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What does locus of control mean? 

Locus of control is the extent to which we believe we can control different events in our lives. People can have an internal or an external locus of control. People who have an internal locus of control generally feel that they are in control of their lives and can control the outcomes of different situations. On the other hand, people who have an external locus of control may feel as though they cannot control their lives, and they tend to attribute their success and (often) failure to the events, situations, and people outside of them. Research suggests that people who have an external locus of control tend to experience clinically significant impairment and has been linked to anxiety and depression. 

How does my locus of control affect me?

Locus of control essentially means whether we feel we are able to change various outcomes of our lives. If we believe we change something, then we are more motivated to do it, and are more likely to try. For example, if someone has an internal locus of control and wants to start their own business, they may believe that they can, so they will feel motivated to do so. When people have an internal locus of control, they believe they are capable of success and believe they are also able to learn and grow from failure. If someone was to have an external locus of control and wanted to start a business, they may not feel it would be possible for them to start a business due to outside factors preventing them from doing so. When people have an external locus of control, they are less likely to feel motivated due to perceived hurdles and failures that are out of their control. This can often cause people to be hopeless about their future and that things can change. 

How can I increase my internal locus of control?

Having an external locus of control and developing a pessimistic outlook can be debilitating. Your therapist can help identify and challenge these unhelpful ways of viewing the world and how you experience life. Something you can do to begin increasing your internal locus of control is reevaluating where you placed blame. For instance, if you didn’t meet your goal, is it because that goal is impossible, or do you need to work harder at them? Another thing you can do is to learn to accept and embrace failure. Oftentimes failure is seen as evidence as to why a goal is impossible. However, failure should be seen as a learning opportunity to see what went wrong and what can be different moving forward. When you feel like you have control over a situation, you are more likely to change it. 

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.