When you performed poorly in your offline tests a few months ago, did you blame yourself or the difficulty of the paper? When you face various obstacles in your daily life, do you believe the outcome is entirely in your hands or is it largely dependent on external forces such as teammates, fate, luck, and so on?
In essence, the question is: who do you believe has authority over your life - you or someone else?
This system of belief is called the Locus of Control (LOC). It refers to the degree to which people believe they have control over the events that shape their lives.
It is represented by a spectrum that extends from external to internal.
The internal LOC refers to a situation in which an individual believes that their actions guide their behaviour, whereas the external LOC refers to a situation in which an individual believes that their behaviour is guided by external factors such as their co-workers, fate, or luck.
Interestingly, studies show that people with an internal LOC find greater satisfaction and success in almost all aspects of life (except nursing homes, where those with an internal LOC found it difficult to manage).
I used to have an external LOC and blame outside causes for the things that used to happen to me - using it as a defence mechanism of sorts. I found it much easier to blame something for my misfortunes than to look at myself, accept responsibility, and find a way to change that behaviour.
Even though it helped me lead a laid-back life, I realised that there was more to be desired, and that I could be a better version of myself. The LOC is a spectrum and not a set pattern - so one can always alter it. However, since the LOC consists of learned behaviours that are established over a long period of time, it takes a lot of determination to do so.
My first step was to accept myself for who I was, and that it was okay to not be at my desired destination. I had the choice to bring good or bad into the world, and it depended on my actions. Any situation that I would blame on an outside force, I redirected it to myself as my responsibility.
From my experience - for those trying the same, I would suggest doing your best, associating your good actions with yourself, and seeing everything else, including your mistakes, as "sometimes things go wrong."
We need to remember that chaos is the fundamental state of the universe. Like us, it also brings good or evil into the world - we are not to blame for it.
Eventually, I leaned towards an internal LOC and felt more responsible, accountable, determined, and in control than before.
I ensured that the next time I performed poorly in my exams, I wouldn’t lean towards an external LOC. Instead, I would analyse my mistakes via my newly acquired internal LOC, and hopefully, do better.
To summarise, the LOC is a simplistic approach to understanding and categorising oneself – external, internal, or a mixture of both. Everyone has a different approach to life and works in a different environment - there is no mandatory LOC one should follow; for those confused on which one to lean towards, I feel that the internal LOC is the way to go.