What is the Locus of Control?

When something goes wrong, it’s natural to cast blame on the perceived cause of the misfortune. An individual can cast that blame internally or externally. This is related to a psychological construct known as the locus of control.

Locus of control refers to the degree to which an individual feels that a sense of agency in their life.

Someone with an internal locus of control will believe that the things that happen to them are greatly influenced by their own abilities, actions, or mistakes. A person with an external locus of control will tend to feel that other forces—such as random chance, environmental factors, or the actions of others—are more responsible for the events that occur in the individual’s life.


Ths locus of control is a personality trait. It falls on a spectrum. Genetic factors may influence your locus of control, as well as your childhood—particularly the behaviours and attitudes modelled by your early caregivers.

Researchers have identified several areas in which your locus of control appears to affect outcomes, including education, health, and civic engagement. Overall, such research suggests that those with an internal locus of control –internals– are more successful, healthier, and happier than those with an external locus.

The downloadable thesis below gives more evidence to the power of a strong, internal locus of control. It found that internals recover from injury faster, and are better at managing small businesses.

Of greatest note, internals create spaces of action where opportunities are seized and outcomes influenced.