Dr Seuss, beloved children’s author, wrote, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”

Is that really possible? How much control do you believe you have over the events in your life? While some people do believe that they can steer themselves in any direction, many others believe that external factors like your environment and the people you interact with have a role to play.

This takes us to the concept of locus of control developed by American psychologist Julian B. Rotter in 1954. The concept of locus of control refers to people’s belief in how much control they wield over how their own lives will pan out. Rotter said that our locus of control ranges from internal to external in the context of past, present and future events.

Let’s look at the definition of locus of control and understand the distinction between internal and external locus of control.

What Is Locus Of Control?

To define locus of control, let’s take an example first.

  1. Many people credit their success to the people in their lives or their circumstances, many others believe that it’s because of their hard work and perseverance that they were able to do well.

Locus of control balances itself between these ends of the spectrum. No one end is better than the other, rather it depends on how much decision-making power you believe you hold. So a person who believes that hard work as well as some external factors came together to make them successful may be at a more balanced level and closer to the locus of control.

In the above example of locus of control, people who believe only their hard work paid off have a high internal locus of control, while the ones who believe other factors led to it lean towards external locus of control. Both categories of people are at two ends of a scale defined as internal and external.

Here’s another example:

  1. Say, you scored well in a competitive exam. Will you credit this success to your efforts? Or are you more inclined to believe that luck played a part in this? If you answered yes to the first question, you have strong internal control. But if you believe that you scored well because of luck or maybe because of your teachers’ efforts, you believe in external control.

Locus Of Control At The Workplace

The same concept applies in the professional realm too. Many people may believe that they don’t have much control over how their career progresses and it largely depends on the kind of mentors and opportunities they get along the way. Another set of people may believe that working hard consistently will pay off no matter what.

It can affect several aspects of your professional life. An example of locus of control is when you want to change jobs. If you leave it up to fate to get a call for an interview, you believe in an external locus of control, but if you trust in your abilities and take an initiative to apply at various places, you have a strong internal locus of control.

Even though most of us move between the two ends of the spectrum—internal and external—it’s important to rely more on an internal locus of control to make progress in your career. In the above example, the likelihood of getting a new job will be much higher for a person with a strong internal locus of control.

Here is how relying more on internal locus of control will help you move ahead on your career path:

  1. You will become goal-oriented because you will work hard to get where you want to be instead of relying on fate or someone else to help you advance.

  2. You will be willing to work hard to achieve your goals because you believe that only you can push yourself to keep moving ahead and won’t sit around waiting for external factors to help you.

  3. You will exceed expectations because you put in hard work, proactively built strong connections and did everything else it takes to thrive in your workplace.

  4. You will become an effective problem-solver because you will be able to assess situations and problems objectively and come up with creative solutions that satisfy the needs of all the stakeholders involved.

  5. You will be more open to new opportunities because you believe that you deserve them as opposed to feeling entitled and waiting for things to be handed over to you.

Owning your successes can help you acknowledge your efforts. On the other hand, feeling responsible for your failures will help you learn from them. Learning from your mistakes is one way to become a better version of yourself. An internal locus of control will help you find solutions to complex problems.

Harappa Education’s Creating Solutions course will teach you how to become an effective problem-solver. You’ll learn how to think about what you can do to find solutions instead of relying on external help. Strike a balance between your locus of control to get to the root cause of a challenge.


Explore topics such as Root Cause AnalysisRisk AssessmentBlack Swan EventsAction Plan, How to Make a Project Work Plan on the Harappa blog and find effective solutions to complex problems.

Related articles

Discover more from Harappa with a selection of trending blogs on the latest topics in online learning and career transformation