Locate Your Locus
Locus of control (coined back in 1954 by American psychologist Julian Rotter) is the extent to which a person feels or believes they have control over what happens in their life.
Have you ever met that person who is always late, but it is never their fault? It’s always the traffic, or the bus driver, or their alarm clock that’s to blame. Whatever the reason, it is always outside of their control. That person has an external locus of control. An external locus of control is when an individual blames the outcomes in their life on everything outside of themselves.
People with an external locus of control are also usually willing to blame others for their mistakes, more likely to lose hope, or feel powerless, and may claim a stroke of luck, as their own hard work.
In contrast, perhaps you’ve met that person who always seems to take accountability for what they do. If they forget a meeting or miss a step in their process, they say “I’ll have to plan better next time” or “sorry I forgot, that is entirely my fault”, with no extra excuses. That person has an internal locus of control. An internal locus of control is when an individual believes they that they have direct power over the events in their life, that they can influence outcomes, if they take control of them.
People with an internal locus of control are more likely to take responsibility for their actions. They tend to be more confident, better at work tasks, and be happier overall.
A growth process
When you compare the two above people, which person would you rather work with? The person who blames everyone else? or the person who wants to learn and grow from their errors?
Your locus of control is exactly that—yours. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of internal versus external locus will have been developed during childhood, and from your experiences in life. However, the good news is that you have the ability to change. You can pick and choose whether to have an internal, or external locus of control. It will, and should be, a continual growth process. Each time you encounter a challenging or disappointing situation, you can look around yourself and decide how you are going to respond.
Choose your approach
If you notice you currently have an external locus of control, why not take a step back from where you are, and reassess what approach you are going to take. What will serve you best in the situation; to respond with blame and avoidance, or with accountability and positive actions?
Interestingly, there are times when it can be helpful to have an external locus of control. People with an external focus sometimes cope with rejection or failure better as they do not see themselves being the cause for failure (however this can lead to a repetitive cycle as they do not correct the core issue, which is often themselves).
Benefits to an internal locus
There are many benefits to attempting to have an internal locus of control. It can help with:
- Giving you an awareness that you have a choice in how you react to events in your life
- Being less prone to anxiety
- Building your resilience
- Providing a positive impact on your physical health, mental health and overall happiness
- Having a greater belief of your ability to influence others
Here’s one quick action you can take to shift from an external, to internal focus: Change the way you word sentences, and even your thoughts.
- Rather than saying “I can’t”, try “I choose not to”.
- Shift “I hate being bored” to “I love and thrive on being busy”
- Adjust “I can’t write this profile properly because you didn’t give me the right information” to “I can provide a better profile, if you can help me gather some more information”
Small changes like this are known as “positive wording” and can help you be seen as more supportive, willing to learn and approachable to everyone you encounter.
So, the next time something does not go to plan, when you don’t get that job or when your plan fails, how are you going to respond to it? Will you blame your environment and those around you? Or will you take accountability, and find ways to avoid repeating the same cycle? I hope to always recognise and own my locus of control internally… how about you?