Is Locus Of Control Psychology Sabotaging You?

Locus of Control Psychology
Locus of Control Psychology

It’s my 43rd birthday, and I’m up at 4:30. Why so early?

One of my 2021 New Year’s resolutions was to get up at the same time every morning. Sticking with it has led to the best sleep I’ve gotten in 30 years.

Upon turning 43, gratitude for my increasing ability to stick to good habits leads me to today’s topic, locus of control psychology.

Sleep health is only one of the healthy habits I’m determined to maintain. Every birthday, I take some time to consider my goals and what success looks like for me.

Determination is a critical component in my ability to follow through with resolutions. 

“Locus of control psychology” explores how our understanding of control is a driving factor underlying our ability to maintain healthier lifestyles. 

A 2014 study examining locus of control psychology found a strong correlation between a person’s perspective on control and healthy habits. including:

  • Eating well 
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding excess alcohol  
  • Avoiding tobacco 

They concluded, “We find strong evidence that those with an internal locus of control eat healthier food, exercise more, and smoke less.”

The Basics of Locus of Control Psychology 

In Latin, the word locus means ‘place,’ or ‘location.’ The psychological concept of locus of control refers to who or what we believe controls our life experiences.

Do things happen to us, or do we make them happen? Does skill, or chance, dictate our success?

Do we reap what we sow? Or does what we reap depend on environmental factors outside of our control, such as seed quality, working conditions, or famine? 

Julian Rotter initially developed the concept of locus of control psychology in the 1950s. In this 1966 research article from Psychological Monographs, he explained his research in detail.

Locus of control psychology is our belief, attitude, or expectation, “regarding the causal relationship between one’s own behavior and its consequences.” 

Locus of control psychology presents us with two extremes: 

  • An internal locus of control holds that outcomes are due primarily to one’s personal efforts. 
  • An external locus of control holds that outcomes are due primarily to external factors. 

Identifying your Locus of Control

Researchers have developed many questions to help people understand which belief system most resembles theirs. For example: 

Do you agree or disagree with these statements? 

  • I have little control over things that happen to me. 
  • I can’t solve some of my problems. 
  • There is little I can do to alter many vital things in my life. 
  • I feel pretty helpless in dealing with problems 
  • I can’t do just about anything I try to achieve 
  • My future mostly does not depend on me. 

A person who largely agrees with these statements has an external locus of control perspective. Their tendencies may lean toward: 

  • Blaming others or outside forces 
  • Crediting chance or luck
  • Giving up when facing difficulty 

Those mainly disagreeing with the statements have an internal locus of control. Their tendencies lean toward: 

  • Being less influenced by the opinions of others
  • Taking responsibility for their own actions 
  • Working hard to achieve the things they want

Internal and external locus of control beliefs are on opposite ends of a continuum. Nobody is entirely in one camp or the other. 

Instead, our belief systems tend to put us somewhere in between.  

Locus of Control Psychology : Most of us have a mixture of internal and external LOC tendencies
Most of us have a mixture of internal and external LOC tendencies.
Image courtesy of Debt Discipline.

Why Should We Care about Locus of Control Psychology? 

Understanding the underlying factors governing our behaviors increases our ability to keep habits. How we perceive what controls our lives can support or sabotage our motivation, self-control, and self-discipline.

Which belief would result in more success at keeping habits seems evident at first glance. However, the data is inconclusive. 

For example, in the 2014 study quoted above, the researchers found strong correlations in the three categories of healthy food, regular exercise, and smoking less.

But the fourth one, moderate alcohol consumption, was an outlier. An internal locus of control perspective increased the likelihood of binge drinking. 

Early on the morning of my 43rd year of life, what does success look like to me? I know it includes healthy habits and healthy relationships.

Tomorrow’s post will look at internal versus external locus of control psychology – and how my changing beliefs have directly impacted my ability to stick to habits!

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