Your locus of control is simply your belief system, it’s what you attribute your experiences, your successes and failures to. Now, you can have either an internal or an external locus of control: individuals with an internal locus of control attribute their successes and failures to their efforts and are generally more motivated. Those with an external locus of control, on the other hand, believe that luck or fate controls what happens to them; these individuals aren’t as driven and are less likely to put in the effort to succeed. Differences between the two are further illustrated in a poem by Rupi Kaur, which is featured in her book Milk and Honey:

    “You said, if it is meant to be, fate will bring us back together. For a second I wondered if […] you really believed fate worked like that. As if it lived in the sky staring down at us. As if it was not already within us. As if fate was not the choices we make. As if it had five fingers and it spent its time placing us like pieces of chess […] Who convinced you you’d been given a heart and a mind but it wasn’t yours to use. That your actions did not define what would become of you.”

The narrator has an internal locus of control, whereas she believes she’s in control of her own destiny and is driven to action. The other character, however, places all of his eggs in the basket of fate; he doesn’t consider that his own actions may steer the direction of his life. This juxtaposition shows how having an internal locus of control can be more beneficial; in fact, researchers have found that those who possess an internal locus of control are generally better off: they are more achievement-oriented and get better paying jobs. This is good news for the go-getters—but what happens if you lose that center of control? Maybe you’re sent off track by an unexpected loss or setback at work. How do you bounce back? Follow these tips to reclaim your internal locus of control:

  • Recognize your power. As someone who has fostered an internal locus of control before, you know that you can control your thoughts and actions. However, you have to remember that you are not in control of others’ thoughts and actions. Your actions may influence your environment and those around you, but you cannot directly control them. So, continue to focus on being proactive, but don’t let external factors get you down.
  • Refine your decision-making and problem-solving skills. Back to the basics—sometimes it takes revisiting the decision-making and problem-solving skills you’ve developed over time, which are the basis for your internal locus of control. Remind yourself of the process you go through to make good decisions and successfully solve or even prevent potential problems. This will rebuild your confidence and self-awareness.
  • Relearn how your actions directly affect your life. When your internal locus of control is thrown off balance, it can be hard to remember the roots of your belief system; but that doesn’t mean you can’t find your way back home, especially now that you’ve revisited your problem-solving and decision-making skills. Now it’s time to put them to the test and remind yourself of how your efforts can deliver direct results. Start with making small, seemingly unimportant decisions and survey their effects. This will further solidify your confidence in controlling your own destiny.
  • Realize that the good comes with the bad. It’s unrealistic to think that as long as you play the right cards, nothing bad will ever happen to you—that is just not the case. This relates back to the fact that you can’t control external factors. For example, you can’t blame yourself for getting into a car accident when it was the other driver’s error or for getting fired when your company was forced to make big budget cuts. Bad things happen that are out of our control and we need to stop blaming ourselves for them; instead, we should focus on what we can control such as how we react to the misfortune.
  • Remember your successes. If you’re taken aback by a loss or failure, remember all of the past successes that have directly resulted from your proactive efforts. The setback you’re experiencing now doesn’t diminish or lessen those successes in the least; so instead of becoming discouraged or unmotivated, use this as an opportunity to work even harder at producing the results you seek—whilst remembering exactly what is in your control and what isn’t.