Editorial: How self-efficacy can help you

It is often said that anything worth having in life will not come easily. Post high school, we all come to terms with this universal truth in one of two ways: It comes to define our journey through life, or it is the excuse we give ourselves to justify our failures. College is one such goal. No one ever said it would be easy to balance 15 units of course work while working over 30 hours a week, often while trying to maintain some semblance of a social life. But it is our outlook on the situation, the way we see the picture as a whole, that determines how we will handle such difficult times.

In social psychology there is a term for such an outlook: Self-efficacy. In simple terms it is our evaluation of self, an assessment of our own competence. Those individuals who have high self-efficacy see challenges, not threats. They are often motivated by an intrinsic drive, a fuel from within that keeps them moving forward, always toward the completion of their goals. And if such individuals fail, they work harder, attributing setbacks to things that they can control. Low self-efficacy, on the other hand, is often trademarked by viewing challenges as threats, and losing sight of the goal by focusing on the obstacles rather than the so-called finish line. The drive of those who have low self-efficacy comes from exterior motivations, the golden ring or the shiny physical prize, blaming others for their failures rather than accepting their shortcomings. The important thing is this: Self-efficacy can be increased.

First and foremost, self-efficacy depends on the situation. You can have amazingly high efficacy in one area, but low efficacy in another. Physical obstacles may not sway you from your goal, while emotional and mental ones knock you for a loop, or vice versa. In order to increase our efficacy we need to set goals for ourselves. The important thing is to set goals that we can easily achieve. Once we’ve met those goals, we set the bar a little higher. Bit by bit we become better than we were. These moderately challenging tasks are often referred to as mastery experiences. By proving to ourselves that we are able to do better day by day, we are able to increase our efficacy over time. Another way is through modeling. If you want to successfully work two jobs while going to school, find a role model, someone to inspire you. If they can achieve what you wish to achieve, then you know it can be done. This combined with surrounding yourself with the right types of people are all you need to increase your efficacy in a given area. If you want to be a model student, surround yourself with like-minded people. It is much harder to maintain a course when all those around you are diverting from theirs.

For all those students who feel that they cannot succeed, that there are too many obstacles in their path, you can make it. Just keep moving forward and focus on the individual steps in front of you, not the miles in between you and your destination.