Our chance of achieving a goal very much depends on whether or not we expect to succeed.
Every tulip bulb,
every fish and every fledgling has it: the certainty that it can grow, swim or fly. When it comes to achieving goals, experts say that those who believe they can tackle new and challenging tasks on their own are the most likely to do so successfully. Such people are more likely to survive difficult situations than those who have doubts about their own abilities. These people can be described as self-effective – they work more consistently with better results and have less fear of challenges than those who doubt their own abilities. They also tend to be more satisfied with themselves and their environment and have strong immune systems.
Self-efficacy influences our daily lives immensely: how we think, feel and act depends on it to a great extent. But not only that: our self-efficacy also varies according to our thoughts and our actions and as a result can be learned at any time. Every day of our lives each one of us can choose to adopt this approach.
You have to encourage people to cope with challenges.Andreas Müller, Director of the Beatenberg Institute
“People should be encouraged to cope with challenges,” says Andreas Müller, Director of the Beatenberg Institute, an alternative private school in Switzerland. This applies to adults but even more so to children.
“Children need challenges because this is the only way they can grow. Making it easy for your child is wrong. We should not remove the obstacles from our children’s paths, but present them with lifelike challenges,” says Müller. This could include giving them certain house-hold tasks or challenging them at school without overextending them. “They are training for life. And there is no training in the comfort zone,” he adds.
Learning through success
If you didn’t learn selfefficacy in childhood, the good news is that you can still develop it in adult life with a little practice and reflection. Questions such as: “When have I done something well?”, “What was the challenge then and how did I solve it?” are helpful.
Writing down the answers is important so you can see the success in black and white. Each new good experience gets a place on the list. Constructive criticism such as: “What didn’t work as well as I’d have liked?” and “How can I make it better next time?” is vital too. It can be applied equally to your working life or to your personal life. If you have a new, challenging project, it’s good to start in a positive, solution-oriented manner rather than focusing on the problem. So, instead of primarily asking: “What is the problem and how on earth am I going to solve it?”, try: “What’s the challenge and what do I need to do to meet it?”. This is the path from deficit thinking – having low expectations – to focusing on your potential and resources.
Sometimes it takes a seminar to provide you with new know-how, ideas or inspiration; like new nutrients for tulips that only grow well in good soil. Sometimes it takes an intensive exchange with colleagues – like pouring more water into the fish pond so that the fish can swim more. The solution is often much simpler, however. Usually the certainty of the fledgling suffices: "I know I can fly".
5 steps to self-belief
People who have high expectations of success through their own efforts believe that they can perform tasks well. This belief develops from five different types of experiences, which experts call sources of self-efficacy. They include:
- Your own past experiences – for instance, when you’ve achieved a similar objective through your own personal effort.
- Observing other people and how they implement things. Of course, it’s important to focus on realistic role models – people who are very similar to you in terms of skills.
- Verbal support – encouragement from others. However, this only works if it coincides with your own views of your abilities.
- Your gut feelings – whether you’re feeling positive and confident about something.
- Self-reflection – your analysis of your past experiences. For instance, what was good and what wasn’t? How did you solve a particular problem? What should you do differently the next time?