Locus of Control
Finding Out Who’s in Charge of Your Destiny
As the environment around you changes, you can either attribute success and failure to things you have control over, or to forces outside your influence. Which orientation you choose has a bearing on your long-term success.
This orientation is known as your “locus of control”. Its study dates back to the 1960s, with Julian Rotter’s investigation into how people’s behaviors and attitudes affected the outcomes of their lives.
Locus of control describes the degree to which individuals perceive that outcomes result from their own behaviors, or from forces that are external to themselves. This produces a continuum with external control at one end and internal control at the other:
People who develop an internal locus of control believe that they are responsible for their own success. Those with an external locus of control believe that external forces, like luck, determine their outcomes.
Benefits of an Internal Locus of Control
In general, people with an internal locus of control:
Engage in activities that will improve their situation.
Emphasize striving for achievement.
Work hard to develop their knowledge, skills and abilities.
Are inquisitive, and try to figure out why things turned out the way they did.
Take note of information that they can use to create positive outcomes in the future.
Have a more participative management style.
Managing the Drawbacks of a Strong Internal Locus of Control
People with an internal locus of control are generally more successful, for very good reasons.
However there can be times when having an external locus of control can be an advantage, particularly in situations where people need to be considerate and more easy-going. People with a strong internal locus of control tend to be very achievement-oriented, and this can leave people around them feeling “trampled” or “bruised.” And with a very strong internal locus of control, there is also a tendency to want to control everything, and this can lead to difficulties in taking direction.
If you have a strong internal locus of control, make sure you pay attention to the feelings of people around you – otherwise you’ll seem arrogant, and people may not want to work with you.
Also, make sure that you manage risks properly. Random events do occur for all sorts of reasons. While you can manage many of these with enough determination and hard work, some you can’t.
As people grow older they tend towards a more internal locus of control. This comes from the increased ability to influence things going on in their lives and the realization that much of what happens to them is a result of what they do.
Tips for Developing an Internal Locus of Control
Recognize the basic fact that you always have a choice. Making no choice is actually a choice in and of itself, and it’s your choice to allow other people or events decide for you.
Set goals for yourself and note how, by working towards these and achieving these, you are controlling what happens in your life. As you do this, you’ll find that your self-confidence quickly builds. (This is something we deal with in great detail within our Design Your Life goal-setting and life-design program.)
Develop your decision making and problem solving skills so that you can feel more confident, and in control of what happens. With these tools, you’ll find that you can understand and navigate through situations that would otherwise damage you.
Pay attention to your self-talk. When you hear yourself saying things like, “I have no choice” or “There’s nothing I can do”, step back and remind yourself that you do, in fact, have some degree of control. It’s your choice whether you exercise it or not.
You locus of control says a lot about how you view the world and your role in determining the course of your life.
When you believe you have the power to control your own destiny and determine your own direction, you have a strong internal locus of control. In most cases, this is an important attitude to have if you want to be successful.
People with an internal locus of control tend to work harder and persevere longer in order to get what they want. This is not to say that having an external locus of control is always bad: There are some situations where this approach can work well. The key for your own personal development is to understanding your natural tendency and then adapting it to the situations you are faced with.
Take an interactive quiz to determine your current locus of control at . . . http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_90.htm