how to manage locus of control

Locusts Of Control

locustOK, I mean “locus of control,” not “locusts of control.”

Locus of Control in NLP

Locus of control is a very important concept in NLP, hypnosis and personal development. The thing is, many people unwittingly give their power away and others waste their lives just by ignoring or misunderstanding this one, simple concept.

So, what is locus of control? It’s simply a person’s idea of what they can influence and what they can not. I, for instance, don’t think I can change the weather with my thoughts. Well, at least the outside weather. Well, at least without a lot of time and expense. I do think that I can influence the inside weather in my house and I can change my behavior to make the outside weather more pleasant for me when I’m outside.

People Feel Powerless Where There Is A Perceived Lack Of Locus Of Control

Let’s look at somebody trying to lose weight. If they have a strong belief that their situation is due to genetic factors, they are unlikely to even try any weight loss method. The perceived locus of control is outside of them. Where people think locus of control is outside of their influence, they don’t take action. Why would I try to change the weather with my thoughts?

People Waste Their Time Where There Is No Control But They Have Perceived Of Locus Of Control

The other day I was watching a football game with a friend of mine. The team from my home town was about to try a field goal but it was from 45 yards away. The kicker’s previous long kick was 46 yards. He was right at his limit. I said, “He’s going to miss that kick.” My friend looked at me and said “Don’t say that.” I said, “He’s out near his longest kick ever.” She said, “Don’t even put that out there.”

Now that is (in my mind) an exaggerated sense of locus of control. I personally do not believe my thoughts about whether or not someone is going to score a goal are going to influence whether or not they score the goal. Were I to believe I could, I’d spend my time watching sports concentrating intently on my team performing the way I wanted them to. I could “think” them to victory!

A lot of folks in NLP and in the new-age community are victims of this exaggerated sense of locus of control. They spend a lot of their time doing “positive thinking” and not much doing anything.

If You Can Dream It You Can Achieve It


I’ll bet you can think of a dozen things right now that you can dream but you can not achieve. You know in your heart it’s true.

In NLP, we help people well-form goals, not tilt at windmills. One of the ways we do so is to make sure the goal is initiated and maintained by the person who’s setting the goal. In other words, it’s within their actual (not airy-fairy imagined or wished) locus of control.

One of my favorite NLP instructors tells a story about setting goals. Once, when he set a goal to be somewhere at a specific time, it looked like he would be early. Then, a traffic accident up ahead of him slowed him down and he arrived exactly on time–just like he’d set his goal! Well, I don’t like that story. I think it encourages the kind of wishy-washy, sloppy thinking that leads to so many people spinning their wheels. There’s nothing in the main body of NLP (IMHO) that supports that kind of thinking.

NLP Is Not About Magical, Positive Thinking

Far too many people come out of NLP trainings believing anything is possible. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen remarkable things happen. I’ve seen things I can’t explain happen. I believe wondrous, fantastic things are possible. Possibly, I believe many things you would find outlandish. I also believe that how we think powerfully affects what happens to us–sometimes in mysterious ways. But I don’t believe that, if I concentrate hard enough, I can materialize marshmallows out of thin air. I have to walk over to the cupboard and get them myself. I’m headed over now.


About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. AhhHaa Keith — I KNOW who that favorite instructor is as I heard the same store. LOL! Strange – it still seems credible to this very day — the power of NLP and belief as when one is in that “state” of CF by-pass, it all becomes true.

    First time I have noticed that Bridget has joined us so I’d like to extend a great BIG WELCOME BRIDGET from all of us who adore Keith. She’s a smart and nice lady.

  2. Keith, I have followed NLP from before the days when the marketing machines of folks like Anthony Robbins made it popular. Whenever asked for an explanation of the process of NLP, I always have simplified it down to the theory of “I’m happy because I sing-or I sing because I’m happy”. To me it has been a simple tool to anchor good thoughts and habits, and eliminate bad. Over the years however, NLP seems to have been re-created into a kind of new age “metephysical” process with ties to the netherworld. While some might suggest your opinion is Heresy – I find it very refreshing, and long overdue! Thank you Keith, and continued success.

  3. Keith, another great article which is right on the money. There is no magic, only well formed goals that when they are reached seem magical.. until you realize the focused work involved. Thank You!

  4. Actually I like the plague like reference your original title has, wishful thinking can often be a plague upon peoples lives, and can spread epidemiologically as well. The statement about locus of control in respect to weight loss is great, I wonder if a reframe would be helpful in that instance… As you have stated amazing things can happen, as long as it is in the realm of possibility

    Informative article/opinion, look forward to reading more..


  5. Bravo Keith – Another demonstration of impeccable logic and clear thinking. I agree that NLP has nothing to do with the theories of the Law of Attraction. I also agree that believing alone is highly unlikely to create any actual results. I further agree the lack of action, self-sabotage, incomplete, incompetent or poorly formed actions due to a lack of locus of control, is equally doomed to fail, as you point out.

    But is,’ whether or not “Magical thinking” can effect reality’, really the question? Or is it possible that the question should be:
    Can we pre-dispose the subconscious to recognize opportunities that will arise organically with or without “Magical Thinking?” or “Can we create a fertile mental environment that will support positive action with such magical thinking as positive thinking, affirmation, prayer, and/or magical-actions, advisable?”

    I don’t believe that NLP is about positive thinking and affirmation, but I do believe that they are forms of self-hypnosis and have their place in a well informed, and properly used strategy of hypnotic or reprogramming treatment.

    1. Alan,
      Fantastic to see you here!
      I think that, when we think about our goals in certain ways, we absolutely pre-dispose the subconscious mind to recognize opportunities that lead us closer to those goals. Sometimes when we do this, the opportunities come at us in ways that seem magical. Heck, maybe they are. And while I don’t think traditional affirmations (for instance) are necessarily the most efficient way to reach a goal, I believe they help. I use them myself.

      …And I think, with affirmations etc., it’s important to consider locus of control. For instance, if you have a financial goal, I believe it’s better to have an affirmation about recognizing and taking action on good financial opportunities than to have an affirmation that you’re going to win the lottery.

      As to the Law of Attraction and NLP/hypnosis… Knowing what you want and asking the universe for it, feeling and behaving as if the object of desire is on its way and being open to receiving what you desire could be considered cornerstones of that way of thinking. I can name several NLP/hypnosis processes that include those ideas or very similar ideas. NLP provides a way to be much more specific with that type of process. For instance, what are the submodalities of your thoughts about things you’re really going to accomplish as opposed to pipe dreams?


  6. i am inclined to believe everything operates on levels of being, Peter Sellers movie sums up one perspective, but to affirm so clearly and in personal language so one reads affirmations of limitation; yeah everything has its time and place, but if thinking about a car park works, what if the need is greater?
    Being there i guess, or not.
    Still an open mind can be the most powerful tool.

    Thanks for the stimulus

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