By: Justin Hill
I’m not going to lie. I fret about control on a daily basis.
Things like getting stuck in traffic, and losing my cool over it. But, depending on my outlook – my locus of control – I can either focus on the uncontrollable traffic, and get angry. Or I can let it go, and realize it's something I don't control it, effectively dropping the issue, and calming myself. That got me to thinking about our perception, and what we choose to focus on when it comes to control.
If you are one of those people that doesn’t lose their cool over these types of things (like getting stuck in rush-hour traffic), then I raise my glass to you, friend.
If you do tend to lose your cool over things you don't control (like the weather), then this article is for you.
Locus of Control
Julian Rotter, a social learning theorist, coined the term locus of control in 1954, which is nothing more than dividing the events that happen in your life into two specific categories: internal and external.
Someone that has an internal locus of control believes in the personal influence they have over their life circumstances and outcomes. Conversely, a person with an external locus of control believes that external forces are the cause.
In other words, do you believe the ultimate outcome (or destiny) of your life is controlled mainly by internal factors (mainly, you) or external factors (mainly, everything outside of you – or external to you)?
If you’re curious about what your locus of control is, check out one of these two questionnaires to help you along the way:
Internal Locus of Control and Its Benefits
An important point that verywell states is that locus of control is on a continuum. In other words, you won’t be 100 percent on either end (internal or external). You probably will lie somewhere in between the two. But, I think leaning more toward an internal locus of control will prove more beneficial.
Why does this even matter? Well, for one thing, your mental health and overall outlook in life. In fact, if your focus is more on an internal locus of control - that is that you believe your actions control your future - then you are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors.
While I’m not going to sit here and say that you should lean more toward an internal locus of control, my personal opinion is it is better to come from an internal locus of control over an external one. Granted, you don’t want to rely solely on one side, but I believe that having a more internal locus of control is beneficial.
But, don’t take my word for it. According to The Wild Wong, ‘when you don’t think your actions matter, it’s a struggle to get very far with any goal.”
Internal or External?
Let’s go back to the beginning of the article where I discussed my anger with traffic. When you are stuck in traffic, there’s nothing you can really do. However, you can:
Also, even before the traffic event, you can plan ahead. Why do people get angry at traffic? Well, because they want to control the event. A lot of the time they are in a hurry and, let’s be honest, that can turn to anger and brash emotions like road rage.
But let’s think about control here for a moment. If you know you have something planned that day, what are some things you do control?
Those two things you have direct control over. You don’t control the time and you don’t control traffic, so it’s really a waste to focus on those things.
In the above example, the internal locus of control focus is on things the individual controls – that person’s actions, like planning ahead of time (like trying to get off of work or checking the traffic reports). If you take a moment to think about it, the internal locus of control is the pertinent choice most of the time.
Let’s use another example.
Aging. We don’t control that we age. And, as we age, deterioration of the body and mind is inevitable. But, there are things we can do to keep our bodies and minds active, and to help with that deterioration. Things like:
Instead of fighting age-related decline, focus on what you control.
For example, say you’re at that age where walking is becoming difficult. Do you stay in the mindset of being angry that you can’t walk, or do you engage in something like selectivity, optimization, and compensation (SOC), and introduce a cane to help you walk? I think the healthy, pertinent choice is obvious – get yourself a walking aide.
The point here is to focus on what you do control, in any endeavor in life. When you come up against an obstacle, a challenge, a… whatever, try to take a step back and focus on what you do control. Take action on that, versus getting upset with the things you don’t control. That’s fostering and growing an internal locus of control, and in the end, I think that’s the path you should take.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what locus of control you lean toward, and whether or not you believe that having a more internal locus of control is beneficial or not.
Want to read more about locus of control, check out the following links:
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