American psychologist Julian Rotter developed the concept of "locus of control" in the 1950s, describing it as "the degree to which a person perceives an outcome as being contingent on their own actions or those of external forces, existing along a continuum from a more internalized orientation to a more externalized orientation." In layman's terms, locus of control refers to the location in your body where you control the determinants of your character, makeup and actions.
Each of us has a locus of control for things external to us and another for internal things, but we’re not governed by them in equal measure. People who perceive their successes as more attributable to their own efforts and believe that they themselves control their lives generally have a more strongly developed internal locus of control, while people who perceive and believe that they can’t control their lives and blame outside factors for their shortcomings and even their successes are said to have an external locus of control.
An External Locus Of Control
If you have an external locus of control, you are likely to believe that events in your life—successes or failures—are due to outside forces, mostly beyond your ability to manipulate or influence. Someone who acts like a victim, places reliance on luck, destiny, or known or unknown helping or hindering hands is said to have an external locus of control.
The Internal Locus Of Control
Conversely, with an internal locus of control, you believe that your achievements result from your own efforts, will and decisions. It is a belief that you are a victor, the master of your
In my experience, an internal locus of control correlates with greater success. It inspires people not only to take action but to review their outcomes in terms of how they could perform better. People with an internal locus of control tend to be more achievement-oriented and often obtain the best-paying jobs.
Why Understanding And Emphasizing Your Locus Of Control Is Critical To Success
Most people are somewhere between the two extremes of an internal and an external locus of control. Sometimes they move between these two different loci at different times, depending on the circumstances. So the important thing is not that you are always governed by your internal locus of control, but that you learn to recognize situations where one locus or the other should be emphasized. Generally, though, reliance on your internal locus of control is going to yield better, more advantageous results in the furtherance of your life goals.
But there is also a downside to having your locus of control too far toward the internal. That is because as you take full responsibility for all that happens in your life, you can blame yourself for all of its inevitable defeats, even those arising from situations where others or other factors should shoulder at least some of the blame. This can lead to anger, frustration and even depression. With a very internal locus of control, someone may become a controlling perfectionist that cannot bounce back from failure. On the other hand, someone with a locus of control that places too much emphasis on the external is likely to be passive and tend to give up when the going gets tough. This is because they do not believe in their ability to influence others or events.
How To Emphasize An Internal Locus Of Control
1. Practice awareness.
Before doing anything to shift your locus of control, you need to take time to understand where you are. If you are sensing a lot of resistance, chances are you lean toward the external end of the scale and are probably failing to recognize just how much you are attributing your failures and successes to outside factors. Spend some time asking yourself if you feel like you were responsible for critical or remarkable past events or whether things just happened without your influence. There are no right or wrong answers. What is required is your most honest appraisal of whether you are in control of your life or if it is controlling you.
2. Use positive self-talk.
I hope by now I’ve convinced you of the benefit of having a more internal locus of control because I believe therein lies the path to greater achievement and satisfaction. An excellent way to be more in control is to introduce more positive self-talk to your life. Starting the day with affirmations and repeating them regularly can help you feel more positive and able to effect change.
3. Take ownership of your mistakes, but then move on.
Another helpful device is to make a point of squarely facing up to your mistakes and moving on. Whatever you do, don’t dwell on mistakes. For those with a strong internal locus of control, this could be especially painful. For those with a strong external locus of control, resist your temptation to shrug and instead take a few moments to honestly evaluate what went wrong and how you might make things go better in the future. As with an internal locus of control, make this situation a teaching moment and take what you can from it. Then, move on.
Your locus of control is a critical part of personal development. Whether you afford more power to your internal locus of control or your external locus of control helps determine whether you decide your course in life or allow others to determine it for you. Believing in your power to make meaningful decisions and choices can help you move toward the successes that fulfill you.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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