Locus of Control

My first blog for a little while, but thought it was time to put some words on paper (or screen). I have written on this subject before, however I thought I would expand on what I wrote last time. I been studying some more on motivation, leadership and people over the last few months and thought I’d out that study to some good use and share what I’ve learnt.

The last time I wrote about this subject I focused on understanding how much you can or cannot directly control an outcome and to place your focus on those activities you have the most control over. To attempt to control that which you do not have control over will lead to disappointment and /or a reduction in motivation / engagement.

Today I want to look at why some of find the above easier to achieve than others. We all know there are people who are what can be described as controlling and others who seem to not let anything bother them. There are those that seem to blame everything else for the outcome and those that take all of the responsibility (sometimes to an unhealthy level), regardless of the true level of influence over the outcome. This comes down to a person’s locus of control.

Locus of control was first theorised in 1954 by Julian Rotter, an American psychologist and refers to the degree a person believes they can control the outcomes from their life events. The word comes from the Latin “location” hence; it basically means where the control comes from. Rotter theorised there are two beliefs; internal or external. A person with an internal locus of control believes outcomes are derived primarily from their own actions, whereas a person with an external locus of control believes the outcomes are a result of external factors. I’ll run through a couple of examples to help the understanding.

There are examples of this theory everywhere but one that is easily relatable is the life of a student. Put your mind back to when you were in school, you are about receive your marks from an important exam. At this point the outcome is already set, you can have no control over the outcome since the exam is completed and already marked. You receive you marks and they are far below your hopes or expectations; what is your first thought?

If your first thought is internally focused i.e. “I should have studied more”, “I didn’t try hard enough” or similar then your loci is internally located.

If your first thought is externally focused i.e. “The neighbour’s dog kept me awake and that’s why”, “If the teacher could teach better, then I would have got a better result”, “I got lucky there” or similar then your loci is externally located.

Being too far situated on either end of the spectrum can be a bad thing; if your loci are too internal, you can blame yourself for poor outcomes you have little or no control over but that indirectly affect you. If your loci are too external you may blame others for your own actions. A balance is needed, however research clearly indicates that those with an internal locus of control have increased self-efficacy.

There are tests you can do online to determine your locus of control and the best news is this is a learned trait, so anything that can be learned can be relearned!