Locus of Control

I’m back! Did you miss me? It’s okay, I didn’t really miss me either. I just wanted a break. I was planning to write this post yesterday but after a 10-mile run with miss Sarah, the last thing I wanted to do was think or lift my fingers in a pecking motion.

So, Happy Monday! This is going to be a great post. Get ready.

What is a “Locus of Control”?

A big part of our experience is based on our interpretations. As a clinician, I operate from a cognitive-behavioral approach, which means in general I believe that our behaviors are linked to our thoughts. It goes kind of like this:

Event ———>Thought —–> Emotion ——-> Action

I’ll do a hypothetical situation for those who may want further explanation. For example:


You watch Katy Perry walk down the red carpet at the VMAs.


“Wow, she looks really good with blue hair. You know, I kind of have her bone structure. I could pull that off.”


I feel lonely lately and would love some more attention. Russell Brand seems to like it.


You dye your hair blue.

If you notice though, at any moment the thought could have been different, which could have influenced a different emotion, which may have caused a different action. You could have stopped yourself and said at the thought level, “Oh gosh, I’m not a celebrity. I probably shouldn’t dye my hair blue.”

A lot of our life is about how we perceive it to be and less about how it actually is. This is called our “phenomenological experience”. Basically, life is how it appears to you because honestly, no one really knows how it is because there’s no definitive way to interpret things. Sure there’s mass opinion, but that hasn’t always been the best thermometer for reality.

No, seriously. What is it?

Oh yeah, sorry. I had to explain myself before I explain myself. Anyway, what is a locus of control?

First, take this test.

The test is based off of Rotter’s work addressing how we interpret how much control we believe we have over our lives and what happens to us. Basically it’s fate versus willpower. How much do you control your experience and how much does it control you?

Now, my professional point-of-view is that it’s a mixed bag. You can’t control everything in life. Some things just happen. Cars crash. Lightning strikes. Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie have more children. Things just keep happening.

However, we do control our lives. We do have some say over what happens. We can influence events to an outcome we prefer. Some of us are born with less than ideal circumstances. Low socioeconomic status, bad parents, no parents, upper class, middle class, etc. Just like President Obama can come from a single-parent home and become president, someone with a perfect life can end up in the gutter. What’s the difference here?

It’s how much control we believe we have over our life outcome and circumstances. It’s how many tools we have at our disposal to change our situation in a way we want. It’s about resilience.

For example, one of the questions on the test says:

  • In the long run, people get the respect they deserve in this world.


  • Unfortunately, an individual’s worth often passes unrecognized no matter how hard he tries.

Basically it’s asking, “Do you believe what comes around goes around?”

Some people don’t believe in karma. They think sometimes there are just nice people in life who get crappy situations or there are jerks who get the best of everything. Maybe it’s true, but it’s unlikely. People are usually doormats because they don’t know how to stick up for themselves and demand better. They don’t get overlooked repeatedly by accident. They accept that they are overlooked and just deal or get over it.

Same with jerks. Jerks may be rich and have lots of houses or a great job. Often though, they are lonely, they have terrible interpersonal relationships, and everyone hates them.

So, how much are you in control? When something crappy happens to you, who/what do you blame? How do you think this plays into your life?

Author: Jennifer Bingaman Mazur

I like writing about what I think about what I think. I also like writing about what other people think and what I think about that. Yes? Yes.

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