One of the most classic children’s books of all time, The Little Engine That Could, teaches children the value of hard work and optimism. “I think I can” turns into a triumphant “I thought I could” after the engine completed it’s goal. This message is also an introduction to the importance of cultivating self-efficacy at a young age to achieve our goals. Often, self-efficacy can be confused for self-esteem, also a critical ingredient for self-improvement, but holds a different meaning. Success in the workplace, in our relationships and within ourselves can be achieved through tapping into our self-efficacy.
What is self-efficacy?
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (2013), the modern pioneer of mindfulness in mainstream medicine, describes self-efficacy as “ a belief in your ability to exercise control over specific events in your life”. He goes on to say that your self-efficacy continues to increase if you succeed at something you feel is important or if you are inspired by what other people do or have done. The pioneer of self-efficacy research and the Social Cognitive Theory, Dr. Albert Bandura, has proven that a strong sense of self-efficacy is a consistent predictor of both health outcomes and in understanding health behavior change. For instance, a smoker who believes that they will be able to quit smoking has a higher chance of success.
How does self-efficacy differ from self-esteem?
Not surprisingly, a correlation exists between self-efficacy and self-esteem – often the higher your self-efficacy, the higher your self-esteem. Self-esteem is really a form of self-respect or confidence. However, the two pillars of self-concept can differ from one another. For instance, you can have a lower self-esteem about your appearance but a higher self-efficacy about your career.
How can I improve my self-efficacy to achieve success in life?
1. Learn - If you don’t know how to accomplish something, takes steps to learn how. This may mean following directions, taking instruction from others, reading about the topic or even taking an educational activity. Knowing more about a topic will improve your self-efficacy in relation to it. For instance, I had no idea how to start a blog so I enrolled in an course online.
2. Model - A positive role model, who has been successful in achieving the goal you want, can be a very powerful tool. One of the first steps I took when starting a blog was to look at many other blogs. I could soon recognize both the features I liked and didn’t like. For instance, a lot of blogs have ads – I knew right away that this was not part of my vision.
3. Self-care - If you take care of your well-being, your goals will seem more attainable. When you have more energy from proper a diet, sleep, and exercise, you can accomplish more. Also, listen to yourself – what is your passion? I knew I was passionate about wellness, preventive medicine, personal development, health behavior change and writing, so this was the path I wanted to take with my blog.
4. Be realistic - Setting realistic, achievable goals will improve your self-efficacy. It may be tempting to bite off more than you can chew. My husband often helps me put on my breaks, so I can take smaller steps towards my dreams.
5. Look at the company you keep - If you have people in your life who make you feel that you are either incapable of achieving your goals or don’t believe in your abilities, you may want to reassess their company. The continued support and encouragement that I receive from certain friends and family in my life never goes unnoticed.
6. Encourage - Self-efficacy beliefs are important for our children and the education system. By motivating and encouraging our children, we set them up to believe in their ability to achieve their both academically and in life in general.
Do you have any suggestions about improving self-efficacy?