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The four sources of self-efficacy you draw on every day

In this blog post, executive coach and author Julie Hickton, looks in more depth at Bandura, self efficacy, and the four sources from which we draw it.

“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

Mahatma Gandhi


When Gandhi talked about the power of his own self-belief, it wasn’t just an inspirational soundbite, it was good psychology too. We all know that self-confidence is crucial in life, but what about self-efficacy? Our faith in our own abilities to succeed play a major part in whether we actually do… so Gandhi’s is, to some extent, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

According to Albert Bandura self efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” In other words, self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation.  Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave and feel.

Self-efficacy can have an impact on everything from psychological states to behaviour to motivation. To Bandura self efficacy has been found that an individual’s self-efficacy plays a major role in how goals, tasks and challenges are approached.

People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

  • View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
  • Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
  • Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interest and activities
  • Recover quickly form setbacks and disappointments

And, conversely, people with a weak sense of self-efficacy:

  • Avoid challenging tasks
  • Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities
  • Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes
  • Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities

And, according to Bandura, there are four major sources of self-efficacy.

Mastery experiences

The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences.”  Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However failing to adequately deal with the task or challenge can undermine or weaken self-efficacy. The small steps and incremental goals of achievement support this development.

Social modelling

Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observer’s beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities.”

Social persuasion 

Bandura’s self efficacy report also asserted that people could be persuaded to believe that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Getting verbal encouragement from others helps people overcome self-doubt and instead focus on giving their best effort to the task in hand.

Psychological responses 

Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Moods, emotional states, physical reactions and stress levels can all impact on how a person feels about their personal capabilities to a particular situation. Bandura self efficacy notes “it is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted.” By learning how to minimise stress and elevate mood when facing difficult or challenging situations, people can improve their sense of self-efficacy.

So to help develop this aspect of your resilience, spend time with people who will encourage and support you, set your self some goals that do stretch but you are able to achieve. Find out how others do it, go and have a conversation with them and get ideas and approaches to what it is that you are wanting to achieve, over come. And finally, manage your mood; you can control your response to things it does however take a determined effort and focus.


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