Overcoming Obstacles: How to Live Life with No Regrets
“In the journey of life, certain paths may seem to be leading nowhere because of a mountain or hill on the way which may seem to be the end of the journey, but should a pilgrim of life climb such a mountain, he would also see ahead and have a clearer picture of a better way forward!”
—Ernest Agyemang Yeboah
Most people can identify goals they want to accomplish and things they would like to change–but most people also realize that putting plans into action is not quite so simple. No matter what we set out to do, there will always be bumps in the road. The good news is that what ultimately determines our success is how we think and feel about these obstacles.
“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”
Noted psychologist Albert Bandura has defined self-efficacy as your belief in your own ability to succeed in certain situations. In other words, it determines how competent you feel at overcoming obstacles and achieving your goal. Studies have shown that self-efficacy can be a major predictor of your future success. In fact, some psychologists rate self-efficacy above talent in the recipe for success.
If you are curious to learn about your own level of self-efficacy, I can send you a link to a brief test that is free of charge and gives you your results immediately. Just send me your email address below and I’ll send it to you.
As you might imagine, people with a strong sense of self-efficacy see themselves as in control of their circumstances. They view challenging obstacles as tasks to be mastered, often stimulating them to even greater efforts. Whatever their interest, they become highly motivated and deeply involved. People with high self-efficacy will likely attribute failure to external factors rather than their own lack of ability and quickly bounce back from setbacks and disappointments.
On the other hand, people with low levels of self-efficacy see themselves as having little control over their environment. They tend to procrastinate and avoid challenging tasks altogether, believing that difficult obstacles are beyond their ability. When they fail, they blame themselves for the negative outcome, lose confidence, and tend to give up easily. People with low self-efficacy believe that tasks will be harder than they really are which increases their stress about getting things done.
So, where does self-efficacy come from and how do we get more of it? Our beliefs about our competence begin to form in early childhood as children deal with a wide variety of experiences, tasks, and situations. Fortunately, the growth of our self-efficacy doesn’t end there. It continues to evolve throughout life as people acquire new skills, face different obstacles, and gain greater understanding.
According to Bandura, there are four sources of self-efficacy, listed below. I have included a fifth source, added later by psychologist James Maddux, for your consideration.
1. Mastery Experiences
Nothing is more powerful in creating a resilient sense of self-efficacy than the direct experience of success in mastering a task or controlling the environment. Simply put, success raises self-efficacy while failure lowers it. This is the single most important source of self-efficacy.
To develop your sense of mastery, start out taking baby steps and congratulate yourself with each small success. As your success accumulates, your end goal will start to look much more attainable.
The second source of self-efficacy comes from our observation of people around us, especially those we consider to be role models. Modeling is experienced as, “If they can do it, so can I.” When we see someone succeeding, our own self-efficacy increases. When we see someone failing, our own self-efficacy decreases. This process is most effectual when we see ourselves as similar to the role model.
Finding a role model to emulate is as easy as finding someone who is successful in your chosen field. Reach out to that person and try to make a connection. Find out as much as you can about the path they took and the obstacles they had to overcome to achieve success.
3. Social Persuasion
Getting credit where credit is due from the influential people in your life is another important source of self-efficacy. When your life partner, parent, teacher, manager, or coach lets you know that you have the capability to master a particular activity, we are much more likely to put in the effort and overcome any obstacles that may arise. Social persuasion can be a very effective motivator.
Social persuasion can work both ways. If someone important to you gives you support and encouragement, this will obviously have a positive effect. However, if an influential person gives you negative feedback, this can also help motivate you to prove them wrong!
4. Physical Stress Reaction
In stressful situations, people commonly exhibit physical signs of distress: shakes, nausea, butterflies, light-headedness, etc. How you interpret these signs can have a marked impact on your feelings of self-efficacy. For example, if you get butterflies in your stomach before public speaking, you may interpret this as a sign of your inability thereby lowering your sense of self-efficacy. On the other hand, if you interpret the butterflies as a normal reaction, unrelated to your ability, your self-efficacy would remain high. The difference is in your perception.
Keep your reaction to stress in the normal range by practicing rhythmic breathing. Just close your eyes and take a deep inhale while counting to 4. Then take a deep exhale while counting to 4. Try not to concentrate on anything else but your counting and breathing. It only takes 2 minutes to relieve your stress and the results will be well worth it.
Psychologist James Maddux has suggested a fifth source of self-efficacy that he has termed, “Imaginal Experiences.” This involves visualizing yourself overcoming obstacles and effectively succeeding in a given situation. Believing in yourself is a powerful tool for building your self-efficacy and practicing visualization will help you strengthen your motivation.
What does your picture of success look like? For me, it involves getting interviewed by Oprah about how I am able to live my life with no regrets. Visualizing this scene never fails to lift my spirits.
I would love to know if you found this post helpful in overcoming your obstacles. Or if you read this far and still feel you need more help, why not drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 914-319-0333 so we can set up a time to chat.