A couple of years ago there was a psychological study conducted on 107 stock traders in London. All 107 were separated into their own rooms. Placed before them, a screen with a stock market ticker and three buttons, two of the three buttons were labeled, “up”, “down”, and one unlabeled. They were told that these buttons controlled a specific share in the stock market that the company they worked for had large holdings in, the “up” button drove the price up higher, the “down” shot the share price lower and the unlabeled one was a “mystery button”. All 107 sat in front of a stock ticker and began pushing buttons attempting to control the shares to benefit the company they represented, yet, none of the buttons actually did anything. They had no control whatsoever on the stock market. After the time was up each was asked how much control the felt they had on the stock ticker. The ones who believed they had the greatest control of the stock market were the ones who did not perform well in their jobs, made the least money, and revealed that they had many troubles in their social life. The ones who stated that they felt they were not in control of the stock ticker, and that it was independent to their button presses were the top performers from their company, some of the most well paid stock brokers in London, and claimed they had great families and social life.
Why is the illusion of control so powerful and dangerous? How could it have such an affect not only on a person’s livelihood but also on their social life as a whole?
We know that Hashem runs the world. We know that He provides for us all that we need – we know, but it is hard to believe. It’s quite a challenge to constantly have this intention in mind, especially when we are involved in the world around us. Even still, when we recognize that we are not in control of our parnassah or our success in any matter, and that it is indeed all in the hands of Hashem we can begin to see true success and joy. Obviously we must put in our efforts, yet, we can’t claim our efforts are the origin of our success. If we somehow rationalize an illusion of control on what is out of our control it can only lead to upset; imagine sitting in a car with a fake steering wheel in front of you, you keep trying to steer the car away from danger but your efforts, no matter how much, seem pointless and bear no results. That is the danger of an illusion of control, no matter how much effort we expend we feel as if we haven’t done anything worthwhile, and that will only lead to anger, depression and a feeling of something missing. The stock traders that recognized the stock ticker in front of them was not in direct control of their button presses had the right mindset that, ‘it is possible I do not have control, that it is out of my hands.’ Hashem provides for us our parnassah, we must put in our effort, and create the proper vessels to receive the blessing He bestows upon us. This is why the first word of this new Sefer of Torah, Vayikra is written ויקר(א), with a small Alef. Vayikra means, “and He called out