Engaging Our Positive Psychological Capacities

Confidence or Self-efficacy

Confidence is your conviction about your abilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources, and courses of action needed to successfully execute a specific task within a given context.

With Bandura (1997), your self-efficacy is your beliefs about your capabilities to produce effects.

Efficacy is a belief, an expectancy to produce effects, to be at cause in the pursuit of valued ends, of a valued outcome.

Listen to how this sounds to you:

I am at cause of an outcome.

I have done it before; I have seen others do it; I am told I can do it; I feel like I can do it.

I will succeed by bringing together valued outcomes, beliefs, effort and implementation intentions, skill and competence, and environmental mastery.

If you can utter these words in conviction, you will be on your way to actualizing your potentials.

Actualizing potential does not always mean realizing goals; you may fall, you may fail, but in the process, you will have grown in capacity and built up future capability. Thank you.

Developing Self-efficacy

With Bandura (1994), self-efficacy fluctuates with

cognitions in the form of thoughts and memories of success and failure;

motivations arising from convictions and expectations about outcomes, imaginations of how good we will feel when we reach the ends, how much we value these outcomes, of what it all means to us;

affects being shaped by our coping effectiveness, our ability to tolerate discomfort, deal with stress, lighten up from disheartening experiences, and our ability to bring self-compassion and kindness to our possible struggles;

inner workings of self-appraisal that reflect in our ongoing identity processes of self-regulation and self-awareness, influencing intentional exposure to or withdrawal from too easy or too heavy loads that could impact our self-image in undesirable and unexpected ways.

How can confidence be developed?

Positive psychological capacities are states rather than fixed traits, open to development, and all have proven guidelines for their enhancement.

An effective confidence-building development program could use the extensively studied and well-known four main ways to enhance self-efficacy, in order of importance:

(1) Mastery experiences or performance attainments. 

Experience entails direct information about success. The complexity of the task and perception of one’s ability will impact building confidence. Mastery experiences gained through perseverance and learning ability form a strong and lasting sense of confidence. However, confidence built from easy success will go as quickly as difficulties arise.

Mastery involves looking at what you already have achieved. Beyond luck and circumstances, what was your contribution to the success story; let’s tell it with this lens in focus. Tell us about your strengths, virtues, abilities, traits, states, values, and wits. Tell us about how you searched and found help and support, your ways of asking and receiving, and your grit, mental toughness, knowledge, skills, competence, mastery, excellence, perseverance, and endurance. Tell us who you are and what we can expect of you.

(2) Vicarious experiences or Social modeling. 

As you can learn by observing and modeling relevant others, you can also vicariously acquire confidence. The more similar the model, i.e., age, sex, physical characteristics, education, status, and experience, and the more relevant the task being performed, the more effect there will be on developing confidence.

The likeness of the social model in personal characteristics and the similarity of the task observed to the task at hand will increase the impact of our self-efficacy perception. A realistic appraisal of skill levels, others’ and our own, is a prerequisite in convincing ourselves of our efficacy.

(3) Social persuasion. 

Respected, competent individuals can have a powerful impact in the negative sense with unkind words and negative feedback, i.e., “you can’t do that,” in disabling and deflating confidence.

Positive persuasion is less impactful than negative persuasion. However, social persuasion can become more effective by being genuine, providing objective information, and then taking follow-up actions to set up the developing person for success rather than failure.

Negative persuasion can be very effective in disheartening our endeavors. On the other hand, positive persuasion has many strings attached to it. For example, do I trust your judgment in the matter, value your opinion, am I open to influence at this moment, do you know me, and how well I might ask? The questions can go on and on. In any case, our social support or persuaders can greatly help by structuring a conducive environment for success and building a safety net to avoid failure or damage from failure.

(4) Physiological and psychological arousal. Generating positive feeling states.

Feeling states, physical, emotional, and mental, can influence how you assess your capabilities.

Negative feelings, i.e., fatigue, illness, anxiety, depression, or stress, will generally detract significantly from confidence.

Positive feelings may not necessarily contribute to one’s confidence but can be a starting point for building confidence.

Feeling states are temporary, and physical or psychological negativity may result in only a temporary loss of confidence.

Affective arousal is cognitively interpreted before it turns into an emotion state. Excitement is not so different from anxiety or apprehension. Self-efficacy will have an impact on how your arousal will be channeled. Stress can be seen as a sign of inefficient coping resources and exhaustion or as a sign to energize, marshal, and focus resources to overcome the challenge. Your level of self-efficacy will taint your perceptions of obstacles and challenges, thus having an impact on how you approach them and how you deal with them. Bringing your strengths and resources to the task, such as curiosity, perseverance, and social intelligence, is a gift of your self-efficacy as well as a gift for your self-efficacy.


Snyder (1991): hope is a positive motivational state based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency, goal-oriented energy or willpower; and (b) pathways, planning to meet goals or way power.

From Snyder (2000); Luthans and Jensen (2002): Follow specific guidelines to build hope:

Set and clarify organizational and personal goals that are specific and challenging but doable.

For goal specificity, include numbers, percentages, and target dates.

Form challenging but not impossible stretch goals to make the process challenging but doable.

If your initial level of hope is shallow, start with an easy, readily attainable goal to achieve some degree of hope before moving on to more challenging goals.

Use steps to break your goals into manageable sub-steps that mark your progress and create the direct experience of at least small wins and successes.

Develop at least one alternative or contingency pathway to your goal with an accompanying action plan. Put as much thinking and effort into developing pathways and action plans for the goal as went into setting it.

Acknowledge your enjoyment in working toward goals, and do not focus solely on the final attainment.

Be prepared and willing to persist in facing obstacles and problems. Formulating pathways will help frame the realization that blocks may appear and help spur persistence as issues emerge.

Be prepared and skillful in knowing when and which alternative pathways to choose when the original route to goal accomplishment is no longer feasible or productive. “What if” and scenario planning and training can help build such skills.

Be prepared and skilled in knowing when and how to “re-goal” to avoid the trap of false hope.  Recognize when persistence toward a goal is no longer feasible, regardless of the chosen paths. If the original plan is blocked, recognize when and how to alter or change it.

Hope and Your Planning Behavior Generating Unit, PBGU

Hope is a planning behavior; it is generated by your Planning Behavior Generating Unit, PBGU; it is a module internal to the PBGU.

Hope is accompanied by a feeling or sense of wellbeing, wellness, or being good; it also can reduce stress and anxiety.

Hope is a driver of your motivation to act toward a meaningful purpose.

All Bio-psycho-social wants are needs turned into wants through filtering by culture (communal, family, caregiver cultures).

Wants create desires that drive you to plan for their satisfaction; this is how your PBGU kicks in.

My personal views on hope; Hope is:

a planning behavior;


its variance comes from the person’s reflective style, self-regulation capacity, capacity to postpone gratification, and other characteristics;

employs explicit memory;

employs conscious and unconscious processes;

learned through observed outcomes corresponding to simulated expectations;

its use creates an increase in competence.

As a general principle, the use of capacities changes memory and competence.

Hope expresses itself in your language and ideas as:

This goal is worthwhile to pursue;

I commit to pursuing this goal; I am determined;

I have many pathways to reach this goal;

If I encounter difficulties on my way, I can find alternate pathways, and I will continue pursuing the goal;

I believe I can reach the goal, fulfill my desire, satisfy my want, and be well.

As a driving power, hope drives you to:

determine goals: choose what you desire to achieve;

commit to achieving these goals: it will carry you to your destination;

overcome challenges, obstacles, barriers, setbacks, and difficulties: assert your power in commitment to achieving the goal;

generate alternate pathways to reach the goal and fulfill the purpose;

keep your motivation alive;

keep your decisiveness strong;

keep your actions on purpose;

keep your expectation of success high.

Hope and optimism are good for you, for your whole-person wellbeing.

With Snyder (1991), your belief that you can find a way, if not more than one, to your desired goal and that you can become motivated to use those ways is your hopeful thought.

Hopeful thought is not wishful thought, although it entails wishes and wants; it is also not positive thinking, although it involves problem and solutions thinking. The most valuable aspect of hope is that it makes you do things in your agency, which is an assertion of vitality, of existence. Agency brings together values, strengths, capacities, intentions and will.

Snyder considers hope to be a cognitive process, motivating you to find your willpower in goal-directed determination and your way-power in planning ways to meet goals; both will lead to positive emotions through rising expectations of meeting desired goals and an increase in positive self-evaluation.

Developing Hope

From Snyder’s Hope Theory, we have three main components of hope: goal, pathway, and motivation.

For each component, we may grow our awareness and enrich our understanding so that our hope is enhanced and deepened.

(a) The Goal. 

In contrast to avoidance goals, approach goals are assumed to be more empowering.

Several concepts linked to this distinction would be: pull vs. push goals and moving toward vs. moving away.

Matching task complexity with skill level, communicating clear expectations and targets, the what by when, showing what a good enough output may look like, simplifying and chunking where necessary, and celebrating small enough milestones so that achievement is not too far out into the future but here and near and also often enough.

Less tangible or specific goals and more general wants and desires, such as “We need to change our behavior so that we may get better results” or “I want to feel more of this than that,” can sometimes be the initial or presenting objective in a coaching context. The coaching task then becomes to crystalize a more workable goal that can be oriented toward and against which progress can be measured and monitored.

(b) The Pathways. 

Mental imagery of reaching the goal may enhance creativity in planning for ways, gathering, marshaling, and building resources, and considering challenges and obstacles and overcoming them. Scenario planning, contingencies, alternatives, when to invest further, when to stop and change direction, and what to let go of are all excellent topics you already know much about.

(c) Motivation, Agency thoughts. “I can, and I will” is the main motto. 

Valued goals bring meaning; meaning brings motivation. Autonomy brings self-determination and agency. You may consider the motivation continuum from external to introjected, identified, internalized to intrinsic in gauging the agency to be expected. Moving toward intrinsic motivation will move agency power one notch up, figuratively speaking.

Ownership of the goal is crucial in sustaining motivation.

Enhancing hope through goal-pathways-agency thinking can feed ownership and unlock potentials in service of the client’s vision and purpose.


Attributions of how my successes came about and what I expect of the future based on what I have and have not attained so far; will influence my ways of being, how I set goals, the energy I put into the effort, and how I feel about my endeavors.

Developing Optimism

Cognitive tools to develop optimism include 

disputing unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, reframing, appreciative inquiry, finding the best in people and situations, and “my best possible self” exercise;

evoking positive emotions about the past through gratitude and forgiveness;

evoking positive emotions in the present, in your day-to-day, through savoring, appreciating beauty and excellence, exerting signature strengths and observing the arising of gladness and vitality, noticing peak experiences and accompanying elation, awe, and wonder.

Broadening and building up positive emotions about the past and in the present is the best way to nurture positive emotions about the future, which will feed into your optimism, as well as your hope, self-efficacy, and resilience.


From a process view, resilience entails positive adaptation in the wake of apparent and significant adversity.

Most research and theorizing of resilience is about operationalizing the encounter with the adversity. The situations may range from (a) traumatic events and coping, overcoming traumatic events; (b) stress-inducing events and adaptive skills; (c) temporary or enduring hostile forces, negating the effort, potentialities, and visions of individuals. These situations have channeled research into the personal characteristics and talents of endurance exemplars who persist, overcome challenges, and even show growth or achievement beyond expectations.

{interlude: There is always a flow of events and a world (history) in motion.

The individual is situated and embedded in (many) world(s).

We can take two fundamental and primal views on the world and the individual:

First, in the integral view, four quadrants result from two continua or dimensions of inner-outer, single-plural.

In the dialectical critical realist view, four quadrants of aspects of reality are Context, Process, Relationship, and Transformation (CPRT).

For any situation, some quadrants may be more relevant, more of interest, or abundantly more generous for insight than others. The value we bring may be in discerning which quadrant to dwell on to reap the fruits of our work.}

Positive Psychological Interventions build a person’s inner balance; how? With the aim for the person to (a) understand their skills, talents, powers, and strengths that may serve them well and are already theirs; (b) explore their resources: physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual; what they already have, what to build on, how to use them, how to bring them together and leverage their impact and effect.

People bounce back from adversity all the time, even children living under harsh conditions. Some people even grow stronger through overcoming hardships. Building up resources and protections for your vulnerabilities is an excellent strategy to grow resilience.

Developing Resilience

Turning toward and opening mentally to the event or situation enables calm, centeredness, and perspective. Building your response on acceptance and compassion may help you endure the uncertainty and ambiguity of hardships, especially when the resolution does not appear near in time or place.

Hardship is meaningless. You and your response create meaning; building on purpose and getting intimate with experience and the cosmos is the ultimate meaning generator. Opening up to your experience is the practice that will root your wellbeing.

Capacities of spontaneity, curiosity, creativity; maybe humor; all in service of finding solutions, resolutions, moving forward, perhaps anchoring to prevent drifting off, slowing down to avoid falling down. Maybe, grasping too hard for an answer is creating adversity. But maybe, just stopping and seeing the issue will reveal the existing way.