Have you heard of these books before: “Think and Grow Rich” and “Power of Positive Thinking”? Well, millions of these bestsellers have already been sold around the world – and for good reason. In a nutshell, they inspire people and let them believe that they can do whatever they want if they just put their minds to it.
Now, the question is: is there any substance to these claims?
A Stanford psychologist, Albert Bandura, took this challenge and ended up with a “self efficacy” theory, which explains how people’s beliefs can help them succeed in the end.
This theory is fully supported by Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile story.
Back in the 1950s, mile-long runs were considered to be very prestigious events and although he wasn’t a great runner, Roger Bannister took part in these runs anyway.
In those days, nobody really believed that anyone could run a mile in less than four minutes since world-renowned runners took at least four minutes and two seconds to run it. By 1954, nobody had beat that 4-minute barrier yet.
However, Bannister believed that it could be done and he decided he would do it himself. Since it was taking him four minutes and twelve seconds to finish the mile, people scoffed at him and called him a dreamer.
He never stopped training or believing, though. Then, in April of 1954, He finished the mile in England in less than 4 minutes. The news spread on front pages all around the world and was known as “The Dream Mile”. Bannister proved that there is no such thing as “impossible”.
Now, this doesn’t mean that self efficacy is limited to the belief and determination of a single person. What Bannister did actually made an impact on numerous other runners, as well. In fact, a month later, a New Zealand runner beat Bannister’s time on the mile and by 1955, 27 more runners ran the mile under four minutes, too.
How did this happen? Well, they believed that they could do it, too, if somebody else was able to do it.
To put it simply, “self efficacy” refers to the act of believing in your power to succeed and having that belief increase your chances of success. It is a powerful thing that you can work on all throughout your lifetime and can be cultivated as more time goes by.
There are several factors that can help develop self efficacy, though: internal motivation (your own mastery of the senses) and external motivation (other people’s recognitions of your actions).
Regardless of what you may be doing now, you can be your own personal life coach by challenging yourself in areas that you already excel in or in things that will make you feel proud upon their completion. That overall sense of accomplishment would be an internal motivation.
Because people are social by nature, though, they also tend to care about other people and what they think, most of all if those people are important in their lives. Therefore, it would be helpful to come up with a challenge that other people will have to acknowledge. Their encouragement and recognition will then make you believe in your ability to finish challenging tasks. That would be an external motivation.
An easy way to understand this would be by getting out of your own comfort zone. You will never feel a proper sense of mastery unless you get out of that comfort zone since you are constantly there.
Mastery will only show up if you move ahead and do something challenging or something completely new. The key would be to do something that isn’t too much of a challenge, but is still different in some way. It could be something easy like baking bread, writing a story or singing in public. The secret is to find something to do in a field that you actually love.
Another important part of the process would be to envision your ultimate success. You have to imagine yourself completing the challenge while you go through everything. This will help you believe in it more and break those barriers to make it possible.
About the Author:
Morris N. Mann, P.D. – Morris helps solo business owners and professionals achieve success in business and greater happiness in their personal lives. For over 15 years he worked as a business executive responsible for marketing and systems management in international product and service companies. He has a Ph.D. in psychology and has been a practicing small business coach successfully for over 10 years.