Locus of control: how much influence do we really have over our lives?

How much do we really influence what happens to us? Are we the only ones responsible for what goes on in our lives, or is it just a combination of circumstances and nothing can be done about it? Each person must answer this question for themselves. And their answer is determined by their personal locus of control. 

Locus of control describes the level to which a person believes that they have control over their life’s course of events. This theory was developed by Julian Rotter in 1954. Locus is deemed internal if people believe that they can control their life; it is external if they believe that life is controlled by outside factors they cannot change, or that chance or fate dominate their lives.

Fate or your own strength?

People with a strong internal locus of control believe events in their life depend on their own actions. For instance, when getting exam results back, a person with an internal locus of control would either praise or blame themselves and their skills, depending on the outcome. In contrast, a person with a strong external locus of control would praise or blame outside factors, such as the teacher or luck of the draw.

The internal locus of control is often associated with higher levels of need for achievement. People with an external locus of control feel that they have less control over their lives, which is why they tend to be more stressed and prone to clinical depression.

The middle is the sweet spot

However, the locus of control is not a typology where there is only internality and externality. Internality and externality are 2 edges of the scale, where a person can be located anywhere in between.

So let's talk about another type of locus of control that is exactly in the middle: bi-local. When people combine the internal and external locus of control, they are more effective at coping with stress and difficult life situations. Such people are able to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, while still being aware of external resources and relying on them.

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