When something goes wrong in your life, what do you do? There are two types of people in this world: The ones who take responsibility for their lives and the ones who blame others. Life is full of both positive and negative experiences. These experiences are happening to you as much as you are reacting to them. Based on your past memories and conditioning, you define what happens in your life as good or bad.
It’s important to discover if you’re operating from an external or internal locus of control. After all, taking control of your mindset can help you gain more control over your life. While you can consciously change the way you think, if you instill an internal locus of control, you can naturally lead a more fulfilled life.
What is an external locus of control?
Many people may blame failure on an external source, outside of themselves. People who do this have what is referred to as an external locus of control.
This term describes those who think they have little to no control over their lives. People with this mindset believe that outside forces are primarily responsible for whether they are successful. They are constantly reacting to events instead of proactively taking charge. They believe that luck, good or bad, is primarily responsible for the state of their life.
Characteristics of an external locus of control
People with this mindset get into a loop of blaming others, which makes them feel like a victim. They never praise themselves for success because they don’t believe they earned it. They feel helpless and powerless to affect change or improve anything. They have very low self-esteem and tend to be indecisive. Rather than look for ways to improve, they settle for what is. They believe the outcomes of similar situations will always be the same and don’t step out of the box in terms of thought or creativity. They don’t strive to be different, innovative, or extraordinary. They coast through life without investing in anything.
What is an internal locus of control?
Alternatively, some see failure as a lesson. They learn from experiences and adapt their actions to produce different results, and they never blame others. People with this behavior have an internal locus of control.
This term refers to those who believe that they are competent, capable, and effective enough to influence the outcome of their goals and, thus, their destiny. People with an internal locus of control generally have more self-esteem. They realize that they must set goals, design plans to achieve them and then put forth the effort to succeed in life.
Characteristics of an internal locus of control
People with this mindset believe in their ability to make positive, impactful changes in their lives and others. They are not influenced by the opinions of others and can face challenges with confidence. They see each experience as a unique opportunity to learn and grow. They are proactive and constantly seek ways to be better.
Give It some thought: who are you?
Now that you’re aware of these two mindsets, which do you think is your default? Which would you like to possess? You should feel like you are in control of your destiny, not that it is out of your hands. In reality, no one is entirely on one side of the spectrum or the other, but it is possible to lean more to one side.
Ask yourself: Do you make things happen or let things happen to you? Reflect on this question and think about the way you interact with the world.
Why cultivate an internal locus of control?
Those with an internal locus of control tend to be happier. Their mindset is proactive and positive, which creates a healthier body and mind. They take responsibility for the outcomes of their lives, good or bad. As a result, they know their successes are earned because of their hard work and effort. They are more likely to be successful and feel content about their lives.
If you believe that fate or luck is responsible for your life, you may feel helpless and out of control. If you don’t think you can positively influence your life, you’ll become less motivated to do the work.
4 ways to cultivate change
It is no doubt hard to break a habit or way of thinking. It can be frustrating to battle with old tendencies, but it doesn’t mean you can’t change. If you want to adopt an internal locus of control, first set your mind on the desire and goal.
1. Focus on what you can control and forget the rest.
This means applying discipline to the areas of your life that you are in complete control of such as eating healthy, getting up early, and going to sleep at a reasonable hour.
2. Speak to yourself productively.
One of the more challenging habits to break is how you speak to yourself. Rather than use harsh words of criticism, try to analyze what went wrong in a particular situation without making it personal. Any unfavorable outcome does not make you any less capable or successful. Get into the new habit of leaving the name-calling and self-bashing at the door and welcome a proactive approach of problem-solving and encouraging words.
3. Be responsible for your actions.
If outcomes don’t go your way, think about what you could have done better. While you can’t control what happens to you, you can control your reaction. Take constructive criticism as a clue, guiding you to be a better version of yourself. Never argue with others about the act itself. Thank them for bringing it to your attention and say you can do better. No blaming, excuses, or reasons should get in the way.
4. Seek help often.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one said anything had to be done alone. Knowing when you need support, physically or mentally, is a huge sign of strength and self-esteem. Reach out to family and friends when you are feeling discouraged. A little pep talk can do wonders to get you back into the game with total dedication and determination.
The bottom line
Change your thoughts, and your feelings will change too. At the end of the day, an internal locus of control is likely to bring you more success and happiness in life. Though you may never have complete control over the outcomes you face, you will feel in control of improving results through your actions and effort with the right mindset. You only get what you put into life. A certain effort and sacrifice must be made to receive anything. Tell us in the comments below, which locus of control do you have?
Locus of Control Psychology Today
Key Differences between Internal and External Locus of Control – Learning Mind (learning-mind.com)
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