Locus Of Control: What It Is & Why You Should Care
Do you attribute occurrences in your personal or professional life to luck or fate? Are you set on the belief that you’re the master of your own destiny in every situation? Only one of these outlooks mark the path to the success you’re after.
Where you believe the locus (Latin for ‘place’) of control lies in your life, determines how much agency you think you have over its course. How you view the world, and consequently the actions you choose (or fail) to take are framed by either an internal or external locus of control.
What is locus of control and why should you care?
The extent to which you believe you have power over the events in your life is determined by whether you think you have the ability to influence situations and their outcomes (internal locus of control), or if you blame outside forces for everything that happens (external locus of control).
The effect of locus of control impacts multiple areas of your life. Experts from the Journal of Business Venturing believe that internal locus of control contributes to a more successful work life and affects the levels of entrepreneurship in different countries.
While the current perspectives you believe to be true aren’t always ‘real’, they’re not entirely false either. Where you believe in luck or creating your own, your view is not innate and can be changed.
“Beliefs represent the acceptance of something without any proof to back up what we accept as fact,” says Tom Corley, author of Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life. “They are unconscious programming and they’re usually inherited.”
How did enquiry into Locus of Control come about?
This concept of locus of control was discovered by Julian Rotter in the 1960s, who found that the underlying question regarding the locus of control is: ‘Do I control my life or does something else control it?’
He believed that an idea this simple could have profound significance in influencing peoples’ beliefs. Whether you believe in a higher power, luck or the Law of Attraction, affects how you make your decisions and live your life. If you believe that making all the right decisions mean you can direct your life to be exactly how you envision it, you most likely possess an internal locus of control.
What is an Internal Locus of Control?
People who have an internal locus of control believe they’re in charge of their lives. Both their successes and failures are attributed to their direct choices and actions. However, having a super internal locus of control is advantageous to success, because when you think that your fate is in your hands you’re a go-getter and don’t rely on, or blame other factors for your triumph or failure.
Definition of Internal Locus of Control
If a person has an internal locus of control, that person credits success to his or her own efforts and abilities. Expecting to succeed leads you to be more motivated and more likely to learn.
Traits of Internal Locus of Control
If you tend to look at life through the internal locus of control lens, some traits include:
- You think you’re solely responsible for your success and failure
- You’re less prone to anxiety and depression
- Your levels of independence are higher
- You’re achievement-oriented
- You tend to be more health-conscious.
Leadership and emotional intelligence expert Paul Nyamuda explains an internal locus of control as a simple decision: “I’m going to be joyful today; nothing in my external environment is going to affect my mood – that’s the internal locus of control,” he explains. “I determine whether I’m going to be a success in life or I’m going to be a failure.”
The benefits of an Internal Locus of Control
An internal locus of control enables you to believe that you shape and determine your own future and acknowledge that you’re a powerful person who doesn’t blame others for your behaviour. Having an internal locus of control means you don’t give your weaknesses the power to control your behaviour. “I take charge of my behavior, I choose to be happy today, I choose to be full of joy today and no one can take that from me,” says Nyamuda.
What is an External Locus of Control?
On the contrary, if you have an external locus of control, you’re essentially at the mercy of your circumstances. Other people, your environment or a higher power controls what happens, not your own decision or actions.
Having an external locus of control makes it easier to hold everyone else accountable for your current situation, but yourself. If you have a very external locus of control, you believe that deities, fate, karma, randomness, luck or some other external source of power determines occurrences in your life.
Definition of External Locus of Control
A person with an external locus of control, who attributes his or her success to luck or fate, will be less likely to make the effort needed to learn. People with an external locus of control are also more likely to experience anxiety since they believe that they are not in control of their lives.
Traits of an External Locus of Control
Those with a primarily external locus of control, are more likely to:
- Believe luck, chance and fate decides what happens to them
- Be negative, pessimistic and give up more easily when faced with setbacks
- Not feel the need to reach out and create new relationships or try to repair old ones
- Feel more helpless when faced with stress or illness.
The pitfalls of an External Locus of Control
According to Nyamuda, there’s a place for external locus of control. For example, acknowledging that there are things in our lives that are outside of our control and are beyond us.
However, an external locus of control taken to the extreme could lead to complacency. “Let me give you an example: When it comes to prospering financially, do you leave it to something else completely outside yourself and become like a sluggard, the type of individual who’s lazy? These type of people become very mystical about these things and kind of think ‘success will just come to me, it’ll just happen’.”
Do you want to understand your own Locus of Control? Test yourself
Since the concept of locus of control was first developed, several attempts have been made by psychologists, scientists, and researchers to develop an accurate and effective method to measure someone’s locus of control.
Today, multiple tests are available for you to take to determine where in the spectrum you fall. Some resources offered to determine your locus of control are:
- Rotter’s original Locus of Control Scale
- Psychology Today’s online test
- MindTool’s guide to understanding your own locus of control
It’s important to use a reputable test that is designed to match your circumstances, so ensure you venture beyond the three listed above and discover the wide range of locus of control tests available to determine your locus of control.
Related: 15 Traits Of Unstoppable People
How does your Locus of Control impact your life and your success?
Adopting an internal locus of control has benefits that lead to improved performance, better wellbeing and enhanced stress management. Generally, an external locus of control can impact negatively on how you handle your outlook on life when circumstances aren’t in your favour. Your locus of control can have an impact on:
1. Personal confidence
Internal locus of control is supported by a sense of self-efficacy, capability and a realistic view of success and what it means for you as an individual.
“This sense of control provides them with clarity over their direction and confidence through achieving their desired outcomes,” according to Mental Toughness Partners, an experienced and licensed global network of coaches, HR advisers and mental toughness practitioners. “It’s a strong foundation for success as well as happiness and a less stressful life.”
Internal locus of control is largely related to mental toughness, and these people are consistently successful because their focus is to make things happen and get things done. Positivity drives people with an internal locus of control to carry out tasks without distraction, diversion, fear or obstacles.
“One reason is that they almost always possess a strong internal locus of control, which is the extent to which they believe they can control events affecting them through their own personal decisions and actions,” Having an external locus of control enables you to better control your emotions when reacting to events around you.
“Because feeling in control over our jobs and lives reduces stress, it even affects our physical health,” says the author of New York Times bestseller The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor. “One sweeping study of 7,400 employees found that those who felt they had little control over deadlines imposed by other people had a 50% higher risk of coronary heart disease than their counterparts.”
4. Perception of luck vs self-agency and opportunities
People with an external locus of control are more likely to believe that what happens to them is the direct result of luck being on their side, fate dealing them with a certain hand, or being determined by people in authority. You may tend to give up when life doesn’t “go your way,” because you don’t feel that you have the power to change it.
5. Progression in career
“If you’ve got a strong internal locus control you will read books, you will study the market and you will be keen to develop yourself in terms of your credibility, integrity and competence,” says Nyamuda.
Basically, you’re more motivated to work on your skills and go out there to look for the business, reach those targets and seek those prospects. “Why? Because if I do that my behaviour will determine the outcomes. While there might be some extraneous factors that may affect it, I acknowledge that,” he says.
6. Progression as a business owner
An entrepreneur with an internal locus of control is strong on cause and effect, and therefore, if for example they’re recruiting for their company their mindset as a business owner is: ‘If I hire the right people and position them correctly, then I’ll be successful.’ however, an entrepreneur with an external locus of control could blame everything from ‘man it’s terrible, this country just doesn’t have enough talent, to ‘oh it’s really bad, the people that I’ve got in my company are incompetent.’
But, as Nyamuda points out, you hired them, so you should take responsibility. “You begin to say ‘hmm, I made a few bad choices here. I’ll need to tweak my technique; I’ll need to work on my hiring skills; I’ll need to be more thorough, or I’ll need to work with a reputable recruitment agency,” he suggests. The approach means you’re taking charge of your life, which is crucial if you want to be a success in life.
7. Success, wealth, fulfillment
An internal locus control mobilises you into action, while and external locus of control makes you feel powerless to change your current situation – whether it’s financial, physical or personal. People with an internal locus of control tend to recognise their power in any situation.
Assuming the control over your success enables you to realise that ‘if I do this then this will happen and if I do that then that will happen; if I mess up in this area then these are the consequences’.
Having an internal locus of control is all about realising that you will reap whatever you have sown. You get out whatever you put in, and that’s the mindset of someone who’s strong with an internal locus of control. “And that’s one of the things successful people do differently,” says Nyamuda.
How to shift from an External Locus of Control to an Internal Locus of Control
“Developing an internal locus of control begins with the realisation that you always a have a choice and that whilst some important things in life may go against you, you do have control over the way you react to those situations,” according to Mental Toughness Partners.
One way to overcome any feelings of powerlessness in any situation is to pay attention to your self-talk. Listen when you speak and pick up on moments when you’re surrendering to your circumstances. If you catch yourself saying things like ‘I have no choice,’ or ‘there’s nothing I can do,’ you need to take a step back, remind yourself that you have the power to make your own choices, despite what is happening around you.
When you set goals for yourself, observe your progress and make notes on every single milestone you reach on your way to the achieving of your goal. Note how you are making positive changes in your life by working toward these goals to build your confidence in yourself and your abilities, despite what you have been faced with.
But don’t expect it to be as easy as a programme of a few steps. Your locus of control took time to develop to where it is, and it may require a little extra effort to change your mindset.
“Your existing beliefs were formed over many years. It takes time to reprogram your belief system. How long? According to my research, at least one year of dedicated effort,” says Corley. “But that one year investment will pay dividends for the rest of your life.”
So, how do you make the switch from having an External Locus of Control to an Internal Locus of Control? Corley suggests:
- Associate with individuals who possess the success beliefs you want to adopt
- Read books and articles on self-made millionaires
- Read inspirational books and articles
- Listen to inspirational podcasts
- Watch and listen to inspirational TEDx talks
- Create daily affirmations around the success beliefs you want to adopt
- Meditate and focus on your new success beliefs (10-15 minutes a day is all it takes).
“Through development of an internal locus of control, not only does the individual benefit but the organisation as well. Organisational human capital increases through the behavioural values practiced by the employees,” advises Dr. Michael Kolacz, professor of Management and Associate Department Chair of Management for the Livonia and Warren campuses of Davenport University. “An empowered, proactive, positively focused workforce exhibits the characteristics necessary for competitive success in today’s dynamic environment.”
6 Mental Barriers You Must Tear Down To Succeed
The world has few obstacles as formidable as the ones in our own mind.
Have you hit a slump in your career? If you are finding it difficult to get ahead, it could be because you’re inadvertently holding yourself back in ways you don’t even realize.
Many of us have unhealthy habits and behaviors that stunt our career growth. By becoming aware of them, it’s possible to begin facing these obstacles head-on so that you can remove potential roadblocks to your future success. Here are 6 surprising things that are holding you back:
1. You don’t know the basics
What if you were to build a house on top of a weak foundation? It might be fine for a while, but one day, it would inevitably cause problems and affect your quality of life. Similarly in your career, if you don’t take the time to form a strong foundation of knowledge in your field, it may keep you from advancing and growing later on. Therefore, it’s vital to learn (and sometimes to re-learn) the basics.
There’s no shame in hitting the books and learning the basics or re-learning them, even well into your career. You know how when you re-watch a movie or re-read a book you pick up on things you didn’t notice the first time around? It’s very much the same in career education. So whether you’re a baker or an investor or a manager, make sure to develop a strong foundational knowledge of your field of work. It will serve you in many ways as your career advances.
2. Vague goals
Setting clear and specific goals is one of the major building blocks of career success. On the flip side, without specific goals, you’re more likely to suffer from lack of motivation and aimlessness in your career.
Want proof? Consider the work of Dr. Edwin Locke, who released a still-relevant article in 1968 entitled “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives.” In this research-based article, he determined that employees were most highly motivated by clear objectives and specific feedback.
Working toward extremely specific goals provided a major source of motivation to actually reach the desired end result, which improved performance. Moreover, specific and difficult goals led to better task performance than vague or easy goals.
3. Caring too much what others think
According to Aristotle, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Are you too much of a people pleaser? If so, this tendency could be holding you back from finding the success you deserve.
No matter what you do, you’ll never please everybody. Yes, you should always make your best efforts in any endeavour, and you should always try to be respectful of the opinions of others. However, don’t let other people’s opinions affect your every move. If you do, you’ll constantly operate from a place of fear and will never achieve great things.
4. You’re trying to figure out everything without a mentor
Bill Gates, Bob Dylan, Oprah Winfrey. What do these people have in common? They’re all crazy successful…and they all had mentors.
Many people suffer from the belief that to become successful, they have to do the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest alone. However, this mindset is likely stunting their career and slowing down success. Truthfully, seeking out the guidance of a mentor is both a brave and smart career move. A mentor who is further along in their career than you can help advise you, point you in the right direction and help you avoid common pitfalls. There is so much to gain from having a mentor; why hold yourself back by trying to do everything alone?
5. Poor time management
Without a doubt, pursuing a new career or business endeavor takes time. Many people claim that it’s impossible to work toward their dreams because there’s just no time. But is this really true?
The fact is, nobody’s ever going to gift wrap extra time and give it to you like a present. It’s your responsibility to make time. It might involve changing some of your habits like bingeing on Netflix or getting lost on Facebook for hours on end. Or, it might mean that you wake up early in the morning like Apple CEO Tim Cook, who gets up at 3:45 so he can answer emails and take some time for himself before the responsibilities of the day descend. There are always ways to make time for what matters if you’re truly driven to succeed.
6. You stopped learning
Lifelong learning is a trait of the most successful people. Don’t you want to be one of them? If you think you know everything, then there’s no possible way for you to continue moving forward in your career or even your life.
As Malcolm X famously said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” When you approach the world as if you can learn from every experience and every person, you’ll reap many benefits. You’ll be able to keep improving, you’ll be able to remain mentally nimble, and since you won’t be a know-it-all, people will probably like you a lot better. Never stop learning if you want to keep growing.
Are any of these things secretly holding you back?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
(Infographic) How 9 Creative Minds Got Their Ideas
From doing headstands to drinking 50 cups of coffee a day, check out the quirky things that these nine creatives have done.
Coming up with new, creative ideas can be tricky. That’s why it’s important to find a way to get inspired. After all, it’s our own unique rituals that can bring mental clarity and creativity. That could be a quirky habit or routine such as doing headstands or wearing lots of hats.
Igor Stravinksy did headstands, which he believed helped to rest his head and clear his brain. Author Dr. Seuss felt that wearing lots of crazy hats helped inspire his creativity and overcome writer’s block. However, those aren’t even the strangest routines that some of the world’s most brilliant minds have utilised. Steve Jobs bathed his feet in toilet water to reduce stress levels while Honore de Balzac drank up to 50 cups of coffee a day.
Check out Business Backer’s infographic below to learn the weird ways that nine creative minds got their ideas.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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