The Locus of Control

It’s often convenient and easy to blame external factors for our achievements – or lack thereof.

It’s easy to say ‘I wasn’t taught that’, or ‘The teacher is a hard marker’ or even ‘It’s not fair’.

The problem is that while we look to blame external forces, we are giving them control over the outcomes.

As humans, we are innately wired to seek control. We like to be able to determine our own fate rather than have it dictated by others.

Think about it. How would you react if everything you did in life was determined by another person rather than being your own choice? You would soon feel resentful, uninspired and negative.

But we can’t have it both ways.

If we want control and ownership over the good and fun stuff in our lives, then we need to be prepared to take ownership for the difficult or bad stuff as well.

In fact, the more ownership or control we are prepared to accept, the better we are likely to do.

Imagine that you want to buy your first car and it will cost $5000. If you scrimp and save and work long hours to buy that car, how will you feel about it? Would you treasure that car the same way if you were just given the $5000?

Think about the sense of accomplishment you will feel when you manage to buy that car with your own money.

If you can do this, think what you could now go on to achieve for yourself!

And your study is the same. If you give other people the locus of control, you are allowing them to determine your fate. Even if you succeed and do really well, you won’t feel any particular accomplishment in your results. You will probably just take this for granted. After all, it wasn’t really your efforts that determined this outcome. Others determined it for you.

But, if you put in the effort and really focus on achieving good results, you will feel much more positive, empowered and motivated when you do.

Even if the results aren’t as good as you would have liked them to be, you know that you are in control and can change the outcome the next time around.

So, how can you shift your locus of control from external to an internal?

1. Take control of your environment

Create a designated study environment where you can work without being disturbed.

Make this place a comfortable and inviting space where you actually want to spend time. You might like to decorate the space in a way that keeps you happy and positive. Buy nice stationery that you enjoy using.

Keep the space tidy and well organised, and ensure that you have all the necessary equipment on hand. This will help you use your study time effectively without having to waste time looking for things.

2. Control your calendar

Buy yourself a wall calendar on which you can write all assessment dates. Remember to add any draft dates as well so that you can stay on top of your time frame. Note when you have numerous tasks due at the one time and create artificial due dates for yourself so that you get some tasks done early, leaving you time to complete the rest.

Be realistic about your study schedule. Remember to factor in all other commitments so that you know exactly what time you have left to study. There is no point in scheduling a study session at a time when you are committed to another activity.

Remember that you need some down time, so be sure to factor this in, as well as time for travelling, eating and sleeping.

Be honest about when you do your best work – don’t plan to do early morning sessions if you struggle to get out of bed!

So long as you get the work done, there are no rules about when it needs to be completed. This is one area over which you definitely have the control.

3. Be self-disciplined

Once you know what has to be done and have created an outline for how you can achieve it, then it is up to you to knuckle down and do it.

Stop making excuses or procrastinating. This will simply waste time and add to your anxiety.

Make sure that you put away all distractions – especially social media – and really concentrate. You will get far more work done in a much shorter amount of time if you are truly focussed.

4.  Chunk your work

There is nothing more overwhelming than a seemingly endless amount of work that you have to get through.

To alleviate this issue, break your work down into short, manageable chunks. Decide to study for just one hour. Create a definite ‘to-do’ list for this time so that you know exactly what has to be achieved. This will make you feel that the task is achievable and you can reward yourself when you manage to complete it.

Chunking your study into shorter blocks will help you feel less resentful of having to study, especially if you schedule regular breaks and rewards.

5. Control your attitude

There will undoubtedly be parts of studying that you hate or resent. We all experience FOMO and would rather be doing fun things with our time.

But the harsh truth is that while you are a student that needs to be your primary focus. Think about study as a marathon and not a sprint. You need to find the attitude and stamina to persist for a few years. Resenting every minute you study will make it feel like a life sentence!

Accept that this is a process that needs to be undertaken so that you can live your best life and follow your dreams in the future. Nothing good is ever achieved without effort.

If nothing else, persisting with your studies even when you would rather be doing other things will be great training for when you are in the workforce. There will be plenty of things there that you won’t want to do, but over which you have no choice!

6. Reward your success

It’s really easy to focus on the things that go badly in our lives. But we will stay much happier and more productive if we concentrate on what is going right rather than what is going wrong.

To help with this, it is important to at least acknowledge, if not reward, any success we have along the way – even if it’s small.

We may not get the top marks we are aiming for, but we can still reward ourselves for trying, for small improvements and for our persistence.

Remember, you won’t be able to change your results overnight. But any small improvements will all add up until you will finally see a difference.

Celebrating your successes will help keep you positive, motivated and determined.

Taking control of our own actions and thoughts will not only help us achieve better results, but will also increase our sense of purpose and power.

Changing your locus of control from external to internal is one of the easiest ways to find the motivation to achieve.