How having, or not having, control affects your life

By Beth Caron

Do I have a choice?

If the answer is yes, you’re probably more satisfied than people who don’t have choices. It’s true in our personal lives, when we are customers or consumers, as well as when we’re at work. That’s because choice equals control and people are happier when they have control.

“Even if making a decision delivers no benefit, people still want the freedom to choose,” says New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg in a new book, Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business.

Duhigg explains with a rather barbaric analogy: “If you have the choice of being shot or hanged, the end result is the same. Still, people would rather have a choice.” (Perhaps Duhigg has been watching too much of the HBO series, Game of Thrones.)

An analogy closer to my personal life is trying to get an unruly two-year-old to get dressed in the morning: lay out two sets of clothing and let the kid decide which to put on. Instead of being forced to get dressed, he/she has control over what to wear. (Or at least the child feels that’s the case, theoretically my two year old would just demand the Minnie Mouse dress that’s not included in the options I’ve laid out!)

Back to Duhigg’s book. He describes eight concepts that explain why some people and some companies are much more productive than the average. I looked into the book after hearing Duhigg interviewed by Marty Moss-Coane on Radio Times. It’s the chapter on control that makes a lot of sense to me.

Perhaps that’s because of how it connects to what we strive for at Great Clips—trying to give customers, stylists and franchisees control over their time, their work and their business, respectively. As a result, customers are more comfortable and loyal, stylists are more engaged and productive, and franchisees appreciate the flexibility of implementing our brand measures in the ways that make their salons successful and profitable.

Think about it. How often have you asked yourself—or heard others ask—“Do I have a choice?”  All too often, the answer is “Nope, not really.” Another version of the same question is, “Who’s in control here?” Again, the answer is quite likely, “Not me.”

Ideally, in business and in life, the answer to the first question is, “I do have a choice.” That response, in turn, implies an answer to the second question: “If I have a choice, then I must be the one in control!”

Humans crave control over their own lives. Making choices is how we manifest control. And when we have control, we’re more engaged in whatever we're doing. Control is a biologic imperative for humans, says author Duhigg. Doesn't matter if you’re a two-year-old given the choice of cereal or pancakes for breakfast, a Marine unit told to complete a training exercise without instructions on how to do it, or a work team told to carry out an assignment with the direction to “use your best judgment.”

The outcome can be summed up this way: Choice = control; control = engagement; engagement = productivity + satisfaction.

How does this relate to Great Clips, especially as a franchisee who is trying to run a successful walk-in hair salon? I’ll explore that in the next blog on this topic.

In the meantime, send me your thoughts about how control—having it, or not having it—affects your life.

Up Next