WorkMinded Podcast: Serenity Now - Locus of Control

WorkMinded Podcast: Serenity Now - Locus of Control

Hey everyone, and welcome to WorkMinded. Thanks for joining us for this session on Locus of Control!

Go ahead and take a little time to settle in. Find a space where you can feel safe, and free from distractions for the next 10 minutes. While you get comfortable and create a little distance between you and the rest of your day, I’ll tell you a bit about the concept of Locus of Control, and its role in achieving objectives in your life.


One of my favorite definitions of Locus of Control is: the “concept that refers to how strongly people believe they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives”1. People tend to naturally fall along a spectrum for this, with one extreme being internal, where people believe that their own actions have primary influence over a situation, and the other extreme being external, where people believe that outside factors have primary influence over a situation. Where do you fall? Do you believe that you influence your circumstances, or that your circumstances influence you? Maybe you’ll fall somewhere in between those extremes.

Understanding where you naturally fall along the spectrum in any given situation can help you to choose where to direct your energy and your resources toward achieving an outcome you desire. This applies to work, and to other situations too. It’s important to note that there is no judgment here. An internal locus of control is not necessarily “good” and an external locus of control is not necessarily “bad.” A person’s natural inclination for Locus of Control can also shift depending on context and circumstances – for example, having an internal Locus of Control in the workplace, while having an external Locus of Control for personal situations. The real benefit comes from truly understanding when a situation can or can’t be influenced by your actions, and finding the best balance between being proactive about the things you can change or rolling with the things you can’t.

Here is another way to look at it. At some point you might have heard some version or another of the Serenity Prayer, popularized by an American theologian in conjunction with World War II. You might also recognize versions of it from other situations including Alcoholics Anonymous, presidential campaigns, and references in modern literature2. It goes like this: give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

This philosophy is a great framework for considering Locus of Control. Some things we can directly influence, and other things we can’t. Knowing the difference between what you can and can’t influence is the key to directing your energy and resources toward outcomes that you’re looking for. Imagine you arrive at a movie theater on opening night, and your show is sold out. In this case, what can’t be changed is capacity of the theater; what can be changed is what you do next. Will you find another movie to see right now, or wait until the next showing of your original film? Consider whether your goal is to see that particular movie, or just to have a night out at the theater. Once you realize the boundaries of where your actions can have influence, then you can feel empowered to choose between seeing a different film, or staying out a little longer to catch the late showing, depending on which one supports your intention for the evening.

Our natural inclinations toward an internal or external sense of Locus of Control can be powerful and they’re often not particularly balanced. When we focus too heavily on the external locus of control, we can lull ourselves into a sense of powerlessness, convinced that nothing we can do will affect our situation. When we focus on too heavily on the internal, we can fall prey to overwhelm, feeling forced to take all responsibility for everything upon ourselves. In both cases, our natural inclinations toward one direction or the other have the tendency to completely sweep us away. Understanding the balance between these extremes can help you to take one step away from the cycle of being caught up by these tendencies. As we begin to identify our emotions in a certain situation, we can carve out some space to see a little more clearly, instead of being swept away or carried down a path that doesn’t serve us. And that will be the focus of today’s mindfulness session.

You can find show notes for this episode on our website at, and of course we would always love to hear your feedback. And now let’s get started with today’s mindfulness session!

1. Locus of Control. (n.d.). Retrieved from

2. Shapiro, Fred R. (2008). Who Wrote the Serenity Prayer? Yale Alumni Magazine, 71 number(6). Retrieved from