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Ever Heard of "Locus of Control"?

What is LOC?? Why should you care?

Be in control of your own destiny
Understand your Locus of Control

Locus of Control, or LOC, is a very simple but powerful concept developed by Julian Rotter in the mid 1950’s. Simply stated, the concept refers to whether an individual feels that they have control and influence over life events, or they do not. Those who feel they can exercise control over things that happen in their lives are said to have an internal locus of control. Those who feel that what happens is outside their control have an external locus of control. You can probably see already how this can influence motivation and drive. You can probably also identify where you are on that continuum from internal to external.


So why is LOC important? Let’s start by looking at success in life. We each define that differently, even so, success is the fruit of our own behavior. I’m the sum of my behavioral choices in life. Behavior is a choice. What influences my choices in behavior are my mental maps, or schemas and those are formed early in life by repeated messages I hear and adopt as my own. Following me so far?


I may have a mental map that says the world is a dangerous place and I have to take care of myself. I may have a mental map that says hard work equals self-esteem. In all things people tend to make maps. However, maps are always simplifications of fact. There is an expression coined by mathematician Alfred Korzybski that “The map is not the territory.” In other words, a map of the US, is not the US it is just a representation of the US. This is important because it means that our maps are not necessarily true, but we feel they are true.


Now very simply put, locus of control is the accumulation of my maps. If the majority of my maps carry messages that say my life is under the control of others, or forces beyond me, I end up with an external LOC. Simple, right? Again, an individual’s locus of control becomes representative of the collection of “maps” they have.


And as we mature and life happens to us, we tend to pay attention to what reinforces our maps! For example, someone applies for a job but doesn’t get it. An external LOC says, “Well I should have known better and not applied.” An internal LOC says, “I can learn from that and adapt a different strategy for next time. As we pay attention to events that reinforce our own beliefs about the world, LOC becomes stronger. I accumulate “evidence” to support my LOC.


Those with internal LOC:

  • Interpret threatening events as challenges

  • Reduce their stress by solving problems

  • Are often more successful, happier, and more positive

Those with external LOC:

  • Tend to focus on their own emotional responses rather than the challenge before them

  • Experience greater anxiety around stress

  • Feel they are victims of their circumstances or environment

By now you might be wondering how to adopt a more internal LOC? And, can you become an internal LOC person if you are currently an external LOC person? Yes, and it begins by noticing when you are self-victimizing or blaming other people for your hardships or negative feelings. Even if it’s true, try not to wallow in self-pity. Focus on the things that are within your control and let go of the rest. Focus on situations where you have tried and succeeded in an effort, use this to disprove your beliefs and rewrite your maps.


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