Do you believe, in general, that things just happen to you?
Does luck, fate, or destiny dictate what happens in your life?
Or do you believe that you make things happen? If you want your life to turn out a certain way, you go ahead and make it.
Or are you somewhere in between? Do you believe it takes both hard work and a little bit of luck to make something happen?
The Locus of Control
This spectrum (range of behaviors) is what psychologists call the “locus of control” (which I will occasionally shorten to “LOC”).
We can fall toward one end of the spectrum. Feeling like things just seem to happen to us.
This is called having an “external locus of control“. External = things outside of us
Or we can fall more toward the other end. Feeling like we make things happen.
This is called having an “internal locus of control“. Internal = things inside of us
Most of us likely fall somewhere in between.
We might lean more toward an external LOC (most things happen because of luck with some hard work thrown in). Or we might lean toward an internal LOC (most things happen because of hard work with a little bit of luck thrown in).
It might change depending on what area of our life we’re talking about.
I might have an external LOC when thinking about my weight. Maybe something like, “It’s mostly my genetics. Can’t do much about that.”
Whereas I might have an internal LOC when thinking about my finances. Something like, “Our net worth could increase if I shopped around for better insurance rates. I could also start a side hustle and earn more.”
So, Why Should I Care About My Locus of Control?
If you believe your life is determined by something you can’t control – why bother doing anything at all? You won’t be able to change the outcome.
Or, what if you think you control every aspect of how your life turns out? You could end up debilitated by an accident or health issues. A natural disaster or down economy could wipe out your finances. Any number of things could happen to you.
Do you blame yourself for not saving enough, planning well enough, or forecasting the future better? How much time and energy will you waste doing that?
Leaning too far toward any end of the LOC spectrum can be dangerous. You have some control over your life, but not complete control.
If you hang out at one end or the other too long, it can lead to feelings of anxiety and/or depression. You could feel powerless, angry, and hopeless. These are normal feelings, but dwelling on them too long won’t help you.
What if you accept there are some things you just can’t change? Your background, race, the weather, economy, etc.
And what if you start working on things you could change? Maybe do some research and learn some money management skills. Take care of yourself so you feel at your best. Build small habits, one at a time to make some changes.
If you believe YOU control the choices you make – you can make better ones.
If you believe that’s ALL you control -you can let the other things go.
This is not a magical “believe it and it will come true” situation. It’s about taking responsibility for yourself and your actions and nothing else. You can be empowered to make changes while also letting go of the other stuff you have no control over.
Stay tuned for part 2 next week to learn some habits you can create to start making things happen!
What do you think?
Do you have more of an internal or external locus of control?
What could you do to move yourself more towards the middle?