies, Instagram posts to validate our mediocrity and fallacies.

It’s not rare to see someone sharing a tweet or a meme that in some convoluted, funny way glorifies inaction and just, undesirable behaviour. Perhaps, sharing that in some ways is us acknowledging that behaviour.

So, in some ways, the acknowledgement exists that something has to change, but there is no action.

That’s where the two things I want to talk about come in – Active Mindset and the Locus of Control.

Most places I’ve read talk about these concepts in different areas, and I don’t see why. I think they are incredibly correlated, if not the same.

Note: Before we begin, I’d like to point out that both of these ideas are applicable on an individual level. However, this does not discount that countless societal problems impact a person’s actions and mindsets. So, those are problems that cannot be solved by a single shift in mindset, but for everything else on an individual level, this might help you out.

Locus of Control

Julian B. Rotter came up with a concept about people and their reactions and power over things that transpire in their lives in 1954. The idea was given a name then, but it had existed for as long as possible in human philosophy.

A famous Da Vinci quote which also happens to be my favourite quote from the man is,

“People of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

Leonardo Da Vinci

This is a beautiful way, to sum up, Locus of Control as a concept. An internal locus of control is when things happen to you. An external locus of control is when you happen to things.

However, the concept is not binary because both extremes carry a fault. I think that is where my continual argument with the friend comes in – you need someone (or yourself) to help you align better in a spectrum of control.

If you have a fully internal locus of control, you’ll beat yourself about almost every bad thing that happens in your life, from missing a bus to losing a loved one. You will feel that you could’ve prevented it, but you didn’t.

If you have an entirely external locus of control, you’ll continually live on autopilot without taking in feedback, improving yourself in different areas and well, it will lead to a life that will go grossly unfulfilled.

You would never realise your full potential.

So, What To Do?

I believe there’s a sweet spot on the axis where you can freely oscillate between the internal and the external as life allows. It’s slightly off the centre, leaning towards the side of internal.

Locus of Control - Nudge How

When you’re here, you tend to work hard but also, know for a fact that sometimes, things just don’t work out. So, for example, if a relationship goes awry, you don’t blame yourself entirely. You look at your faults and improve over them, but you also know that sometimes, people just don’t have that chemistry, so not everything about you is wrong.

I think that’s a good place to move into the mindset side of things.

The Active Mindset and Passive Mindset

When you’re in this zone on the Locus of Control, you get what is called the Active or Growth mindset.

The Active Mindset is where you take responsibility for your life on both a micro and a macro level. You start playing the long game, you start working on yourself, and you start pushing your limits. All the while, having the healthy realisation in your head that it’s okay if things don’t work out.

The Active Mindset is all about accountability.

The Passive Mindset is when you don’t take charge. Things happen to you, and they continually happen only to you. In all your narratives, you are the victim. You are someone who things always seem to happen to, and it just keeps you enclosed in a feedback loop of bad decisions.

The Passive Mindset is all about liability.

The Narrative Fallacy

This is something I wrote about back when I was in college. It came from my own failing to narrate my story better. The narrative fallacy is all about the fact that your narrative is in your own hands. So, the way you frame your life events is, in fact, a prior to predicting what you’ll do next.

Consider the story of a fictional, everyday guy called George. George is in his last semester of college. George has had a complicated relationship, and this is not his first one. It turns out, George has been continually going through the hoops of toxic relationships for years now.

The Passive Narrative

So, the way George talks to his friends about it is as follows.

“I don’t know how I’m so good at picking the wrong people. It’s almost like, all the wrong people are intentionally finding me. I guess I’m doomed to be in toxic relationships.”

George repeats this in every conversation. Over time, George internalises his own speech. So, when a person with healthy boundaries approaches George at a party, he doesn’t even get interested in them.

However, when he meets someone who fits the exact description of his previous stories, he immediately starts to listen to them, one thing leads to another, and George is in a relationship again. Eventually, George realises this person has the same behaviour as his previous relationships.

Turns out, George is a hamster running on a wheel. He can never escape his fate.

The Active Narrative

Well, he can escape his fate because fate doesn’t play a role in his relationships. It’s mostly all about his behaviour. If only he shifted his mental narrative to something along the following lines, based on what suits him.

“Turns out I haven’t had great luck at relationships. I think I’m bad with boundaries. There are certain faults in me, especially when I am involved with someone. I need to filter out certain flags from the get-go. I know I deserve a healthy relationship, but I will have to do the work too.”

Notice the increase in “I” sentences that show responsibility?

George continually repeats this new narrative to his friends. Plus, the affirmation of him being bad at them by default changes to the fact that he deserves a happy relationship. He also adds that he knows that he must work hard for it too.

With that mindset, George has a better chance of finding a stable relationship, if he wants to.

So, How Can You Do It?

Here’s a simple exercise for you. Take an hour out and turn off your phone. The second part doesn’t impact the activity but puts you in focus mode. You can do whatever you want for that.

Then, take a sheet of paper and divide it into four sections. Label them with Finance, Relationships, Health and Peace.

Think hard for a minute and then write the last three life events for each. For example, my Health section would read:

  • I’ve consistently worked out for at least four times each week.
  • I stopped drinking for three months as it was getting out of hand.
  • My right ankle hurt for most of last year because I didn’t take care of it.

Read all those again and try to gauge whether they are statements where you are doing something or where things are happening to you.

If you find the latter, turn the page, divide it again, and rewrite them.

Read the page once you’re done.

Now, when you’re talking about any of those things, keep the page in mind, and reframe your narrative.

If you take control of the narrative, half the mindset changes there already.

After that, all that is left is to do the work.

The Nudge

Often, the problems in our lives exist because our narrative comes from a place of inaction or liability. That’s the external locus of control. When things happen to you, your locus of control becomes external, and your mindset becomes passive. To turn things around, it’s crucial to shift the narrative to an active side. An active mindset is when you’re open to growth, change, and are accountable for your life. This starts when your locus of control starts to become internal. It changes your thinking to what you can control or where you can improve. Once that is done, you get an active mindset.

Original Featured Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

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