External vs. internal locus of control

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External and Internal Locus of Control, as identified by Julian Rotter in the 1950s, can be defined as the way in which an individual accounts for the successes and failures he experiences. If he bases his success on his own hard work and intrinsic motivation, he is exhibiting an Internal Locus of Control.

If, however, he attributes his success or failure to outside influences, he is exhibiting an External Locus of Control.

Benefits of Internal LOC

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Individuals who identify with an Internal Locus of Control tend to take more responsibility for their actions, good and bad. For example, if a person is late for work, she will easily admit that she should have left earlier in order to be on time, rather than blame forces such as weather and traffic. This type of individual is often more punctual, and more intrinsically driven to complete tasks to a higher standard than an individual with an External Locus of Control. She is often dependable, and self-motivated and likely to be ambitious and successful.

Benefits of External LOC

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An individual with an External Locus of Control is often seen as humble and agreeable. She may often share praise with those around her who really did very little to help out with a given project. This type of individual, while taking little credit for successes or failures, can be laid-back and enjoy a happy, relaxed life.

Drawbacks to Internal LOC

One significant drawback to having an Internal Locus of Control is the ambition itself. These individuals may be seen as arrogant, unreasonable perfectionists who often require the same level of effort and accomplishment from others that they do from themselves. A person with an Internal Locus of Control can also push himself to the point of ill health and psychological instability.

Drawbacks to External LOC

Those with an External Locus of Control are many times described as whiny and tend to excuse bad behaviour by pointing to outside influences. A person who is late to a meeting, for example, may blame the weather, traffic, road-construction, or any number of external factors. Individuals with an External Locus of Control also exhibit lower levels of self-motivation and are not as likely to achieve the same levels of success as those with an Internal Locus of Control.

External Vs. Internal

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So which type of Locus of Control is better? The answer depends on what your individual long term goal may be. Once you have established what your ideal lifetime outcome might be, then you can start to determine which Locus of Control can help you to achieve that outcome. Remember that Locus of Control is a means of identifying the way a person already characterises the influences of successes and failures and is not necessarily something that can be traded or unlearned. In the end, it really boils down to a fundamental and individual belief concerning the nature of control.