A booster shot of self-efficacy

Believing that you can, makes a huge difference

February 05, 2022 01:18 pm | Updated 01:18 pm IST

Believe in yourself

Believe in yourself

While disrupting and upending lives across the planet, the pandemic revealed our almost pan-human tendency to want to exercise control over our daily lives. The sudden lockdowns sabotaged our plans, both significant and small. Whether it was going to the grocery store or writing the Board exam, everything depended on forces outside your control. And, that’s one reason why angst and anxiety ballooned across the globe.

Way back in 1995, Albert Bandura, a renowned psychologist at Stanford, wrote that our lack of control over adverse events in our life “breeds apprehension, apathy or despair.” Further, he avers that our beliefs in what we can control are more potent than objective facts in terms of our “motivations, affective states, and actions” (Self-efficacy in Changing Societies).

Mastery experiences

Personal efficacy refers to “beliefs in one’s capabilities” to plan, manage and execute actions relating to one’s life. One of the surest ways to develop a robust sense of efficacy is by “mastery experiences.” The writer who plods away, word by word, on a massive tome; the designer who ensures that the cut and finish are just right; and the scientist who reframes and refines her hypothesis as new data emerges exhibit high levels of self-efficacy.

Undoubtedly, mastery experiences don’t happen overnight. Rather, a person has to acquire an arsenal of skills that span the domains of thought, action, and emotion. Bandura believes that a sense of efficacy is enhanced when people persevere and problem-solve their way through trying circumstances. Additionally, people are also inspired when they see relatable role models succeed under strenuous circumstances.

A third way is by social persuasion. When people are told that they have the necessary skillsets to succeed in a field, they are more likely to persist. Self-doubt, on the other hand, can stymie a person’s growth. But it is easier to undermine people’s beliefs in themselves than it is to boost their sense of efficacy. According to Bandura, “efficacy builders” don’t simply praise individuals for their work; instead, they coax them to cultivate their own internal standards of success by focusing on self-improvement as opposed to comparisons with others.

A fourth way by which people gauge their efficacy is through “their physiological and emotional states.” Signs of fatigue or stress can lower a person’s sense of efficacy. So, by engaging in self-care — of our bodies and mind — can bolster our perception of our capabilities.

Challenging goals

Bandura argues that efficacy beliefs manifest as “cognitive, motivational, affective, and selection processes.” People with high levels of efficacy tend to set more challenging goals for themselves because they think they have the skillsets to meet the demands Those with a high sense of efficacy are more likely to imagine successful outcomes, thereby propelling them to strive harder. They are also likely to engage in problem-solving when they encounter obstacles.

Efficacy beliefs also impact people’s motivation or their willingness to attempt and persist on tasks, especially when the going gets tough. Further, those with high levels of self-efficacy exhibit greater resilience by rebounding from setbacks more quickly and easily. They tend to act or behave in ways to reduce the impact of the stressors in their lives and are ‘bolder’ in dealing with negative pressures and more likely to alter their situations “to their liking.”

As we brace ourselves for a third COVID-19 wave in India, we need to give ourselves a booster shot of self-efficacy. While we may not be able to predict and plan the minutiae of our lives, there are a number of facets we can still control. Foremost, by maintaining a positive mindset and taking all the necessary precautions, we may continue trying to garner “mastery experiences” in whatever field we are pursuing.

The writer is the author of Zero Limits: Things Every 20-Something Should Know and blogs at www.arunasankaranarayanan.com

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