Denis Waitley said, “Happy people plan actions, they don’t plan results.” You almost have to read that quote twice to understand his message.

There is a psychological test, originally developed by Dr. Julian Rotter, called the “Locus of Control” that essentially determines where an individual places the power to control events in their lives and determine a desired outcome. 

They perceive their power as either internal or external.

Their score indicates whether they take full responsibility for what happens to them, whether they give all the power to their circumstances, or whether, like most people, they fall somewhere in between.

People with a high external locus of control often feel powerless and victimized.

Those with a high internal locus of control usually feel strong, independent, and in charge of their circumstances. You can guess where most successful people score.

To feel more powerful and in control, you must develop a higher internal locus of control. This takes a mindset shift and the willingness to accept full responsibility for everything that happens to you. 

It’s the beginning of personal leadership.

Where to Start

One of the first strategies to begin shifting your mindset is by setting action goals instead of results goals.

When you set a results goal you are not 100% in control of the results. You could be dependent upon other people, circumstances, time, or the weather cooperating in order for that goal to be met. 

If they don’t, you won’t reach the goal.

It’s not that you didn’t work hard and it’s not that you didn’t plan properly. It’s just that the power to complete some aspect of that goal was not entirely yours.

However, when you set an action goal, one that is based on the action steps you can take entirely on your own (number of phone numbers dialed, miles run, words typed etc.) it is entirely your choice and within your power to make that happen.

Setting action goals means you can meet your goals every time if you so choose. And if you set high enough action goals, the payoff will be the results you are looking for.

You can choose to be in charge of your circumstances or you can choose to let your circumstances control you. It’s your choice.

Dr. Ann Vertel is a personal and positive leadership expert, keynote speaker, and 20-year Naval Officer who helps individuals and organizations develop influential leaders who think bigger, act bolder, and take charge. Learn more at

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  • Ann Vertel, Ph.D.

    Business Psychologist | Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Ann Vertel is a business psychologist, human behavior expert, keynote speaker, corporate trainer, leadership consultant, 20-year Naval Officer, and the Founder of American Women in Business. She works with leaders and organizations who want to leverage the power of personal development to bring out the best in their people and create a culture of excellence. Her unusual combination of encouragement, experience, and expertise will help you think bigger, act bolder, and take charge of your success. Learn more at