“They are able because they think they are able.”
When you face an obstacle or a setback, do you sit back, throw your hands up, and cease to fight for your goals or do you rise to the challenge that has come your way? Are you like the little engine that could constantly telling yourself, “I think I can, I think I can!” or do you allow self-doubt to control you? Do you persevere through difficulty believing that something is better on the other side or do you feel you are incapable of achieving success?
Questions like these are central to our understanding of self-efficacy. Who we become and what we accomplish in life are largely a result of what we choose to believe in regards to our ability. Pop psychology teaches that belief in one’s self matters. However, it is not just a statement randomly applied in self-help books in pep talks. Psychologist Albert Bandura in his social cognitive theory, defined self-efficacy as the belief a person has in his ability to succeed at a task or to achieve a goal.
According to Bandura, our attitudes, cognition, beliefs, and abilities are central to the system of the self. This self-system helps to determine how we perceive situations and other people. It also helps us to perceive how we will behave, respond, or react to these different situations. Self-efficacy then is a part of this system in that it is our belief in our abilities to take a certain course of action in order to reach a desired result or goal.
Since Bandura published his groundbreaking discovery in the form of the paper, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change,” the subject has become highly studied and used among psychologists and educators as a way to demonstrate its impact on mental states, behavioral process, and even human motivation. All people have a goal or dream they want to achieve in life, but “easier said than done” as they say. Self-efficacy shows how we are able to achieve these goals.
Self-efficacy affects behavior choices, motivation, thought patterns, situational responses, choices in behavior, productivity at work or in academics, as well as one’s idea about destiny. People with a high level of self-efficacy view challenges and problems as opportunities to learn and grow whereas people with a low level of self-efficacy aim to avoid problems. Those with a high level of self-efficacy are confident in their ability to achieve while those with a low level of self-efficacy lack a good deal of confidence, are unsure of themselves, and doubt their abilities.
People with a high level of self-efficacy are more likely to make an effort to complete a project and persist through until it is finalized than those with a low level of self-efficacy. Bandar also believed that self-efficacy has a strong correlation to one’s worldview as well. People with a high level of self-efficacy believe that they are in control of their lives and that their own choices and action determine the outcome of their lives. On the other hand, people with a low level of self-efficacy see their lives as outside of their control, in the hands of someone else, or completely uncontrollable by anyone.
While we stop growing physically and over time, some of our beliefs come set in concrete, self-efficacy does not really end. It evolves throughout the various stages of life. Recently in a developmental psychology, we discussed self-efficacy and how it can be developed in our lives. Here are 4 ways we can build our level of self-efficacy for greater achievement:
1. Build one success on top of another.
All successful people started out small. Don’t despise the small success, the small achievements or accomplishments. These set the foundation for what is to come next. Success is not automatic. It begins with the belief that you can be and then taking one small step at a time to get there. Every little task you are faced with, mastery its process, do it to the best of you ability and allow yourself to grow with it no matter how difficult it is.
2. Observe the endurance and success of other people.
Watching other people complete a task or reach a goal successfully is an important point of self-efficacy and also serves subtly as a motivator. You’ll think to yourself, “If he can do it, so can I” or “If she can get there from where she was, so can I.” Seeing other people success through effort raises the belief in ourselves that we too can make an effort to succeed as well.
3. Surround yourself with people who believe you can succeed.
Social persuasion is powerful. Surround yourself with people who believe you can succeed. There are some people who will even persuade you to believe that you are capable of succeed. Sometimes, they come in the form of a parent, a coach, a teacher, a mentor, or even a close friends. Verbal affirmation from other people can help in overcoming self-doubt and focusing on putting your best foot forward.
4. Work through your own psychological responses
Our own responses and reactions to situations are developed largely by unseen psychological processes. Emotional states, stress levels, and moods impact how we view ourselves and what we believe about our abilities. By learning how to minimize stress (not by avoiding the situation or challenge) and increase mood to a positive level, you can improve your level of self-efficacy.
Research has shown that self-efficacy is a much stronger predictor of outcomes in behavior and achievement than other aspects of motivation. My professor in development psychology, Dr. Chad Magnuson said, “success is not just a matter of capability, but really a matter of how capable we think we are.”
“Ability is what gives you the opportunity; belief is what gets you there.”