by Cathy Fyock @CathyFyock
“I think I can! I think I can!” said The Little Engine That Could. The Little Engine believed that she could do it—that she had the smarts to figure it out and the persistence to keep at it. She had a quality that social cognitive theorists call self-efficacy, and it’s the same trait that enables us to achieve our big goals—like writing our books.
Self-efficacy is an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments wrote Albert Bandura in his 1977, 1986, and 1997 research findings. It’s the confidence we need in our abilities to be able to exert control over our motivations, behaviors, and social environments.
While speaking at the International Coach Federation Midwest Conference, I heard keynoter Caroline Adams Miller (best-selling author of My Name is Caroline and Creating Your Best Life) say that self-efficacy is one of four traits that happy people possess. She also adds that research findings have shown that happy people not only achieve their goals, but are more successful; in fact, she states that empirical data show that successful people are happy people first.
So, what does it take to build self-efficacy? The good news is that we can control many of the components of self-efficacy. In other words: if you don’t already have it, you can develop it.
Miller outlines four steps in building the confidence and tenacity instrumental for goal achievement. I’m adding specific steps you can use in building the self-efficacy you need to write your book.
- Have someone that believes in you. It’s easier to believe in yourself when others do. Do you have a support team? Napoleon Hill identified a “MasterMind group” as a team of peers who come together to brainstorm, share ideas, and affirm one another. An accountability partner can also be the cheerleader who helps celebrate your victories; a coach is someone who asks good questions and offers good challenges to help you discover your inner strength. In my role, I work both as an accountability partner and coach!
- Have a proximal role model. A proximal role model is one who is close by; it’s someone with whom you have a personal relationship. I encourage my aspiring authors to hang out with other aspiring authors. You can share in successes and together figure out how to overcome obstacles. Group coaching programs, author meet-ups, and writing retreats are all great ways to build community with the people who can lead you to success.
- Develop good stress responses. What are you doing to handle stress? I suggest strategies like practicing daily meditation, finding humor in situations, and getting enough sleep and proper nutrition. Daily journaling, especially writing in gratitude journals, is a technique for keeping daily writing habits and maintaining a positive outlook.
- Create mastery experiences. Consider a “Swiss Cheese” approach to your book project and master small steps or chunks. Create calendar entries for daily writing. Practice writing sprints to keep your writing muscles exercised. Write articles and blog posts that can be repurposed later for your book. In other words, cut an elephant-sized meal into bite-sized pieces.
If you follow these steps, you’ll not only build your self-efficacy, but you’ll also be creating the requirements necessary for flow. Flow is when your writing is effortless: time melts away and you’re on autopilot, it seems. This is the writing state to which we aspire, when writing is actually fun. One condition of flow is that the task is equal to our belief in our ability—in other words, our self-efficacy. So following these steps will not only build confidence, but will lead to more moments of actually enjoying your writing.
As you’re sitting at your writing desk, are you saying to yourself, as the little engine: “I think I can! I think I can!”? If not, it’s time to step back and put a little self-efficacy in your diet!