Locus of Control
Are You in Charge of Your Destiny?
As the environment around you changes, you can either attribute success and failure to things you have control over, or to forces outside your influence.
Which orientation you choose has a bearing on your long-term success.
This orientation is known as your "locus of control." Its study dates back to the 1960s, with Julian Rotter's investigation into how people's behaviors and attitudes affected the outcomes of their lives.
Locus of control describes the degree to which individuals perceive that outcomes result from their own behaviors, or from forces that are external to themselves. This produces a continuum with external control at one end and internal control at the other, as shown in Figure 1, below:
Figure 1. The Locus of Control Scale.
People who develop an internal locus of control believe that they are responsible for their own success. Those with an external locus of control believe that external forces, like luck, determine their outcomes.
Understanding Your Own Locus of Control
For each pair of statements, choose the one that you believe to be the most accurate, not the one you wish was most true. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers. Click the "Calculate My Total" button to add up your score and check your result using the scoring table underneath.
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22 Statements to Answer
|1 STATEMENT A: Bad luck is what leads to many of the disappointments in life. STATEMENT B: Disappointments are usually the result of mistakes you make.|
|2 STATEMENT A: Political unrest and war normally occur in countries where people don't get involved, or assert their political rights. STATEMENT B: No matter how much people get involved, war and political unrest will occur.|
|3 STATEMENT A: You "reap what you sow". In the end, your rewards will be directly related to what you accomplish. STATEMENT B: Despite your effort and hard work, what you accomplish will probably go unnoticed.|
|4 STATEMENT A: Teachers treat students fairly and evaluate their performance as objectively as possible. STATEMENT B: The grades you earn in school have more to do with factors like how much the teacher likes you, or your mood on the day of a test.|
|5 STATEMENT A: To become a leader, you must be in the right place at the right time. STATEMENT B: Those who are capable of leadership but don't lead, have failed to capitalize on the opportunities afforded to them.|
|6 STATEMENT A: There are some people in this world that will not like you, no matter what you do. STATEMENT B: If you have good interpersonal skills and know how to get along with others, then getting people to like you is not difficult at all.|
|7 STATEMENT A: If something is meant to happen, it will; there is little you can do to change it. STATEMENT B: You decide what will happen to you. You don't believe in fate.|
|8 STATEMENT A: If you are prepared for an interview, you increase your likelihood of doing well. STATEMENT B: There is no point preparing for an interview because the questions they ask are completely random and determined by whim.|
|9 STATEMENT A: To be successful in your career takes a lot of hard work and dedication, because effort is what makes the difference. STATEMENT B: It's who you know, not what you know, that determines how good a job you get.|
|10 STATEMENT A: One person can have an impact on government policy and decisions. STATEMENT B: Normal people can't do much to change the world; the elite and powerful make all the decisions.|
|11 STATEMENT A: If you set a reasonable goal, you can achieve it with hard work and commitment. STATEMENT B: There's no point in planning ahead or setting goals because too much can happen that you can't control.|
|12 STATEMENT A: Luck doesn't play a large role in getting what you want out of life. STATEMENT B: Life is like a game of chance. What you get or what happens to you is mostly a matter of fate.|
|13 STATEMENT A: Managers and supervisors got those positions by being in the right place and knowing the right people. STATEMENT B: To be a manager or supervisor you have to demonstrate that you know how to get things done through, and with, people.|
|14 STATEMENT A: Accidents or twists of fate are what really determine the course of a person's life. STATEMENT B: The notion that luck largely determines your life is a fallacy.|
|15 STATEMENT A: People have so many ulterior motives; it's impossible to determine who actually likes you and who doesn't. STATEMENT B: How you treat people largely determines whether they like you.|
|16 STATEMENT A: After all is said and done; the positives and negatives of life are basically half and half. STATEMENT B: When something negative happens it is usually a result of apathy, lack of knowledge, inability, or a combination of these.|
|17 STATEMENT A: Corruption in politics can be eliminated if we all put in enough effort. STATEMENT B: Once a politician is elected, there is little anyone can do to control him or her.|
|18 STATEMENT A: The assessments I get at work are completely at the whim of my supervisor; I don't understand them at all half the time. STATEMENT B: How hard I work and how much pride I take in my job largely determines the results of my performance assessment.|
|19 STATEMENT A: I often feel that I have little control over my life, and what happens to me. STATEMENT B: I don't believe that luck or chance play a large role in determining what happens in my life.|
|20 STATEMENT A: If you're lonely, it's because you don't try hard enough to get along with people and be friendly. STATEMENT B: Despite being friendly and pleasant, if someone doesn't like you, there's not much you can do to change his or her opinion.|
|21 STATEMENT A: The things that happen in your life are of your own doing. STATEMENT B: You don't have much control over what happens in life, or in the direction your life is headed.|
|22 STATEMENT A: Why politicians make the decisions they do is anybody's guess! STATEMENT B: The people are as much responsible for government decisions as the politicians themselves.|
Internal Locus of Control (strong)
Internal Locus of Control (moderate)
External Locus of Control
This assessment has not been validated and is intended for illustrative purposes only. It is patterned after the Locus of Control Scale developed and presented in Rotter, JB (1966), "Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement," Psychological Monographs, 80 (Whole No. 609).
Internal Locus of Control (strong)
If you have a strong internal locus of control, you will likely feel that you’re in full control of the events in your life. You are self-motivated and focused on achieving the goals you have set for yourself. For these reasons, people with a strong internal locus of control often make good leaders.
However, there is a potential downside to having a very strong internal locus of control. Your powerful self-belief may mean that you find it difficult to take direction, so be careful to avoid seeming arrogant or “walking over” other people in pursuit of your objectives. And be sure to manage risks properly – random events do occur for all sorts of reasons.
A very strong internal drive may lead you to believe that you can control everything, and if your plans don’t work out you may feel responsible for their failure – even when events were genuinely beyond your control. This can lead to frustration, anxiety and, in extreme cases, stress or depression.
Internal Locus of Control (moderate)
You likely see your future as being in your own hands. As a result, you engage in activities that will improve your situation: you work hard to develop your knowledge, skills and abilities, and you take note of information that you can use to create positive outcomes.
However, few people have a wholly internal or external locus of control: most of us fall somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum. Your locus of control may vary in different situations – at work and at home, for example – and it may change over time. People often tend toward a more internal locus of control as they grow older and their ability to influence the events in their lives increases.
Having a moderate, rather than strong, internal locus of control may make you more able to accept situations that you can’t influence, and to manage them effectively when they arise.
External Locus of Control
If you have an external locus of control, you likely believe that what happens to you is the result of luck or fate, or is determined by people in authority. You may tend to give up when life doesn’t “go your way,” because you don’t feel that you have the power to change it.
To overcome this, pay attention to your self-talk. When you hear yourself saying things like "I have no choice," or "There's nothing I can do," step back and remind yourself that you can always make choices. Set goals for yourself and note how you are making positive changes in your life by working toward and achieving these goals. You'll find that your self-confidence quickly builds.
You may find it useful to develop your decision making and problem solving skills. These tools can enable you to take greater ownership of situations, rather than blaming circumstances or forces “beyond your control” when things go wrong.
To learn more about your locus of control, and how to change it, read our article, Understanding Your Locus of Control.
Your locus of control says a lot about how you view the world and your role in determining the course of your life.
When you believe you have the power to control your own destiny and determine your own direction, you have a strong internal locus of control. In most cases, this is an important attitude to have if you want to be successful.
People with an internal locus of control tend to work harder and persevere longer in order to get what they want. This is not to say that having an external locus of control is always bad: there are some situations where this approach can work well. The key for your own personal development is to understanding your natural tendency and then adapting it to the situations you are faced with.
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