Working on one’s self-efficacy maybe one of the most of the most important processes a person could put themselves through.
Self-efficacy is defined as “the extent or strength of one's belief in one's own ability to complete tasks and reach goals” [Source Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-efficacy ].
This narrative begins with a look into the way our work culture has developed and evolved over the past sixty five plus years.
The end of WW [II] is a suitable jump off point since in essence the world as it was known at that time had been completely destroyed with the net result being it was almost like starting from scratch.
Post war; and now the order of the day was rebuilding. In the US the advent of Roosevelt’s death and the appointment of Truman as Vice President over Wallace assured that America would be securely in the hands of the venture capitalists of the day. Wallace it appears was considered as being too far to the left.
In 1946 the policy adopted by Congress set the goal of achieving full employment, full production, and stable prices via the employment act established in that year.
America was and still is a natural resource rich country, and at that time oil rich, and it was cheap. A mega propellant to start the rebuilding of an economy.
Business owners [although I am sure were proud to be pivotal in the re-building of the world] were having a hay day, demand was through the ceiling and supply was nonexistent.
People just coming back from overseas at that time walked into a post war boom. Housing, agriculture, and massive government spending on defense projects amongst others provided the basis for a stable economy.
Abraham Maslow developed the hierarchy of human needs, [this is a point of reference] Looking at this and thinking about people, and their opportunities at that time a reasonable estimate would put the Maslow's hierarchy position in America at levels two, three, and sometimes four. Important to note that other more devastated parts of the globe were struggling to reach or get past level one.
America had entered a Golden Age.
Fundamental differences between east and west resulted in an iron curtain being drawn between the same. This along with nuclear weapons was the foundation for the cold war. The cold war fueled continued employment in industries like aerospace life was good.
People like me for example, found the opportunity for a new life in America as a result of the shortage of engineering skills in the 1970’s. America had already begun it's post golden era decline. Coming from across the “pond” it looked just prosperous and full of opportunity to me, never had I seen anything like it
The “system” created by this culture in part contributed to a kind of apathy. Job security allowed continuous employment, retire and be happy. So why apathy? Because the thought generally was this golden age would last forever.
Not true, in actuality with oil production seeing peak production levels in the US in the mid 70’s the golden era then began its slow decline.
So much for the history lesson, but what is the point.
What I Saw;
I arrived in the US in 1979, at that time a 2000 square foot home in So-Cal was around $85.000.00. The average income was around $30,000.00 [household].
Other than finding a way to come up with down payments and the like [which is always a problem] once into a home the relative income to debt ratio at that time was reasonable. Additionally income growth in an occupation was predictable, so personal wealth would grow if the household budget was managed properly.
Fast forward to the early nineties, the Berlin wall is down, and the cold war is over. Defense is at an all-time low in terms of employment.[ I can personally remember sitting in the GM’s office in 1992 at the aerospace company where I worked reading faxes telling of program cancellations. All of a sudden this prosperous $120,000,000.00 company was down to $50,000,000.00, and struggling].
The Clinton years saw the largest peacetime financial expansion, also three separate years of budget surplus. Into the 21st century, 9/11, a real estate boom, then the worst depression since the 1930's.
In 2012 the average income was at $68,000.00, but checking on the price of a home, it is at $550,000.00.[Hmm,  $30,000.00 and $85,000.00 vs  $68,000.00 and $550,000.00, won’t even mention gasoline, food and the like.]
Common sense says there has to be another way other than struggling to come up with the required income in light of all this decline.
Check this out, incomes peaked around 2007, then began to fall. [Source http://stateofworkingamerica.org/chart/swa-wages-figure-4c-change-real-hourly-wages/]
What we knew as middle class which made up a large percentage of the population is significantly smaller, products traditionally made in the US are being made offshore.
So much for the American dream, but it is still a great and ideal dream. A lot will depend upon your point of reference. Personally speaking, I travel abroad to the UK often to visit my aged mother, she is 101. One thing I can assure you of; I am always happy to see the lights over LA as the plane descends into LAX.
I hear people berate our country, to me that is an uninformed mind. America is still one of the best places to live. The issue is how one adapts to these new challenges our social evolution has presented. The ability to accrue wealth, balance one's life, attain one's slice of the pie so to speak still exists.
People non the less ask themselves as a result of this evolved culture, just what is it they are expected to do. After all the baby boomer generation [who were born and raised in the “golden age”] raised their offspring such that the expectation was/is their children would do better than they did. Yet the new mish mash global economy, oil prices and the like is driving the local economy to a place where this expectation seems almost impossible to meet.
The issues facing this generation;
• Real estate cost growth disproportionate to income growth.
• Unemployment levels high.
• The average cost to live is significantly disproportionate to income growth.
• Income growth is marginal at best.
• Traditional onshore work moved offshore less opportunity.
Issues facing [me] retiring baby boomers;
• How does one subsidize retirement benefits that do not meet the increased cost of living, which said benefits do not meet?
Well I suppose one could float on the breeze of indifference, muddle along and something will turn up.
No choice, right?
Well not right, wrong. The enlightened mind will find a way
Fact: The traditional 40 year employment cycle with pension plans and a secure feeling about the future are gone.
The real question is this; is one prepared to take on the challenge of moving away from the traditional methods of acquiring an income.
In the absence of a “system” to guide one [something evident in traditional places of work, an example is the performance appraisal] the time has arrived for a self powered system.
A question for anyone reading this article. How much does one know about themselves? Unless one understands something about themselves, how then would they go about identifying their own weak spots, or making a radical move?
Just how much belief and faith does a person have in their ability to complete something? Are they even aware that completing/achieving goals and tasks tends towards success?
Studies carried out by psychologist Albert Bandura provided us with the social cognitive theory. Bandura is the most cited psychologist we know of.
Scientifically speaking, cognition relates to the functions of mental processing, attention connected with the memory, understanding language, calculating, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making.
I will not go into great detail, this would be simply plagiarism. For a detailed explanation please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Bandura
Getting to the crux of the matter while not trying to be psychologists ourselves; people generally are influenced by what they observe in others. Example, if you want to make a million dollars, you will not get the proper influence from a tramp living on a park bench.
However let’s keep the horse in front of the cart. Working from the inside out first.
An important tool available here is the core self-evaluation feature, it examines four areas.
• The Locus of control, is either external or internal. When one views the locus of control as internal; the notion is that he/she is in control of their destiny. These types of people will have satisfaction in life. The converse will also be true. Why? Because the notion is that other forces are in control.
• Neuroticism, meaning that a person is either emotionally stable or unstable. Opposite sides of the same coin, the unstable side will submit to depression, anxiety, helplessness, be more prone to losing patience, and giving up. Conversely the stable person will be more likely to demonstrate the exact opposite attributes.
• Generalized self-efficacy, or how one perceives themselves over a broad range of situations, an average if you will. Very simply, if generalized self-efficacy is high, then the tendency to be open to new levels of learning, and experience will be prevalent, the converse will also be true.
• Self-esteem, what value does an individual place upon him/herself? Probably the most important of the four. Also associated elements like belief in oneself, faith in oneself, and confidence in oneself although not specifically self esteem, when combined can take one far in all aspects of life.
A simple way to look at high vs low self-efficacy
High, tends towards;
• Broader views of how to make the best plan
• Motivation driven by a challenge
• A tendency to work harder when difficulty presents itself
• Will criticize themselves with statements of; “I need better preparation”, or “I need to put more effort” when the desired result is not realized.
Low, tends towards;
• Will be overwhelmed when faced with an unfamiliar task.
• Will exhort a tendency to give up before they begin.
• Will make statements like,” I am just not good at this”
• Will shy away from a challenge
These theories serve as an indication of how one may perceive him or herself. From this a benchmark can be established whereby one may get a picture of oneself and therefore be able to develop a personal improvement plan for working on one’s.
The Sub Conscious and Talking To Oneself.
The sub conscious mind is like a hard drive for a computer. Every input a person received from the time he or she left the womb is stored in this drive. Even scarier is that the sub conscious categorizes this data, and when a new input comes along it searches the memory and hooks it up with something in a related category.
If for example the influence in one’s past was that anything was possible, and being whatever one wanted to be was attainable then the new input may be viewed thus.
The new input for example is that an opportunity is available in some unfamiliar arena, and it is being openly offered to those who want to take advantage.
Because of the original influence in the above persons mind, the chances are he/she would take advantage. Why, because the “category link” between the opportunity and how the mind of that individual was programmed are congruent. It recognizes a new opportunity and responds. Good, you can do anything you choose, go for it.
The converse is also true, if the sub conscious had received messages like “you will amount to nothing”, or “you are limited in what you can do, so stay away from things you don’t understand”. Then the tendency would be to shy away since the “category link “would pick up the earlier negative influence.
Many people live with these pre-programmed messages all their lives. Also they question from time to time why others can succeed with certain opportunities and they cannot.
Modern science and research has concluded this, you will become what you think about the most. It has little or nothing to do with luck, or desire. The brain via the sub conscious will simply do what you tell it, there is no choice.
Most of the influences are planted firmly when we are young. Why? Because we at that time we relied on adults to tell us what to think. This can be fortunate or unfortunate.
For example, “you will never play a musical instrument”, conversely “you are very creative, music and arts are a good choice for you” At a young age the ability to reason and make one’s own judgments is in the formative stage. The sub conscious is therefore programmed with what is accepted primarily from one’s parents or other closely regarded adult, such as teachers or close relatives.
In short the things you believe in and your values came from someone else. For many these may not be the beliefs and values they actually want. Unless an internal change or reprogramming occurs then every time something new is encountered, the brain’s control room lights up and goes right back to its origin.
As you realize by now this could be for you or against you, the important thing is to realize why.
A word of caution here. Just because the original programming of the mind was not from the owner of the mind does not necessarily mean it is wrong. Much of it is more than likely quite acceptable. The reality much to our chagrin is that not all of the programming is working FOR us.
The inevitable fact therefore is, without some well defined specific reprogramming one will keep doing the same things over and over. Einstein said it best when defining insanity, “Insanity; doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.
How does one go about doing something substantive about working on one’s self efficacy?
One of the books in my library is written by an author named Shad Helmstetter, the title is; What to Say When You Talk to Yourself.
This is a recommended read.
Two types of talking to yourself;
Negative self-talk, examples, “I never have enough time”, “I am just no good at that”, or “I am always broke”.
The predisposition of the the mind is thus “time is never enough”, therefore the sub conscious will drive actions and make it exactly that,” I am always broke”, means one's actions will be driven to make sure of that. Why? Because a person will do exactly what he or she thinks, when thought often enough.
Also and important to note is that these statements usually come from an outburst of frustration. This is emotionally charged, something else the subconscious responds to well.
Remember; when statements are made for an extended period, then the mind of that person is predisposed. It knows no difference between rich and poor, it knows nothing quantifiable in terms of time. The mind will only what it is told, when spoken to in a strong and definitive way over and over.
Positive self-talk; Helmstetter identifies five levels of self-talk in his book. [I encourage everyone to read this work.] Specifically level 4 seems the most appropriate from the positive side since not only does it promote the reprogramming aspect, it also helps with the process of achieving goals.
Positive reprogramming statements begin with I have, I can, I am, or I never. As examples; “I can do this task”,” I never procrastinate”, and “I am busy working at this…”. “I am making money and I am enjoying new successes”. “I have made the decision to…..”[Note; Observe how all statements are in the present, avoid” I intend to”, “I am planning to”, “eventually I will” these are predisposed to being an obstacle, and therefore will exist in the sub conscious as a negative directive.]
The negative overtones must be removed completely as in thrown away, just like an old pair of worn out boots. They are replaced with new positive overtones.
The new self-talk is strong, packed with emotion, and very specific and very definite. The frequency of repeating it is daily.
If goals are included as they must be, then the dates for completion will also be included.
I do two things, I have my long term overall purpose written, it has a completion date, I have all of the subsets written with completion dates. I have this recorded on my phone, I listen to myself daily, I speak to myself daily. [I am 62 I have a lot of past programming to undo]. The younger you are the easier it will be.
Professionals like Bandura and Helmstetter put a lot of time and effort into their research and I consider them masters.
My assumption is as follows; Albert Bandura is correct with his theories, and I know the workings of the sub conscious are proven facts. Logic dictates that using the Helmstetter self-talk method for working on one’s self-efficacy by reprogramming the sub conscious will prove to be successful.
The definition one more time, “the extent or strength of one's belief in one's own ability to complete tasks and reach goals”.
Core values and how we think and respond to challenges and the like will all tend towards high efficacy, this is the desired effect of working on one's self efficacy
More to consider and in conclusion.
The golden era from post WW [II] to 1975 is considered a materialistic self-serving type of era. This interpretation of the Dream was based on the attainment of all things material, money, cars, houses, stuff. For the most part it gave no consideration to anything else.
The evolution into the current generation has added such features as time freedom, work/life balance, a regard for the environment, some consideration and effort into paying back for one’s achieved good fortune. Some call it a return to core values.
Back to the Maslow point of reference. People still operate in a combination of levels two, three, and four because of financial, marital, relationship, and self esteem issues, this much has remained the same.
Simultaneously and of significance in today's world is that a person needs a way to realize their own self worth, Maslow's term is self actualization. Working on one's self efficacy using some of the above pointers will help the individual in this regard, many employers fail miserably in this area. When that is true self help is the remedy.
About four years into arriving in the US, I remember writing in a performance appraisal that “I looked forward to spending the next forty years with the company”. This is indicative of how we thought back then.
That ideology is dead, we live in a different time. For the most part it is a time for a new beginning, the materialistic disposition is not the best. It exploits all, with no regard for consequence.
This new way of looking at life, work, and the environment, how to balance it all and find a way to pay back seems to me to make more sense. I have lived and worked in both.
In order for it all to make sense, begin with a program for working on one’s self efficacy.