What is Your Locus of Control?

“Locus of control” refers to where an individuals control over their life comes from.  It relates to their ability to make changes in life.  Is control over your life internally generated?  Or is it reliant upon external forces?

As Witnesses, we were encouraged to have an external locus of control.  What were you taught to do when you have a problem?  Were you taught to analyze and develop skills to overcome it?  OR were you taught to pray and let it be in gods hands?  Most likely you were taught to pray and read the bible when confronted with difficulties.

This is a passive way of approaching the world.  Pray and wait and see what happens.  If external circumstances happen to be such that it gets better or that what you want happens to happen then good.  If not then it was not God’s will.  You might remember people saying, “Jehovah willing…” This is along the same lines of thought.

Having an internal locus of control is basically the opposite.  You believe that you can develop skills and put in the effort to affect your life.  You believe that you have the power to make changes!  As you’re probably already aware this is not something that comes naturally to former Jehovah’s Witnesses.

We can examine this a bit further in terms of the JW experience.  When something good happens to a JW they are expected to say that it was God’s will or spirit that caused the desired outcome. Giving yourself credit for the outcome is viewed as arrogant or “haughtiness”.  When something bad happens it is viewed as the result of it not being God’s will or as an attack from the devil.  All of these perspectives reflect an external locus of control.

Conversely, when someone has an internal locus of control they view events much differently.  When something good happens they view it has the result of ability and effort.  When something bad happens they view it as the result of a lack of ability or effort.  Effort and ability are something that you can control and improve upon.

What is the difference between these two perspectives?  Well if you have an internal control you have the opportunity to analyze and make changes so as to produce the results you want.  When you have an internal locus of control and something good happens it will build our self-esteem.  When something bad happens you can develop yourself so as to improve results.  When you have an external locus of control and something good happen the credit is given away and you don’t develop self-esteem.  Additionally, when something bad happens you give credit to external factors which you don’t control.  When you do that you lose the ability to make changes or affect your situation.

Do you find yourself having a passive external locus of control?  Have you been able to change that and make meaningful improvements to your life?  Let me know!

For further reading check out:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locus_of_control

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Published by Ryan David Tuttle

PhD Graduate student studying Behavioral Neuroscience, Addiction, Stress, Behavioral Economics, and Individual Differences. Former member Ministerial Servant and Pioneer in a Spanish speaking congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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