A Test For Success: Do You Have This Trait?

05 Apr

Smarter Faster BetterJust finished Charles Duhigg’s new book, Smarter Faster Better, subtitled The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize winning reporter for the New York Times, and not surprisingly is a great (non-fiction) storyteller.  In his book he takes us from the cockpit of a crashing airliner to a white-knuckle championship poker game with $2 million up for grabs, in order to show us how to get better at doing whatever we do.

It was packed with insights, and a delight to read. And I found myself asking if I personally had one trait that he says (in fact, researchers for years have been saying) is indispensable: an internal locus of control. In brief, do you take responsibility for what happens to you (internal locus of control), or do you tend to blame others for your life and circumstances (external locus of control)?

Duhigg writes…

“Researchers have found that people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves for success or failure, rather than assigning responsibility to things outside their influence. A student with a strong internal locus of control, for instance, will attribute good grades to hard work, rather than natural smarts. A salesman with an internal locus of control will blame a lost sale on his own lack of hustle, rather than bad fortune.”

“‘Internal locus of control has been linked with academic success, higher self motivation and social maturity, lower incidences of stress and depression, and longer lifespan,’ a team of psychologists wrote in the journal Problems and Perspectives in Management in 2012. People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer, and report greater professional success and satisfaction.”

“In contrast, having an external locus of control – believing that your life is primarily influenced by events outside your control – “is correlated with higher levels of stress, (often) because an individual perceives the situation as beyond his or her coping abilities,” the team of psychologists wrote.

This insight strikes me as being hopeful, and at its core…Christian. We are, after all, called to be responsible for ourselves:

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV)

And therefore, in the end, taking responsibility for oneself is the first step toward becoming a Christian. For in order to embrace the gospel, I must first admit that I am a sinner – I have made my choices that have landed me where I am in life…and I need a Savior.

But surely all people, Christians and non-believers, would fall at different places on the internal or external locus of control scale, and Duhigg happily prescribes some help in growing our internal locus of control:

“Internal locus of control is a learned skill,” Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychologist who helped conduct that study, told me. “Most of us learn it early in life. But some people’s sense of self-determination gets suppressed by how they grow up, or experiences they’ve had, and they forget how much influence they can have on their own lives.”

“That’s when training is helpful, because if you put people in situations where they can practice feeling in control, where that internal locus of control is reawakened, then people can start building habits that make them feel like they are in charge of their own lives – and the more they feel that way, the more they really are in control of themselves.”


Posted by on April 5, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

5 responses to “A Test For Success: Do You Have This Trait?

  1. Geri

    April 5, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Correlates with the book by Henry Cloud called “Boundaries” … Awakening to the fact that we have choices and can use the power of choices if we accept responsibility for self.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roger Knowlton

      April 6, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      I’ve never read that Geri, but it’s on my list someday.


  2. hank snyder

    April 5, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Nice thoughts. Hank

    On Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 6:02 AM, Entrusted with the Gospel wrote:

    > Roger Knowlton posted: “Just finished Charles Duhigg’s new book, Smarter > Faster Better, subtitled The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and > Business. Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize winning reporter for the New York > Times, and not surprisingly is a great (non-fiction) storyteller. ” >


  3. Peter

    April 13, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Interesting subject. But you are talking about a personality trait, part of which is hard wired into us; ie, a gift from Gods generosity and not something we entirely control. From a Christian point of view or from a salvation point of view, the locus of control is both tool and stumbling block. While the internal locus of control does seem more desireable based upon your description Roger, it is not necessarily making our heartfelt seeking of God and heaven any more assured. Is it possible this subject as you describe here leads us into the trap of “prosperity gospel”?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: