Think about the last time you succeeded in something. What factors influenced this outcome? Perhaps you were able to tap into your knowledge skills and abilities to reach a goal. Maybe your success was down to the help of others or even fate. The way we think about our successes and failures is crucial for setting and achieving future goals. This is known as our locus of control and is usually divided into two categories.
An individual who has an external locus of control tends to attribute their success to luck or fate. Such an outlook can leave people prone to anxiety since they believe that they have less control over their lives. They also may be less likely to make an effort to learn and develop important skills and abilities. On the other hand, we have those who hold an internal locus of control. These people tend to attribute their success to their own efforts and abilities. In order to identify which category we fall into, it can be helpful to examine the way we phrase our successes. A person with an internal perspective tend to use themselves when describing achievements or goals, for example “I need to learn how to communicate better”. Someone with an external perspective may say something like “hopefully we get a good audience for this presentation.”
Our locus of control is often viewed as an integral part of our personality, which may be shaped by our early experiences during childhood. These experiences may include our interactions with our parents and other children. Thinking independently as a child may be helpful in developing a concept of the consequence of our actions and therefore may shape our locus of control.
However, the world is never this simple and most of us tend to have a little bit of both. If you were to lack any external locus of control, then you would have a limited concept of the real world and how events may shape your skills and abilities. It is important to take external events into consideration while working towards a goal or objective. Have a go at exploring how you feel about your next achievement. If you feel like you lean exclusively to either external or internal locus of control, have a think about the factors which may have contributed to your success. Having an effective locus of control means striking a balance between external and internal!
Written by Shane MacSweeney