What Is Self-Efficacy And How To Achieve It

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t—you’re right.” While Ford was an automotive pioneer, his sentiment offers insight into self-efficacy, a social cognitive theory first introduced in the 1970s by psychologist Albert Bandura. 

Self-efficacy refers to our belief in our ability to complete a particular task. Bandura’s paper, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change,” has remained popular in psychology circles because it offers insight into why some people are willing to jump into the fray of virtually any situation and why others sit on the sidelines. 

Self-efficacy touches nearly every point of a person’s life, including decision-making, mental health, and performance.

Where Does Self-Efficacy Come From?

Bandura recognised three critical sources of self-efficacy: personal experience, observation, and positive persuasion. Let’s examine how these sources would impact the prospect of running a half-marathon race.

Personal Experience

Someone with an established running routine with several 5K races under their belt could easily believe in their ability to run a half-marathon. The prior experience of training for a shorter distance needs to be duplicated at a further distance.


Perhaps another person has no running experience, but a friend they see as similar to themselves ran a half-marathon. The friend motivates and inspires the non-runner to strap on her shoes because “if she can do it, I can too!”

Positive Persuasion

Two friends with no running experience encourage and cheer each other on to train for and complete a half-marathon. Positive reinforcement motivates them to finish the race.

High vs Low Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy can significantly impact success in life and relationships because it affects our outlook on how much control we have over our lives. 

Hallmarks of High Self-Efficacy

People with a high level of self-efficacy are not afraid to set goals. They are resilient and persistent. They do not shy away from challenges and recover quickly when faced with setbacks.

Indications of Low Self-Efficacy

People with low self-efficacy tend to disengage when faced with a difficult task. They focus on the negative and may believe that a task is insurmountable or out of their control. Confidence and self-esteem are low in the face of obstacles.

It’s important to note that levels of self-efficacy can vary depending on the situation. Someone who feels completely confident running a half-marathon could cower at the thought of baking a pie. 

How to Achieve Self-Efficacy

To strengthen your self-efficacy, look no further than Bandura’s sources. 

Seek Experience

There’s no better way to build confidence than to try something new and make a track record of success. Be careful, though, to set reasonable goals. If you’ve never run around your block, signing up for a half-marathon is not practical. Find a plan online like RunningOverload’s Couch to 5K program. With each new milestone, celebrate your success and track your journey to reinforce the changes you’re making positively.

Find Your Tribe

Friends and peers working toward the same goal will boost your self-efficacy significantly. When you begin to doubt yourself, their action can inspire you to keep going. Whether it’s a neighbour who jogs or an organised running group in your city, find people you can depend on to be a positive influence.

Hooray for Cheerleaders

Positive affirmation can give you confidence in your abilities. Seek feedback from people who have your back and want to see you succeed in your endeavours. Sharing the highs and lows of tackling a new running program allows friends and your health practitioners to provide you with a well-earned pat on the back. 

And don’t underestimate the power of being your own cheerleader, too. Positive self-talk and defeating negative thoughts are crucial to building strong self-efficacy.