I saw this headline on CNN news – “New Zealand has come out of lockdown and gone to McDonald’s.” Let’s deconstruct that. The first part that I want to share is, I have a bit of a penchant for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I think it’s delicious. There are times in my life when I absolutely eat it more than I should. There are times in my life when I don’t touch it, and I think there’s a really interesting variable there. One of those variables is control. Where does the locus of control sit?
If you’ve been in lockdown, control has largely been taken away from you, from a perspective of you’re told to stay in your house and there are only set reasons why you can exit your house – for shopping at the local grocery store or the pharmacy. There’s an element there of regaining control, and we all do it in so many different ways. There are things that are our favourite activities that we’re now able to do. For some people, that is going to a store and enjoying that food – it’s not necessarily actually about the food, it’s the process. It’s something that I want to do on my agenda. I think the reason why we haven’t gone crazy on KFC or McDonald’s stores in Australia is because they’ve been open the whole time. Not having gone into lockdown, we’ve been able to keep that service going, and I think we would act no differently.
My conclusion and my hypothesis is very much that it comes down to our perceived amount of control. Humans really thrive when they have a higher amount of perceived control.
There’s a really interesting insight there about how people respond when they’re coming from a point of view of having less control in their lives. I’m seeing this with some other businesses that I work with, where they’ve got workers coming in from interstate in Australia, and there’s a mandatory two-week period where they have to go into quarantine, and that needs to be done in a single hotel room. Let’s look at the framings of that. Something we often talk about in coaching is framing. One framing is, ‘I have to go into this room for two weeks. It’s imposed by the government, and I have to do that’. Another potential framing is, if we had a different non-Covid scenario, and I said to people, “I’m going to get you to go into this pretty nice hotel room for 14 days, how could you make the most of it? What would that actually look like?”. If I put it more on your agenda, I think that the experience and the psychology around approaching entering that self-isolation period would be quite different.
My conclusion and my hypothesis is very much that it comes down to our perceived amount of control. Humans really thrive when they have a higher amount of perceived control. There’s also an element that I’ve observed about how different people respond to self-isolation. I’m a relative extrovert. I’m not really a ‘routined’ individual. I’m pretty adaptable. I travel a lot. I take my laptop wherever I go, and wherever I am is my office. I spent a few weeks in self-isolation, and people said to me, “Carlo, you must be really struggling. You’re so extroverted. How are you managing?”. They assumed that other friends, that are introverts, were loving it because they’re now in their introverted world on their own at home, finding it great.
What I found was quite interesting. I didn’t find the correlation between extroversion or introversion in terms of how people managed in self-isolation. From my anecdotal sample, I actually found there was a correlation of, are you a routined individual and you find adaptation difficult, or are you less routined and adaptation comes more naturally? One of my best friends, who is an introvert, really struggled. He was forced to work at home, his gym routine was disrupted and he found it very difficult. He has a high dependence on routine, and he also loved the routine.
Some of us are used to having control over our schedule, our agenda, and value it more than others. Others are more adaptable with that. That change of perception of where the control is coming from, and is this something that I can make the most of, or is this something that’s thrust upon me, how does that change my experience of it?
From a coaching perspective, the topics about perceived control and where that comes from, and whose agenda do we perceive that our life is on – are significant principles in coaching. In coaching, we seek to be on our client’s agenda. It’s the same parallel and analogy to you being told what to do versus someone asking you questions and being able to generate the answers yourself.