Psychologist Julian Rotter developed a theory he called the Locus of Control. This model for behavior outlined that people fall into one of two categories, those who have an “internal locus of control and those who have an “external” locus of control.
Someone with an internal locus of control feels as though they “can influence destiny through the choices they made.” So they see themselves as an actor and not as someone who’s being acted upon by outside forces. They focus on autonomy and self-efficacy.
An individual with an internal locus of control will see a high correlation between personal actions and moving from where he is now, to where he wants to be.
Someone who has an external locus of control feels as though “things happen to them.” They will blame others for their circumstances or the undesired situations they find themselves in. Some examples of a person who has an external locus of control may say:
- “If I didn’t have kids, I’d have time for…”
- “My boss is getting in the way of my promotion.”
- “I don’t have enough money to travel.”
- “I don’t have the connections to make it in this career.”
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte created a web page for those needing an assessment to determine what their locus of control is:
The Locus of Control is a lot like the Circle of Influence proposed by Stephen Covey in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Like the internal vs external locus, a circle of influence and a circle of concern are two very different things. Which circle you place your attention on can determine how you feel.
According to Stephen, there are two types of people, those who are proactive and those who are reactive. Proactive people focus their efforts on their circle of influence – they work on the things they can do something about such as their own behavior, choices, and attitude.
Reactive people focus their efforts on their circle of concern – they worry over things which they have little or no control such as what others say about them, how others are judging them, and other people’s behavior, choices, and attitudes.
By aligning our focus on our center of influence, we can let go of the things that are beyond our control.