Have you ever been in a bad situation where you thought: “Of course this is happening to me.” And have you ever felt like nothing is in your control? Or are you more the type of person who feels like change can be made and that YOU are the person to make it? I’m here to tell you: We can all become the latter.
The importance of feeling control
Now before you click away because you feel like it’s impossible. I’m not talking about anything bad ever happening to you again; I’m talking about a life where you feel empowered. Why? Because the small changes in your mindset can make you feel strong, in control, happier and more satisfied with your overall life AND it can also give you more self-esteem. And truthfully, we probably could all use more of that.
Internal vs. External locus of control
Locus of control is a psychological concept created by the psychologist, Julian Rotter. The idea is that we as humans all encounter situations and things happen all the time. And with every situation that we find ourselves in, we will attribute a certain locus; either internally or externally.
Now, let me give you an example. You’re a student and you have to write an essay. Someone who applies an internal locus will think something along the lines of “I will get a good grade on this essay, because I’m going to put in the hard work and I’m going to do the research. I can do this.” Subsequently this person does their research, puts in the work and ends up with an essay that they believe is a good product of their efforts. Now, someone who would apply an external locus of control could think something along the lines of: “This teacher doesn’t like me so my grade isn’t going to be good anyways.” or “This subject isn’t really a strength of mine, so the grade will be bad either way”. And the outcome is that that person won’t put in as much effort and is more likely to be down on themselves.
As a result, this person might not be getting the grade they could have gotten and in the worst-case scenario, won’t even finish the essay. Now be honest with yourself: Is there a chance you sometimes let things go because you think the result is out of your control?
I’ve gone over the benefits in short at the beginning of this article, but I’d like to compare the two. This can also give you a sense on which locus you apply more in your life.
People with an internal locus of control are more likely to make a situation their own, while the external group is more likely to not solve their problems and let things come over them. If you’re more likely to try and solve your problems you could experience more happiness, more satisfaction and more empowerment.
Also, people with an internal locus of control are more resistant against (subconscious) social influences. When talking about social influences I’m talking about social comparison and persuasion amongst others. After all, if you apply an internal locus, you believe that YOU are in control. Here I’m not talking about thinking that you always know best; I’m talking about you deciding for yourself what you can do about a situation for YOU. On the other side of the coin, people with an external locus of control are usually more passive and easily influenced; because ultimately things are out of your control. Right?
However, people with an external locus of control are also less likely to stand up for themselves (and their needs) and are quicker to conform to a group. Some people are overall more timid; and that’s okay. But this is why I wanted you to be honest with yourself. As it is important to know if you really are just a more passive person, or if you act that way, because you feel like it won’t matter what you do anyway.
So, what should I do?
Something I haven’t told you yet, is that people usually aren’t either an internal or external person. So, if you read this through and thought to yourself: “I could see myself being both.” Then that’s great! People who use both the internal and external loci have reported to feel more happiness. Which is logical because some things ARE out of your control, but you’ve got to put it in perspective. You can’t control every aspect and outcome of your life, but you can try and shape it to the way you want it. And in return to also accept it when situations don’t end up the way you want them too.
Balancing the loci
Now that we’ve covered all the basics, I’m going to give you some tips on how you can practice balancing and applying both the internal and external locus of control:
- Assess. When you are confronted with a situation (or for practice, think about a situation) take a breath and write it down. Make 2 columns, one is for factors you can control and one is for factors you can’t control. This is a really easy exercise, but it helps with putting things in perspective. Over time you’ll find yourself doing this on a day-to-day basis in your mind.
- Decide. Every day, try to make a list of 2-2 or 3-3 (whatever number you like) and decide. Pick 2 things you’re going to take control of that day and decide on 2 things you’re going to let go of that day. Those things can be related to work, housework, family, school, anything and everything: YOU decide!
- Self-talk. Everyone has that inner voice; but what does it tell you? If you find yourself talking badly about yourself, try to take a moment, think about why this is happening and if you’re able to change the perspective you’re currently having. “I’m not going to be good at this.” Can turn into: “I’m going to try this and if it doesn’t work out then that’s okay too, either way I’m proud that I tried.”
All of this isn’t easy and done in a day, but I hope this article has helped you to understand more about yourself. And in turn can help you to take control, even if it’s done in small steps and only in small parts of your life. You deserve it.
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