Where Does Control Rest?

Quick Summary: Locus of control is a concept that explains where people view control in their lives. An internal locus of control says that the power lies within, while an external locus of control posits that life is determined by the universe. Having a healthy balance between the two is important, and there are several steps you can take to cultivate a healthy locus of control.

Locus of control refers to the degree to which people believe they have control over the events that affect their lives. There are two types of locus of control: internal and external. People with an internal locus of control believe that they are in control of their lives, while those with an external locus of control believe that external factors, such as luck or fate, control their lives.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and problems that come with each type of locus of control.

Internal Locus of Control

People with an internal locus of control tend to have higher self-esteem and better mental health than those with an external locus of control. They also tend to be more resilient in the face of adversity and are better able to cope with stress.

An internal locus of control empowers people to take action and make positive changes in their lives. When you believe that you have control over your life, you are more likely to take responsibility for your actions and make choices that align with your goals and values.

While an internal locus of control can be empowering, it can also lead to a sense of responsibility for things that are outside of our control. This can lead to feelings of guilt and self-blame, which can be harmful to our mental health. Taken too far, it can also lead to a tendency to overestimate our abilities and underestimate the role of external factors. This can lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment when things don’t go as planned– even when the outcome is truly outside of our control

External Locus of Control

People with an external locus of control tend to be more relaxed and less stressed than those with an internal locus of control. They are also more likely to be open to new experiences and less likely to feel responsible for negative events in their lives. An external locus of control can help us maintain perspective and recognize the role of external factors in our lives, helping us avoid the trap of self-blame.

An external locus of control can be beneficial in some situations, it can also lead to a sense of helplessness and a lack of motivation to take action. When we believe that external factors control our lives, we may feel that there is little we can do to improve our situation. This is nearly never the case, as there is always something that can be done, even if only a shift in perspective.

An external locus of control is that it can lead to a victim mentality, where we blame external factors for our problems and fail to take responsibility for our own actions.

The issue is not really internal vs. external being better, but instead a healthy balance between the two. It is also important to assign things to the correct category: this I have control over, while that is outside of my control. We can no more take control over everything in our lives than we can cede control over everything in our lives.

The key is to strike a balance between internal and external locus of control. We need to recognize the role of external factors in our lives while also taking responsibility for our own actions and choices.

Here are some ideas to help you cultivate a healthy locus of control:

  1. Focus on what you can control: Rather than dwelling on external factors that are beyond your control, focus on the things you can control, such as your thoughts, actions, and choices.
  2. Take responsibility for your actions: When things don’t go as planned, it can be tempting to blame external factors. Instead, take responsibility for your own actions and look for ways to make positive changes. This can be painful at times, but hopefully will lead to growth.
  3. Practice gratitude: Gratitude can help shift our focus from external factors that are negative to the things we have to be thankful for in our lives.
  4. Seek support. Seeking support is an essential component of developing a healthy locus of control. Whether it’s seeking support from friends, family, or professionals, having a support system can help us navigate life’s challenges and stay motivated to make positive changes. When we face challenges or setbacks, it can be easy to fall into a negative mindset and feel overwhelmed. Seeking support from others can provide us with a fresh perspective, new ideas, and emotional support, which can help us maintain a positive attitude and stay motivated. Sometimes, we need an outside perspective to help us recognize to either take responsibility for something we thought wasn’t our to own, or to let something go that we felt we should have been able to control.

Where do you fall within this framework? Is your locus of control internal, or external? Is that serving you well?

Cheers

-Dr. Justin