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Internal Locus of Control

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Do you believe you have power over events in your life? Or do you believe that things in your life are the way they are because of outside forces you have no control over? Locus of control refers to the extent to which people believe they can exercise some control over what happens in their lives. People with a strong internal locus of control believe that they can influence events and outcomes and shape their lives. Those with an external locus of control believe they have little control over their lives as they believe outside forces are responsible for how their lives go.

Develop Your Internal Locus of Control

If you feel stuck at work or at home, or in your relationships, chances are you would benefit from strengthening your internal locus of control. This means making decisions for yourself and taking responsibility for those decisions. Even making small decisions like whether to rearrange the furniture in your house or what to make for dinner can help you feel empowered to take more control in your life.

Some things to keep in mind as you develop your internal locus of control:

  • We choose what we do and feel, including our misery. If we want to feel better, we need to change the way we live our lives. We must look at what we are doing to contribute to our own problems.
  • The only person we can control is ourselves. If we are dissatisfied in a relationship, we need to focus on what we can do to improve the relationship and not attempt to change the other person.
  • Symptoms are not the problem. We want to fix the symptoms, but we need to focus on the problem.
  • The problem is often related to relationships.
  • We can control our thoughts and actions.
  • We can’t always control our feelings or physiology.
  • Creativity can be a powerful tool in helping us when we feel stuck.
  • We can’t always choose what happens to us but we can choose how we respond.

There are some ways we avoid dealing with our own problems or seek to control others. These include:

  • Criticizing
  • Blaming
  • Complaining
  • Nagging
  • Threatening
  • Punishing
  • Rewarding to Control
  • Victimization
  • Stonewalling (giving the silent treatment or shutting down and refusing to engage)

All of these sabotage our efforts to solve our problems and hinder our relationships with others. Rather than giving in to these, develop your internal locus of control by taking responsibility for your actions and thoughts. You can’t control the emotions, physiology or actions of others, but you can control your response to those. Also, use creativity to help you out of a rut. Stop doing the same thing and try new approaches to problem-solving.

As you increase your internal locus of control, you’ll likely find that your sense of autonomy and control over your life also increases. Your well-being will also be enhanced. You will feel happier, even if the circumstances of your life have not changed.

Start Taking Control of Your Life Today

You can try the following exercises to develop your internal locus of control:

  • Assess your beliefs about whether you make things happen or whether they happen to you. This will help you figure out whether you tend to have an internal locus of control or an external locus of control.
  • Ask yourself this chain of questions and write down your responses:
    • If you woke up tomorrow and your relationship with so-and-so was perfect, what would that look like?
    • What is keeping your relationship from being the way you have just described?
    • What are you willing to sacrifice to make your relationship the way you imagine it could be?
  • Think about an area of your life where you feel out of control. This might be taking care of yourself physically, or meeting deadlines at work, or managing your relationships with your family. Write down five small ways you can take more control in that area and commit to doing those things for a week. Maybe you will make three days of exercise a priority. Or you will write down your work deadlines on a calendar and set reminders to work on those projects an hour each day. Or you might resolve to stop blaming a family member you have a challenging relationship with. After the week is over, think about how taking those small steps felt and write down those feelings.

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