"Self-Efficacy" Predicts Success, Not Self-Confidence
While self-confidence entails 'strong beliefs,' self-efficacy entails 'strong positive beliefs' - and the more you have it, the more likely you are to succeed.
Any psychologist would know how much Albert Bandura has revolutionized today's psychology with his social learning theory. Through his studies on how a great deal of learning comes from modeling and observing, Bandura was able to draw the line between self-efficacy and self-confidence:
“Confidence is a nondescript term that refers to strength of belief but does not necessarily specify what the certainty is about. I can be supremely confident that I will fail at an endeavor.”
- Albert Bandura, 'Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control.'
While self-confidence refers to the certainty of a belief within, self-efficacy runs from a place in the human mind which largely refers to one's belief that they are able to succeed. In other words: if confidence is belief, self-efficacy is positive belief.
Self-efficacy is built on a set of hypotheses that are largely connected to the way one views himself - through a "third" eye as though they're watching themselves on a mental screen. Envisioning success, receiving words of affirmation and compliments, having relatable role models and reflecting on one's own past experiences are all ways proposed by Bandura through which one is able to sustain self-efficacy.
People who score high on self-efficacy tend to set higher goals, be more optimistic, and they tend to perform more challenging tasks.
However, self-efficacy does not only deal with executing decisions and mustering effort: it also deals with failure. According to Bandura, "People who have a sense of self-efficacy bounce back from failure; they approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong.” Many people avoid trial because they are afraid of error; however, people with self-efficacy come to muster effort and manage their fears and negative emotions.
Furthermore, self-efficacy has been attributed to a number of benefits that affect productivity, temperament and performance. As individuals face failure or adversity, people with high self-efficacy tend to recover and try again - a quality characterized by resilience. They tend to have healthier lifestyle habits, better performance and productivity at work and educational achievement.
Four Doors to Success
Beliefs of self-efficacy, according to Albert Bandura, are crystallized through four main channels: master experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasion, and emotional, physical and psychological states.
Practice makes perfect - which is why mastering experience is a reference point to how much one may believe they can achieve. We believe that we are able to achieve a task when we refer to a time in the past when we were able to. The keyword here is practice - the more we try to hit a target, the closer we come to the bullseye. While positive experiences reinforce this channel, mistakes and failures undermine it.
Vicarious experiences - in other words, having social role models, is explained by Bandura's idea that "Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers' beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities to succeed." The outside affects the inner, and thus who we surround ourselves with contributes to our framework of self-beliefs. Thus, surrounding ourselves with positive role models, especially those who have high self-efficacy, rubs off on us.
It's all about the compliments. Social persuasion, or positive verbal feedback, is a positive reinforcer for completing the most challenging of tasks and it enhances one's ability to perform. It leads one to believe that they have what it takes to succeed in the task they are taking on. Essentially, it is encouragement - the earlier we are exposed to it, the higher the self-efficacy we attain as we grow older.
Although a large part of our trust in our abilities comes from social learning, our inner state also plays a role. Our emotional, physical, and psychological states are a factor: Feeling healthy and powerful affects our beliefs, while depression and anxiety may pose as setbacks. However, this does not mean that self-efficacy cannot co-exist with emotional disorders - studies suggest the opposite. Depression and self-efficacy can co-exist, which is a prime reason why many anxious, unhappy people happen to also be successful.
When it comes to success, the recipe is simple: try, and learn from failure. Bandura, though, made it even simpler for industrial-organizational and clinical psychologists. The theory has broken traditional ideas of simply having the confidence, and turned positive psychology into trend of the season - and many seasons to come.