Mastering Your Fate: Moving from External to Internal Locus of Control for Personal Growth – S2E7

In the realm of personal development, understanding the dynamics between an internal and external locus of control can be a game-changer. Initially introduced by psychologist Dr. Julian Rotter in the 1950s, the concept revolves around our perception of control over our lives. Do we see our achievements and failures as a result of our actions (internal locus of control), or do we attribute them to external circumstances or fate (external locus of control)? This differentiation is not just academic; it has profound implications for how we approach life, challenges, and personal growth.

Your Locus of Control impacts your growth.

Understanding Locus of Control

To put it simply, if you align more with an internal locus of control, you believe that your efforts, decisions, and actions shape your life’s outcomes. Conversely, with an external locus of control, you might feel at the mercy of external forces, whether it’s luck, destiny, or the decisions of others.

Let’s visualize this concept through a practical scenario: consider two individuals vying for a promotion. One believes that their hard work, contributions, and self-improvement efforts will earn them the promotion. This person operates from an internal locus of control, viewing their success as directly influenced by their actions. The other, however, might think the outcome hinges on factors like office politics or luck – a perspective rooted in an external locus of control.

Why Embracing an Internal Locus of Control Matters

Embracing an internal locus of control empowers you. It encourages accountability, resilience, and a proactive stance towards life’s challenges. It instigates a belief in your ability to influence outcomes, fostering a growth mindset that’s invaluable for personal development. Conversely, an overemphasis on external locus of control can trap you in victimhood, promoting passivity and a sense of powerlessness that stymies growth.

Transitioning towards an Internal Locus of Control

The journey from an external to an internal locus of control begins with self-awareness. Recognize instances where you might be deflecting responsibility or attributing outcomes solely to external factors. This recognition is the first step towards recalibrating your mindset.

Language Matters: Language profoundly impacts our beliefs. Reframing statements from “I can’t” to “I choose not to” or shifting from “I don’t have time” to “I will make time” can reinforce a sense of control. This linguistic shift prompts a more intentional approach to choices and challenges, underscoring that we have more control over our circumstances than we might initially believe.

Embracing Accountability: Integral to an internal locus of control is the willingness to own your actions and their outcomes. This doesn’t mean discounting the influence of external factors; rather, it’s about focusing on what you can control. It entails a commitment to learning from failures rather than being defined by them.

Goal Setting and Active Pursuit: Setting clear, actionable goals and actively working towards them reinforces the internal locus of control. It demonstrates a belief in one’s agency and the direct impact of one’s actions on achieving desired outcomes.

Seeking Feedback and Support: Sometimes, shifting towards an internal locus of control requires external support. Engaging mentors, coaches, or supportive communities who can provide honest feedback and encouragement can be instrumental. They can help you recognize blind spots in your approach and reinforce the capacity for change and growth within you.

The Role of Resilience: Embracing an internal locus of control is inherently tied to resilience. It’s about bouncing back from setbacks with the conviction that persistence and effort can ultimately lead to success. This resilience is pivotal, not just for personal growth, but for navigating life’s inherent unpredictability with grace and determination.

In Conclusion

The distinction between an internal and external locus of control offers valuable insights for anyone on a personal development journey. While it’s crucial to acknowledge the role of external factors, embracing an internal locus of control empowers us to take charge of our lives. It fosters accountability, resilience, and a proactive approach to challenges, laying the foundation for meaningful growth and fulfillment. In essence, shifting towards an internal locus of control is about recognizing our capacity to shape our destiny through the choices we make and the actions we take. Cultivating this mindset can significantly enhance our quality of life, promoting a sense of empowerment and achievement in the pursuit of personal excellence.

Harnessing the Power of Internal Locus of Control for Personal Growth

In today’s fast-paced world, personal development and growth have taken center stage in many people’s lives, seeking ways to improve themselves and enhance their quality of life. One critical concept that holds significant sway in the realm of personal growth is the understanding of locus of control—specifically, the distinction between having an internal versus an external locus of control. This notion isn’t just a fancy psychological term; it’s the cornerstone of how we perceive and interact with our surroundings, challenges, and opportunities.

The theory of locus of control was introduced in the 1950s by psychologist Dr. Julian Rotter. It explores the degree to which individuals believe they have control over the outcomes of events in their lives. Those with an external locus of control see their lives as being primarily influenced by external forces such as fate, luck, or the actions of others. On the flip side, individuals with an internal locus of control believe that they are the architects of their own destiny, and that their actions directly influence the outcomes they experience.

Understanding where you stand on this spectrum is not just academic; it’s a fundamental aspect of enhancing personal accountability, resilience, and ultimately, success. Individuals with a predominantly internal locus of control are more likely to take proactive steps towards their goals, face challenges head-on, and persevere in the face of adversity. They embody the belief that through hard work, dedication, and a bit of self-reflection, it’s possible to achieve their aspirations.

Consider the workplace scenario of two employees vying for a promotion: one attributes their potential success or failure to their effort and contributions, while the other sees the outcome as a result of external factors like favoritism or luck. The former, operating from an internal locus of control, is more likely to engage in behaviors that increase their chances of success, such as seeking feedback, improving their skills, and taking on challenging projects. The latter, with an external locus of control, may resign themselves to the belief that their actions have little impact on the result, potentially leading to decreased motivation and effort.

Shifting from an external to an internal locus of control isn’t about denying the role of external factors in our lives. Indeed, unforeseeable events and circumstances can and do influence outcomes. However, adopting a more internal locus allows us to focus on the elements we can control—our reactions, our efforts, and our strategies—and to take ownership of our part in navigating life’s complexities.

So, how can one foster a stronger internal locus of control? Start with self-awareness. Reflect on situations where you’ve felt at the mercy of external forces, and consider how reframing your perspective to focus on your own role and choices could have altered the outcome. Language plays a crucial role in this shift; instead of saying, “I can’t do this because…”, try, “I can overcome this if I…”. This subtle change in dialogue reinforces the belief in personal agency and responsibility.

Goal setting is another powerful tool. By setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) goals, you’re outlining a roadmap for success that is within your control. Each small victory along the way builds confidence in your ability to influence outcomes, further reinforcing an internal locus of control.

Seek feedback and be open to learning. Part of believing in your ability to impact your life is accepting that there is always room for growth. Constructive feedback from trusted peers, mentors, or coaches can provide invaluable insights into how you can improve and adapt—a key trait of those with an internal locus of control.

Finally, surround yourself with individuals who embody the qualities associated with an internal locus of control. Positivity, resilience, and a proactive attitude are infectious. Being around people who take ownership of their lives and face challenges with determination can inspire you to do the same.

Embracing an internal locus of control isn’t about becoming impervious to life’s uncertainties or denying the influence of external factors. It’s about recognizing your power to shape your journey, learning from both successes and setbacks, and taking proactive steps towards the life you aspire to lead. In doing so, you’re not only setting the stage for personal achievement and fulfillment but also cultivating a mindset that will, indeed, help you be better tomorrow.
The Concept of Locus of Control: Shaping Your Destiny Through Belief and Action

In the realm of personal development, one theory stands out for its profound implications on how we perceive our ability to shape our destinies: the locus of control concept. Originally developed in the 1950s by psychologist Dr. Julian Rotter, this concept explores the degree to which individuals believe that they have power over the events in their lives. Understanding whether you have an internal or external locus of control can significantly impact your personal growth journey. By delving into this concept, we can discover effective strategies to navigate life’s challenges and embrace a more empowered and proactive approach to achieving our goals.

The essence of locus of control lies in whether you attribute the outcomes of your life to your own efforts and actions (internal locus of control) or to external factors such as fate, luck, or the actions of others (external locus of control). This perception influences how we approach challenges, set goals, and respond to setbacks. Individuals with an internal locus of control tend to believe they can influence the events in their lives through their actions, leading to a more proactive and self-determined approach to life. Conversely, those with an external locus of control often feel at the mercy of external circumstances, which can lead to feelings of powerlessness and resignation.

Understanding our locus of control is not merely an academic exercise; it has practical implications for daily life. For instance, in professional settings, two employees up for a promotion might view their chances differently. One might believe their promotion is a direct result of their hard work and contributions (internal locus of control), while the other might attribute the outcome to office politics or favoritism (external locus of control). These beliefs significantly influence their motivation, job satisfaction, and future career aspirations.

Similarly, in personal health and finance, individuals with an internal locus of control might take proactive steps to improve their circumstances, such as adopting healthier eating habits or creating a budget. On the other hand, those with an external locus of control might resign themselves to what they perceive as their fate, blaming genetics for health issues or economic conditions for financial struggles.

Fortunately, our locus of control is not set in stone. By consciously shifting our mindset from external to internal, we can take greater control of our lives and pursue our goals with confidence and persistence. Here are a few strategies to cultivate an internal locus of control:

  1. Practice Self-Reflection: Regularly assess your reactions to different situations. Ask yourself whether you’re attributing your successes or failures to your actions or to external factors. Self-awareness is the first step in shifting your mindset.
  2. Adopt Empowering Language: How we talk about our experiences can reinforce our beliefs. Instead of saying “I can’t,” say “I choose not to” or “I haven’t yet learned how.” This subtle shift in language reminds us of our agency in our lives.
  3. Set Specific, Achievable Goals: Setting and achieving goals, even small ones, can reinforce the belief in our ability to influence our destiny. Celebrate these achievements as evidence of your agency.
  4. Focus on What You Can Control: While it’s true that we can’t control everything that happens to us, we can control how we respond. Concentrate on the aspects of your life you can influence and take action on those.
  5. Seek Feedback and Support: Surround yourself with individuals who encourage and support your efforts to take control of your life. A mentor or coach can provide valuable feedback and encouragement.

By embracing an internal locus of control, we acknowledge our role in creating our destinies. This doesn’t mean ignoring the impact of external factors; rather, it involves focusing on our capacity to respond to these factors effectively. As we cultivate this mindset, we enhance our resilience, achieve our goals more consistently, and lead more fulfilling lives. Remember, the journey of personal growth is ongoing. Each day presents a new opportunity to reinforce our belief in our ability to shape our destinies through conscious choice, effort, and action.


Hi everybody, welcome back to the Be Better Tomorrow podcast. I’m Jason Fisher, your host, looking to guide you through a personal growth process to help you find something today that will help you be better tomorrow. In getting back to some of the basics of personal development and growth, we’re going to talk today about internal versus external locus of control. Fancy words, what do they mean? Well, it’s just a matter of whether you believe things that happen to you are a result of circumstance, fate, kismet, whatever you may call it, or if the things that happen to you are a result of the work that you do to accomplish them. In the personal growth world, it’s really important to have some feeling of control. But I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. This theory was originally developed back in the 1950s by Dr. Julian Rotter. It was part of a larger scale of self-evaluations that were used. We’re just really going to focus on the locus of control aspect for today.

So let’s think about a couple of examples to help you understand what I’m talking about. Think of work. You might have two people up for promotion at work, and one of them thinks that the work that they’ve done is what’s going to determine whether or not they get promoted. The kind of work they’ve done in the past, the impacts they’ve had on projects, previous reviews that they’ve gotten, whereas the other person may think it’s all nepotism. They really don’t have any control over it. It’s their boss’s whim or the relationship their boss has with somebody else that’s going to make them not get the promotion. And usually it’s associated with negative cases. You don’t really find people with the external locus of control looking things at a positive light as if fate is on their side. It usually seems like it’s a place to put the blame.

I was like this in school, I’ll be honest. I blamed my teachers a lot. They didn’t like me, so they didn’t give me the good grades. I was a smart kid, but school bored the tar out of me, and so it was really hard for me to study things I didn’t care about. And I didn’t recognize, at least I didn’t want to recognize, that if I did study hard or put any level of effort into it, I’d have gotten great grades. But it was just that way I shifted blame outside of myself that made me feel better about myself.

You may also know these kind of people in the health or finance space, where it’s a little more objective. If you’re overweight and you’re not healthy, you might blame it on genetics, you might blame it on being big-boned, as we used to say, but if you’re eating processed crap all day long and never getting out of your chair from watching Netflix, that’s on you. But we like to have that external locus to blame the rest of the world so we can feel like we’re the victim. It makes us not feel so responsible for our actions.

Now in reality, this isn’t a binary. It’s not that we all think 100% internally or 100% externally. It’s a bit of a spectrum. We tend to shift blame in one direction or another based on how competent we feel we are. So that gets into the self-efficacy theory, I don’t know why I stumble over that word so much, but I always do, self-efficacy, basically how competent you think you are, how capable you are of accomplishing a particular goal. You may know that you can do exercises and gain muscle mass, but not feel that you’re competent to come up with the exercise plan to actually make it happen or to be able to follow through with it if you do come up with the plan.

In the area of personal development, you may notice when you’re on one side of the spectrum or the other by how much you think your efforts will improve your outcomes. If you feel connected to perseverance, resilience, and personal accountability, you’re operating in an internal locus of control. It’s internal to yourself. The outcome is based on what you do. If you’re thinking about fate or luck or feeling challenges of powerlessness or not being motivated towards your personal goals because why, why should you bother, you’re not going to ever accomplish those things, then you’re probably dealing with something external.

If you really want to improve, if you really want to take control of your life and do something differently and be better tomorrow, then you’re going to have to work on moving towards the internal locus of control side of the equation. Simply sitting back and hoping that things work out for you is never going to be a good path to success.

Now I will grant, of course, there are things outside of your control. Things will happen in life that you cannot get around. Bad things will come, circumstances will change, you will fail at something through no fault of your own. The difference is you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and give up in that circumstance. You move on. Again, we’re talking about growth mindset in the previous weeks. You understand that failure happens, you learn from it, and you step up and you do it again knowing that by trying hard and persevering, success will come because it’s not simply outside of your control. There’s no karma that’s going to keep beating you down because of what you did in a previous life. You can change that with the actions you take today.

Well, that leads to the question then, what can you do in order to change from an external to an internal locus of control? You can watch your language for the first thing. There’s a lot of connection when you look at neuro-linguistic programming and other concepts that what you say impacts the way you think. When you use phrases like, “There’s nothing I can do,” “I have no choice,” “It’s out of my hands,” you’re enforcing that external control mindset. “There’s nothing I can do.” You will begin to actually believe that, whereas if you take control of what you say, like we don’t say in our house we don’t have the money for that, we will say we’re choosing to spend our money somewhere else, or “I don’t have time,” “I don’t make time for that.” By changing the dialogue that you use, you’re reminding yourself that you do have control over the situation, and it will actually make you more intentional to make the choices that would lead to the outcomes you want to have.

If you’ve got goals in mind you’re trying to accomplish, but you spend six hours a night watching Netflix, well, obviously you’re going to say, “Well, I just don’t have time for that.” You know it’s just not true when you step back and look. Start by saying, “I just don’t make time for that.” Well, if that’s something you really want to make time for, by using that language you’ll start to want to change your actions, because you don’t want that thing to be true. Then when you start to change your action, give up the nonsense that you’re doing to really focus on the important things, you’ll start to realize, “Oh, I do have time for that, and I’m taking control back of my life.”

This all comes back to being accountable. If you have a strong internal locus of control, you’re more inclined to take responsibility, because you know how much control you have in a situation. If you’re external, you’re going to have to maybe get some help with that. Get somebody who can hold you accountable by asking the tough questions of, “Did you do everything you could have done in that situation? Where did you fail yourself? What was inside of your control that you didn’t take advantage of?” That’ll help you to start to realize that, yeah, I probably didn’t do everything I could have done. I need to take responsibility for that. Own it and move forward.

At the end of the day, if you don’t want to change anything, you’re happy with where you are in a victim mentality. I don’t know why you’re listening to this show, but if you are the kind of person who wants to change things, wants to take control of your life, understanding this dimension of your personality is really important. Thinking about whether or not you blame other people, blame other things, or whether you take responsibility for where you can and own it and then change it to move forward, that really determines whether or not you’ve got an opportunity to be better tomorrow.

All right, we’ve got our listener question of the week. This one doesn’t have a name on it, just an email, and I’m not giving you guys their email, so here you go. After listening to your insights on handling disagreement, particularly focusing on understanding differing facts and priorities, I’m intrigued by the concept of fighting for relationships over winning arguments. In a world quick to divide, this approach seems vital. How do you recommend initiating these conversations, especially in emotionally charged environments, to ensure they lead to growth rather than conflict?

That is a wonderful question, and I wish I had a short answer. I developed this theory, I got the quote from somebody else, but developed the theory with my wife over, so far, 21 years. Unfortunately, early on in our marriage, there’s a lot more heat and passion and arguing when you’re young and just figuring things out, and I think what we would do, and hopefully this works, is have the meta-conversation, the conversation about the conversation, as it were. “Hey, I’m not trying to cause a fight. I’m really trying to understand. Could you hear me out on this and give me some room to process out loud?” Things like that, prefaced on the conversation with honesty, this works well with people you know and trust. It doesn’t work so well, necessarily, with a stranger on the internet. I’ve just never had any success with it, honestly. I try to disengage from those conversations as quickly as I can. Even if it’s a friend of a friend, it’s not the format.

Let’s assume it’s in person at work, somebody you’ve got a relationship with, or at least you can trust is operating in good faith. You can start by having some of those, “Okay, I’m not trying to catch you when I got you. I’m asking to clarify your point so I can really understand it,” or “What I’m hearing you say is,” some of those active listening techniques really help the person understand or feel like they’re being heard. I really like, “Let me say this back to you in my own words to make sure that I understand it.” That way it puts any misunderstanding on you and doesn’t put them on the defensive because when you say, “Well, did you just say,” and now they’re defensive, but “Okay, so let me say this back to you in my own words to make sure I understand it.” Now it’s on me to make sure that the conversation is going smoothly, so if I misunderstand, they can blame me, and I’m not blaming them, and I’m already in a position to stay humble, and it helps to work that out.

Sometimes if the conversation is already at that emotional point, you just have to walk away for a few minutes. Agree to walk away, calm down, and come back where you can come at it with fresh eyes. You know, if it’s a work situation, sometimes you might have to bring in a mediator, somebody else to say, “Hey, help us work this out because we’re just not coming to the same page.” When I worked as a consultant, oftentimes this was just my job. It’s not that the companies we were brought into were incompetent in any way. They’re great, competent people, but sometimes you just need a third party to tell you what the right thing to do was, break disagreements, or get an objective outsider’s perspective. I’m not saying you need to do that in every relationship you have. Operating in good faith, I think having the meta-conversation, and just trying to be transparent with your approach. Oftentimes when emotions are high, people suspect a trap, like you’re trying to get them backed into a corner so you can say, “I got you now,” and that’s not what you’re trying to do, I hope, and if you are, you’re totally in the wrong mode.

As an unknown listener, I hope that gives you a good answer, things to try out. You can, obviously, use active listening, have the meta-conversation, set the tone for the conversation, and hopefully that gives you what you need.

That’s all the time we have for today, folks. If you would like to find out more about Be Better Tomorrow, you can head over to where you can find all of our social media links, links to the store, information about me, previous podcasts and articles that have been written, and here’s what I’m going to ask you to do. Please, please, please, share the show. Share the show with somebody you love, share the show with somebody you hate and you think could stand to learn how to disagree better. That’s fine with me, I don’t care, as long as people listen. Working really hard to make this show successful, to make it something that will help everybody who listens. I’ll talk to you next week. Until next time, I hope you found something here today that will help you be better tomorrow.

Be Better Tomorrow is released under a Creative Commons 3.0 share-alike attribution license, which means you can use this show or clips of it for anything you like as long as you give us credit and you aren’t doing it for commercial purposes. The music you’re hearing now is by Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech, also released under a Creative Commons share-alike license. All the information about this show and others can be found at and I hope, as always, you’ll find something to help you be better tomorrow.

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