This classic statement from Henry Ford is a straightforward and clear explanation of a well-researched concept by the psychologist, Albert Bandura, self-efficacy. Self-efficacy refers to the ability to successfully exercise control over yourself and the environment (Bandura, 1997). Our efficacy beliefs affect our performance, the choices we make, the amount of effort we expend, and the degree that we persevere. Our success in achieving goals or to perform a task is largely dependent on the confidence we have in ourselves, especially when we are tested with a barrier or challenge.
It is not surprising that research has linked mindfulness to self-efficacy, in that mindfulness involves directing attention to the present moment without making an evaluation. In other words, when you are mindful, you perceive obstacles and barriers as less relevant and distracting and can begin to see the situation more realistically (Kee & Wang, 2008). Being mindful helps us move past a previous failure and limits the tendency to project past adversity into the future (Hanley, et al., 2015).
For example, when we face a challenge, we often are reminded of a recent failure or a situation that looks a lot like this one, and start making assumptions about our abilities. When we are aware of our thoughts, we have the opportunity to pause and consider if our first reactions are real. We learn how to acknowledge those thoughts without immediately acting on them, which gives us time to do a more accurate assessment of our ability.
For example, how many times have you wanted to do something and you immediately dismiss it as something beyond your reach? It might be that dream job or a new relationship or something as ordinary as sticking to an exercise plan. By removing that initial negative generalized assessment of our ability, we begin to see the reasons we can accomplish something that is important to us.
Next time you catch yourself thinking, “I don’t think I can do this….” Try this simple exercise.
• Consider a situation where you faced a difficult challenge and were able to overcome it successfully. Ask yourself these questions:
o What skills, experiences, or personal traits did I use to overcome a previous challenge?
o How can my personal assets help me with my new challenge?
o What is holding me back from believing that I am capable?
o Take a moment to reflect on whether those negative beliefs are correct.
o Ask yourself again, what is really holding me back from tackling this goal.
This simple exercise may help you see the challenge you are facing from a different perspective. Once you take that initial step to say, “yes, I can do this.” Here are a few tips on getting you started:
• Make a plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Break down the larger goal into small, obtainable mini-goals. Select tasks that will help you feel a level of satisfaction and accomplishment.
• Consider ways you can close the gap on skills, experiences that you might be missing. Adults learn best by watching and doing. Who is excellent at what you want to learn? What are ways you can hone your skills? What do you need to practice?
• After each step, take a moment to write down what skills, experiences, and personal traits you used to accomplish this step.
• Keep making these small incremental steps and one day, you will not only have achieved your goal, but you will have gained a lot more confidence for the next time you are faced with a significant obstacle.
Henry Ford had it right. Sometimes, all it takes is the recognition that we are resourceful, capable people who can achieve our goals. All it takes is to accept that we can….
Kee, Y. H., & Wang, C. K. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness, flow dispositions and
mental skills adoption: A cluster analytic approach. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9, 393–411.doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2007.07.001
Hanley, A. W., Palejwala, M. H., Hanley, R. T., Canto, A. I., & Garland, E. L. (2015). A failure in mind: Dispositional mindfulness and positive reappraisal as predictors of academic self-efficacy following failure. Personality and Individual Differences, 86, 332-337. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2015.06.033
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