Monday, December 12, 2011

Nil difficile volenti. Really??

It is quite unnerving actually.  Every day on my run to Villa Borghese ... ok, not every day ;) ...  I am reminded in stone that ...

which I interpret can achieve anything, if you want it badly enough.

We all have stories, either of ourselves or others of it being true.  And also perhaps, stories of it not being quite so.

Cultures differ as to the extent people believe they have control over their own lives. There is a cultural orientation or spectrum referred to as the 'locus of control'1.  At the internal locus end, there are those who believe they are in charge of their own destiny. At the external locus end, there are those who believe events in their lives are due mainly to fate or luck

Where are you on the spectrum?

Both sides have their strengths.  In business an internal focus ensures proactivity and a drive to improve.  An external focus is sensitive to relationships and notices market trends, adapting to reality.  Arguably the optimum lies in the combination of the two.

Perhaps because of my NZ individualistic ‘no potatoes without hard toil’ upbringing, independent Aries star sign, control-the-controllables-and-by-the-way-the-important-factors-are-within-your-control coaching approach, I have subscribed more to the former:   I feel we are responsible for our own lot.  If something doesn’t manifest itself, it is because deep down you really mustn’t have wanted it; because if you really really did, you would do everything possible to make it happen. And it would happen.

However as an Italian friend said to me "sometimes our will is just not enough..there is a stronger force at work".  Whether it is experience, an awareness of our ‘illusion of control’2, mindfulness practice, living in Italy or something else, I am increasingly appreciative of the other end of the spectrum:  noticing what else is at play, what it is to surrender, to forgive oneself and how to increase one’s trust in the rhythms of the universe.

Again drawn to Elle Harrison’s Wild Courage3, we do have the power to manifest our own dreams and we are also part of a bigger story. We need to honour, accept and claim both our power and powerlessness.

I turn to those profound words...

[God] grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference4.


  1. Trompenaars, A and Hampden-Turner, C. (1998) Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Global Business. 2nd ed. McGraw Hill, New York 
  2. Langer, E. (1975) "The illusion of control", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32 (2) p.  311-328.
  3. Harrison, E. (2011) Wild Courage: A Journey of Transformation for You and Your Business, Watkins Publishing, UK
  4. Attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr


  1. I remember that lovely piece of wall-carving (early graffiti?!) from my visit to Rome. I'm loving the way you're writing this blog bella - always pithy, articulate, original & wise, & on the promised Monday - and hope lots more will come to read & share it too!

  2. Early graffiti?!...maybe. is surely more inspirational thatn "x woz here"