How Attitude Shapes Success

The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.” – Charles R. Swindoll

One crucial part of our attitudes, and the way react to the things that happen in our life, is what we call the Locus of Control. Locus of control is the extent to which you feel that you have control over the events in your life. When you take a few moments to understand the locus of control, it can be very enlightening as it can provide you with some crucial answers that will help you understand how and why certain things unfold the way they do in your life.

There are two types of locus of control: external and internal.

Individuals who possess an external locus of control believe that they have very little to no control over what happens to them, and tend to blame outside forces for the events and experiences in their lives. These are the people who will believe that they are “lucky” if something good happens to them, or believe that “fate” was the driving force that led something to happen. Those with an external locus of control almost always think that they don’t have what it takes to change their own situations and are merely passive recipients of life happening to them.

On the other hand, those with an internal locus of control are those who believe that they are the masters of their own ship. They are empowered to take control of their lives, knowing that they are the largest force in determining their own progress and success. These people have a strong sense of self-efficacy, and feel confident that they are able to achieve what they set out to through hard work and determination. They are often more independent and self-starting, and able to take initiative for things using a proactive stance rather than reactive.

What kind of locus of control do you have?

Take a look at the below 2 sets of statements, and take a moment to decide which set of statements most applies to you:

Set 1

No matter how hard I work, I can’t seem to get ahead

Individuals have little influence over how they change the world.

It is a waste of time to set goals because so many things can happen that will make me fail in achieving them.

Some people are more lucky than others.





Set 2

You can achieve anything you put your mind to with hard work.

Studying hard and being well-prepared will be what makes me do well on my exams.

People get what they deserve in life.

If you work hard and maintain focus on your goal, you can achieve it.

If you identified more with first set of statements, you may have more of an external locus of control. You may believe that you have little control or impact on what happens to you in your life. If you identified more with the second set of statements, you likely have an internal locus of control, and believe that you have the power to impact and control most factors in your own life.

While there is no “right” locus of control to have, you may be able to notice that many of the statements that represent an external locus of control can tend to be on the negative side, while the internal locus of control statements are more positive and empowering. The external statements can tend to make someone feel stuck or helpless, while the internal statements clear the path for a way forward. It is my belief that those who have an internal locus of control are more successful and happy in the long run than those who have an external focus of control.

You may feel that you identified with statements in both sets of statements. That’s OK. Sometimes we do get into situations where we feel that we are at the will of the world, and that oftentimes the world can work against us. In fact, there are many events or experiences that are completely out of our control. We cannot control illness, major world disasters, or events outside our scope. It would be naïve to think that one person can stop things from happening, as the world is a powerful place. What we can do is control our reaction to the things that happen around us. As Mr. Charles Swindoll stated in our opening quotation, life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.

We ARE the masters of our own ships!

In a follow up post, I will discuss more about the internal locus of control and how you can work to move your locus of control from external to internal in order to take control of your own life and chart your own course rather than just sitting back and letting things happen to you.