Increasing Self-Efficacy Accelerates Successful Behavior Change

Over 40 years ago, Albert Bandura postulated that self-efficacy was important for individuals and societies to be able to be successful.  Many others have subsequently validated his concepts.  Self-efficacy serves as the core element of a wide variety of interventions.

“Self-efficacy is the belief we have in our own abilities, specifically our ability to meet the challenges ahead of us and complete a task successfully.”  (Bandura 1977)

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 interests and activities
  • Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments


People with a Weak Sense of Self-Efficacy:

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

“Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.” Albert Bandura

Examples of Individuals with Strong Self-Efficacy Include:

  • A woman accepted a job in a role she has never performed before but feels she has the ability to learn and perform her job well.
  • A man with bad luck with relationships so far, but retains a positive outlook on his ability to connect with his upcoming date.
  • An entrepreneur who pours her heart and soul into establishing her business, but quickly moves on to her next great idea when her business is hit with an insurmountable and unexpected challenge.
  • A man who is struggling to manage his chronic illness but feels confident that he can get back on track and improve his health by working hard and following his doctors’ recommendations.

“Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.” Albert Bandura 

Key Elements Leading to Increased Self-Efficacy

  1. Mastery: Experiences gained when we take on a new challenge and succeed.
  2. Vicarious experience: (Social Modeling): Having a positive role model to observe and emulate.
  3. Verbal persuasion: (Social Persuasion): Getting encouragement from others helps overcome doubts.
  4. Psychological Responses:  Successfully dealing with emotions, physical reactions and stress levels improves how a person feels about personal abilities in a stressful situation.
  5. Visualization (Imaginal experiences): Imagining future success builds the belief that succeeding is possible.

Steps to Self-Efficacy Include:

  • Contextualize your circumstances
  • Understand what is important to you
  • Relate choices/actions to what’s important to you
  • Make decisions and set goals
  • Learn from successes and failures
  • Visualize your future if you achieve your goals

These steps lead to being confident you are able to achieve your goals (self-efficacy)

“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

Increased Self-Efficacy Improves Self-Management:

  • Connects life priorities to health outcomes
  • Enhances coping with emotions/depression
  • Improves friends and family relationships
  • Supports healthy lifestyle change
  • Enhances communication with clinicians
  • Drives therapy adherence

Improved Self-Management:

  • Improves health status and reduces use of health resources
  • Directly improves health outcomes
  • Augments benefits of clinical care
  • Integrates into clinical care

“Whether you believe you can or you believe you cannot, you are correct” Henry Ford

One example of a behavioral intervention based on Bandura’s work is Better Choices, Better Health® (BCBH) – a six-week peer-to-peer self-management support digital therapeutic for adults with one or more chronic conditions.  BCBH’s mechanism of action is increasing self-efficacy.  To learn more about BCBH, click here.

Now imagine what our organizations, communities and world would be like if more people felt confident in their own abilities to meet the challenges ahead of them and complete tasks successfully –in other words, having greater self-efficacy.  That is a goal worth accomplishing.

“You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose!”  Dr. Seuss

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