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Blog > Internal Locus of Control: How to Cultivate It Using Personal Choice

The Arootah Return Blog

Internal Locus of Control: How to Cultivate It Using Personal Choice

When something goes wrong, there are two types of people: those who feel they’re in control, and those who feel they’re at the mercy of the situation.
Woman sitting at desk in front of laptop practicing an internal locus of control

Life is full of positive and negative experiences. These experiences are happening to you as much as you’re reacting to them.  

But did you know that, based on your unique memories and conditioning, you define what happens in your life as “good” or “bad?” This is related to your locus of control, or the extent to which you feel you have control over the events that influence your life. There are two types: external and internal locus of control. 

While no one operates from a pure external or internal locus of control, Verywell Mind notes that most of us lie somewhere between the two extremes. However, it’s still important to discover whether you’re operating from an external or internal locus of control as it can greatly impact your life.

What Is an External Locus of Control

Some people tend to blame failures on external sources; that is, those outside themselves. This is what’s referred to as having an external locus of control. 

This term describes those who think they have little to no control over their lives. People with this outlook may experience some of the following tendencies: 

  • Believing outside forces are primarily responsible for their success 
  • Constantly reacting to events, instead of proactively taking charge 
  • Attributing luck—good or bad—as being responsible for the state of their life 

Characteristics of Having an External Locus of Control

Someone who has this mindset may get into a loop of blaming others, which can make them feel like a victim. They may rarely, if ever, praise themselves for success because they don’t believe they’ve earned it. They can feel helpless and powerless to affect change or improve anything.  

Additionally, someone with an external locus of control may have low self-esteem and tend to be indecisive. Rather than look for ways to improve, they settle for “what is.” They may believe the outcomes of similar situations will always be the same and are unlikely to step outside of the box in terms of thought or creativity. They don’t typically strive to be different, innovative, or extraordinary. They may coast through life without investing in anything. 

What Is an Internal Locus of Control

Alternatively, some people see failure as a lesson. They learn from negative experiences and adapt their actions to produce different results, and they rarely, if ever, blame others. This is what’s referred to as having an internal locus of control. 

This term describes those who believe that they’re competent, capable, and effective enough to influence the outcome of their goals and, therefore, their destiny. People with an internal locus of control may experience the following tendencies: 

  • Feeling greater self-esteem 
  • Realizing they must set goals, design plans to achieve them, and then put forth the effort to succeed  

Characteristics of Having an Internal Locus of Control

Someone who has this mindset believes in their ability to make positive, impactful changes in their lives and the lives of others. They’re less likely to be influenced by external opinions and can face challenges with confidence. They see each experience as a unique opportunity to learn and grow, including challenges. They are proactive and constantly seek ways to be better. 

Do You Have an External or Internal Locus of Control

Now that you’re aware of these two mindsets, which do you think is your default? Which outlook would you like to possess? While no one is entirely 100 percent on either end of the spectrum, it’s possible to lean towards 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. 

Personal Choice: The Benefits of Cultivating an Internal Locus of Control

Feeling like you’re in control of your destiny can have a major impact on your life.  

People who operate from 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 as a result of their hard work and efforts. They’re more likely to be successful and feel content. 

4 Ways to Increase Your Internal Locus of Control

If you tend to lean more towards an external locus of control, there are things you can do to change your mindset and, therefore, the way you view situations and events. 

1. Focus on what you can control and forget the rest

Apply discipline to the areas of your life you do have complete control of, like eating healthy, waking 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 using harsh words of criticism, try to analyze what went wrong in a particular situation without making it personal. An unfavorable outcome doesn’t make you any less capable or successful. Create a 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 that guides you to be a better version of yourself.

Instead of arguing with others about the act itself, thank them for bringing it to your attention and tell them you can do better. Don’t let blaming or excuses get in the way. 

4. Seek help when you need it

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Knowing when you need support, physically or mentally, is a sign of strength and self-esteem. Reach out to family and friends when you feel discouraged. A little pep talk can do wonders to get you back into the game with dedication and determination. 

The Bottom Line

Feeling like you’re in control of your destiny can have a major impact on your life.  

At the end of the day, an internal locus of control can bring you success and happiness. But if you tend to have an external locus of control, there are also actions you can take to begin to shift your mindset and help you feel more in control of improving results through your actions and efforts.  

Looking for support to shift your mindset and achieve results? An Arootah Life Coach can help. 

Tell us in the comments below, which locus of control do you think you have? 

Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as professional medical, psychological, legal, investment, financial, accounting, or tax advice. Arootah does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or suitability of its content for a particular purpose. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read in our newsletter, blog or anywhere else on our website.

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