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“I Think I Can”

by Beth on October 27th, 2010

One of my favorite books growing up was The Little Engine That Could.  I just loved repeating with my mother when she read it to me, “I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can” as the little blue engine tried to pull a heavy train loaded with toys up a tall mountain.  And then I’d shout with delight as the engine crested the top and started down the other side saying “I-thought-I-could, I-thought-I-could, I-thought-I-could”.

What a great book and what an important lesson!  Self-efficacy, our belief in our ability to do something, is a powerful predictor of what people choose to do and how successful they will be.  The little engine accepted the challenge of pulling the long train up the mountain after several other larger engines refused to even try.  It made it to the top because it believed it could.  Self-efficacy leads to success because when we believe we can do something we are more likely to try it in the first place, we put in more effort, and we persist until it’s done.

Three effective ways to increase self-efficacy include:

  1. Mastery experience – not surprisingly, self-efficacy rises with success.  When you do something well your belief that you are good at it goes up.  This means it is important to set goals that are attainable so that you experience success.  The best way to do this is to break big goals into smaller ones.  This increases the probability that you will achieve them and gives you more mastery experiences along the way.
  2. Modeling – we are more likely to believe we can do something when we see someone else do it.  Find someone who has succeeded at what you want to do who can serve as your model.  You will not only learn from them, but your self-efficacy will be higher, too!
  3. Social persuasion – our confidence goes up when someone tells us they believe in our abilities.  Encouragement from others can have a strong influence on our self-efficacy.  But watch out!  Your self-efficacy will decrease with discouraging words.  So surround yourself with positive people who believe in you!

And, of course, don’t forget to repeat to yourself “I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can”!

From → Goals, Hope, Optimism, Success

3 Comments
  1. Francesco Frova permalink

    “Social persuasion – our confidence goes up when someone tells us they believe in our abilities. Encouragement from others can have a strong influence on our self-efficacy. But watch out! Your self-efficacy will decrease with discouraging words. So surround yourself with positive people who believe in you!”

    Beth, great article, as usual! 😀
    However, this last part sounds a bit like “get surrounded by flatterers” – although I believe this is far from what you meant!
    Indeed, discouraging words are to be avoided, but (encouraging) constructive critics are also vital (at least to me, and I could not find mention of it in this article).

    Keep up the great work anyway!

  2. Beth permalink

    Hi Francesco,

    I agree that constructive criticism can be very important for improving performance. But it probably won’t increase your self-efficacy, which is why I didn’t mention it here. If you are trying to increase your self-efficacy positive feedback is what you need! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Francesco Frova permalink

    I see!, you’re right!
    I hadn’t properly considered the difference between Self-efficacy and efficiency!

    Thank you Beth!

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