Take Ownership

2 09 2014

When it comes to making a life change, your perspective as to who exactly is in control can make a huge difference on the outcome. For example, if something goes well, like getting an award for achievements at work, is that due to YOUR efforts, or something outside of your control (i.e. luck, support of others, etc.)? Your perspective is what determines your “locus of control”…which is just a fancy way of saying whether you believe you are in control, or someone/something else is at the steering wheel.  

In take-ownershipgeneral, individuals with an internal locus of control are inquisitive, and try to figure out why things turned out the way they did. They engage in activities that will improve their situation and emphasize putting their best foot forward on order to achieve their goals. These folks are also more likely to take responsibility for their actions and tend to be less influenced by the opinions of other people. Some other interesting facts are that those with an internal focus tend to be physically healthier, are more confident when faced with a challenge, and report being happier overall.

If we look at the other side of the coin, those who have a primarily external locus of control, or those who attribute success or failure to factors they cannot directly influence, are prone to blame outside forces for their circumstances. They frequently feel hopeless or powerless in the face of difficult situations. These folks often credit luck or chance for any successes and don’t believe that they can change their situation through their own efforts.

So I am sure you are now asking yourself, where do I fall on this spectrum? Do I have an “internal” or “external” locus of control?

Read through the statements below and select the set that best describes your outlook on life:

Outlook 1                                                                                                 

  • I often feel that I have little control over my life and what happens to me.
  • It isn’t worth setting goals or making plans because too many things can happen that are outside of my control.
  • Life is a game of chance.
  • Individuals have little influence over the events of the world.

Outlook 2

  • If you work hard and commit yourself to a goal, you can achieve anything.
  • There is no such thing as fate or destiny.
  • Luck has little to do with success; it’s mostly a matter of dedication and effort.
  • In the long run, people tend to get what they deserve in life.

If the statements of Outlook 1 best reflect your view on life, then your locus of control is primarily external.

If the statements of Outlook 2 best reflect your outlook on life, then you likely have an internal locus of control.

Even if the results of that little quiz led you to Outlook 2, a more external perspective, there are always ways to improve your viewpoint. Here are some simple ideas:

  1. Realize that you always have choice to change your situation. Even if you don’t like the choices available at the moment, even if the only change you can make is in your attitude, you always have some control.
  2. When you feel trapped, make a list of all possible courses of action. Just brainstorm and write things down without evaluating them first. Thinking “out loud” and without judgment can often lead to some new ideas.
  3. You may want to also brainstorm with a friend to get more ideas that you may not have initially considered. Don’t shoot down these ideas right away, either; just write them down.
  4. When you have a list, evaluate each one and decide on the best course of action for you, and keep the others in the back of your mind as alternative options. You may end up with the same answer you had before the brainstorming session, but this exercise can open your eyes to the amount of choices you have in a given situation. Seeing new possibilities will become more of a habit.
  5. Repeat this practice when you feel trapped in frustrating situations in your life. Hopefully, it will lead you to less anxiety and stress over everyday life happenings.controtake l


  1. Notice your language and self-talk (or the dialogue that goes through your head, especially during difficult situations). If you tend to speak in absolutes (i.e. always and never), try to rephrase things in a more open and understanding manner.
  2. Phase out phrases like, ‘I have no choice’, and, ‘I can’t”. You can replace them with, ‘I choose not to,’ or, ‘I don’t like my choices’. Realizing and acknowledging that you always have choice (even if the choices aren’t ideal) can help you to change your situation, or accept it more easily if it really is the best of all available options.
  3. Your attitude affects your stress level more than you may realize. Try to manage your stress with deep breathing, exercise, relaxation exercises, or spending time with positive people who support you.

 headshot croppedby Stephanie R. McWilliams, M.A., Health Behavior Coach 









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