For a lot of people, things happen to them. They feel that most things are beyond their control. They refuse to acknowledge responsibility for their lives and blame other people for their problems. On the other hand, there are some people who make things happen. They believe they can determine their future. A simple concept called Locus of Control nicely brings out this difference.
Let’s say Rajesh has an exam and starts from his house in the morning in his two-wheeler. He is a bit tense about the exam and is therefore absent-minded while riding. He jumps a red light and gets stopped and ticketed by a policeman. His exam does not go too well as he is mentally disturbed. Moreover, his strategy of selective studying backfires as more questions come from the chapters he skipped!
Rajesh comes home and starts thinking back on his day. “The cops don’t catch the ‘real’ culprits” he thinks. They pick on two-wheelers like us instead of catching the bigger culprits such as buses and autos. “It was a tough paper” he decides. “The teacher didn’t warn us!” referring to the chapters he skipped during selective study. And finally he concludes that he is plain unlucky. Let’s say Rajesh’s friend Sudhir also has an exactly similar experience that day where he too gets caught by a cop and also fares badly in this exam. However, Sudhir’s reactions are quite different. “I messed up” he tells himself referring to his lack of adequate preparation for the exam. He vows to do better next time. “I need to be more careful when riding” he ponders realizing how dangerous it can be to jump lights especially if one is absent-minded.
It’s interesting to note how the same scenario results in totally opposite reactions depending on attitude and where the locus of control resides. For Rajesh, he has more external locus of control and does not take responsibility for this actions. He blames the cop, his teacher and the tough paper for his bad luck. On the other hand, Sudhir has an internal locus of control and is ready to take responsibility for his actions. And because he does so, he is able to make changes and improve his performance next time.
We often hear statements which clearly point towards an external locus. “I got it from my parents” (don’t tell me to change!); “Yes, I have a short fuse (don’t tell me to keep calm!); "The economy is bad” (don’t blame me for not meeting my numbers!) – the list is long. So next time you justify something to someone or even to yourself, ask yourself whether you are taking responsibility for your actions and displaying more internal locus of control.
If you want to assess your locus of control, take the test here.