Psychologist Julian Rotter developed the concept of locus of control. Individuals with internal locus of control believe that they influence outcomes in their lives, e.g. (internal)-“I received an A on this test because I worked hard, applied myself, and mastered concepts.” Individuals with external locus of control believe that outcomes in their lives are due to forces or events outside of themselves, e.g., “I did not get an A because the teacher was not fair,” “I was having a bad day,” etc. You may ask, “What are the implications for me?”
Individuals with internal locus of control take responsibility for their actions, are less influenced by the opinions of other people, have a strong sense of self-sufficiency, and tend to work hard to achieve their goals. These individuals tend to be physically healthier, report being happier, and more independent, and often achieve greater success in the workplace. An example of this is a young man who was set to play football for the Michigan Wolverines. He was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident. He was given a “1%” chance to walk. He had been involved in an intensive rehab program. His insurance ran out. He was then challenged by the Michigan strength and conditioning coach. He had planned on getting married and wanted to walk to the altar. He eventually did go to the altar albeit on wobbly legs and participated in the morning ceremony. He also walked across the University of Michigan football field grasping two canes to high five the “big blue” banner.
Individuals with an external locus of control blame outside forces for their circumstances, often credit luck or chance to success, don’t believe they can change their situation through their own efforts, feel hopeless and powerless in trials, and are more prone to experiencing learned helplessness.
It is important to remember that internal does not always mean “good” and external does not always mean “bad.” If a person is trying hard at something, but does not know the limits of their competence, they may become depressed. For example, if a person is not good at sports, they may feel depressed or anxious about their performance.
What is your locus of control? It can be a game changer. If you are always looking to “luck” or external forces to change your life, you will be seriously disappointed. If you persist and pick yourself up when you fall, you will succeed and be a better person. Stay Strong! Fight On!