I currently hear many people reflecting in the past 18 months that they feel a significant loss of control in their lives. And even though the world seems to be settling rapidly into a ‘new normal’, there remains for many of us a small nagging feeling (or maybe not so small), that we have relinquished things significantly important to us.
We can’t change what is happening in the world – what we can do is embrace and expand our Internal Locus of Control.
We have been taught – even programmed through praise and recognition – to assign a reason or cause to our behaviors and actions. Psychology refers to this as Attribution Theory, which covers the fact that people give meaning to behavior by explaining causes – both their own and others’. Locus of Control is a key concept in Attribution Theory, that explains either one interprets events to be due to their own behavior, or due to outside circumstances, influence, or factors. In other words, within my control and I take responsibility, or outside of my control and, therefore I do not take responsibility.
The average person tends to have an External Locus of Control, where outside forces take charge of their life. These people believe that a good share of their life is a result of chance, fate, luck, or destiny. This allows them to live as a scapegoat. Whenever life gets hard, or throws them a curve, something or someone else is the cause of their behavior, or is responsible for their results, or needs to take the blame.
What these External Locus of Control folks really believe is that success is beyond their control, and so they let their environment and circumstances influence them, reacting instead of responding. Someone else is always to blame – the government, their boss or supervisor, their cultural background, parents, friends, the President/Governor/Mayor, the climate, God, past experiences, current events, the news, etc. … Their list is inexhaustible. The result for them is that they feel powerless, weak, and definitely – not in control.
If you find yourself thinking pessimistically, lacking motivation, not wanting to put extra effort into anything you are not 100% sure you will succeed at, wanting to blame someone or something else for what’s not going as planned, or looking for someone to rescue you, you could be burdened with an External Locus of Control.
People with an External Locus of Control tend to stay safe and shy away from anything where they might make a mistake, so they seldom take risks. And when they do make a mistake, instead of learning from it, they immediately look to place the blame outside of themselves – on their environment (the weather, etc.), someone else (a parent, or spouse, or co-worker, etc.), or something else (bad traffic, etc.). This points to their belief that outcomes are dependent primarily on other people, conditions, luck, or even fate. They also prolong and even avoid making decisions, since they mistakenly believe that when no decision is made, then nothing can go wrong. Not understanding that ‘no decision’ is a decision!
Succinctly stated, people with an External Locus of Control act like victims – who things just happen to. Things happen and they react.
Many studies done on Internal and External Locus of Control, underscore that people with Internal Locus of Control tend to lead more successful and fulfilling lives, because they believe their outcomes are based on their actions! They believe they make things happen. And so you will find them putting in effort because they believe that the right effort produces success. For these people, the sky is the limit, and what they set their mind to, is achievable.
Because they can assure themselves, they are self-motivating. Because they believe that their destiny is in their hands, they are optimistic. They take full responsibility for their accomplishments, achievements, and successes, as well as their problems and failures. They have a positive attitude about life’s ups and downs, and explore solutions, knowing there always will be gains and losses. They understand that they are in total control of their life and every result in their life is the result of the decisions they have made and actions they have taken.
Every day they give themselves the best possible chance of thriving vs. surviving – they don’t just sit back and wait to be rescued.
Winners are the people with the Internal Locus of Focus who make things happen. They know their life is the result of their thoughts and actions. When they act, things happen.
So coming back around to the opening, humans have a natural tendency to assign meaning to every experience and interaction we have. It follows that people with an Internal Locus of Control, will assign a significantly different meaning to events than people with an External Locus of Control.
I invite you to take a look at where your locus of control is – internal or external. Probably if you are reading this newsletter, you have at least some Internal Locus. And, you may still find yourself being drawn in some areas, some circumstances, to the External Locus of blame or victim.
If you want to have full time, 100% Internal Locus of Control, then you must take responsibility for everything in your life. Everything! If you want to change your life or improve yourself, you need to attribute things internally. You must monitor your thoughts, make your own decisions, and take responsible action, regardless of what happens.
When you are operating from the Internal Locus, you are in total and utter control of your life. Note: this does not mean the life of anyone else! This means you work with yourself only and don’t try to change others – no rules for other people in relationships – just your own healthy boundaries. You only control what is controllable – yourself, your emotions, your time, money, energy, your health (to a certain degree), etc. You don’t waste your time or your energy in trying to control or change events outside of your control.
In this conversation it is important to state that you must never blame yourself for any result. No one will ever be right all the time – mistakes happen, especially when you are living large enough. As you take control of your life with the Internal Locus, you will for sure make mistakes, some bad decisions, etc. And you will get some bad results – its guaranteed.
Even when your past decisions and actions have not been right, or smart, or wise, it is imperative that you understand that you have always done the best you could do, given who you were at that particular moment in time. You must give yourself the benefit of the doubt, forgive yourself, take responsibility, and move on – without blame.
When you realize you have made a mistake, take it as a lesson and learn from it – don’t dwell on it. Your destiny is always in your hands when you have the Internal Locus of Control, because by its very nature, it forces you to look inside and make changes from within in order to achieve your desired outcome.
To start taking responsibility for yourself and developing the Internal Locus of Control there are three necessary steps
- Stop making excuses
- Stop blaming others
- Start giving positive/empowering meaning to events
We will cover this in next month’s Newsletter.
In the meantime – if you are interested in a more in-depth conversation about Internal and External Locus of Control please join me for a live Zoom call next week Wednesday, August 4, 7:30-9pm PDT. We will review the key points of this newsletter and dive deeper into the conversation.
And if there are specific questions you would like me to address, please send them to me at email@example.com by Tuesday evening, August 3, 2021.
I am holding you in my heart.
The Living Light Foundation