“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, states Albert Bandura in his 1977, 1986, and 1997 research findings. It’s the confidence we need in our ability to exert control over our motivations, behaviors, and social environments.
While speaking at the ICF Midwest Conference this summer, 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 in 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 spouse or partner to champion your cause? Better yet, 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 holds your feet to the fire and helps celebrate your victories; a coach is someone who asks good questions and helps you discover your internal strength. In my role I work both as an accountability partner and coach; I believe that when you follow my process, you can get it done!
- Have a proximal role model. A proximal role model is one who is close-by; it’s someone with which you have a personal relationship. I encourage my aspiring authors to hang out with other authors and aspiring authors. You can learn from one another. 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 the humor, and getting enough sleep and proper nutrition. Daily journaling, especially writing in gratitude journals, is a way to not only practice daily writing habits, but to also focus on the positive and develop perspective.
- 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 (I have recently added one or two writing sprints to each of my group coaching calls). Write articles and blog posts that can be repurposed for your book. Practice the “Chunky Method of Time Management for Writers”, as outlined in Allie Pleiter’s excellent webinar. For a complete listing of webinars, visit my website. In other words, cut the elephant 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 automatic pilot. 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!