Beliefs, Actions, and Outcomes
Humans act. When they act in the pursuit of explicit goals or outcomes, we speak of performance. When the performance creates desired outcomes, we look for sustaining factors supporting the performance. Sometimes performance does not yield desired outcomes. We may conclude that behavior change is warranted.
What drives behavior change? A related question is; what drives performance? Combining the two, what drives the performance of behavior change?
Dweck et al. have given us a model identifying ability, mindset, and social environment as performance drivers. Mindset is the beliefs one has about one’s ability. You may believe your ability can be increased, motivating you to exert effort to learn and improve; you have a growth mindset.
In contrast, people with fixed mindsets tend not to hold such beliefs. The social environment is considered a mediator that influences one’s beliefs. Some aspects of talent and ability have a stronger biological basis, e.g., intelligence, temperament, physical functioning or state, developmental stage, and genes.
Bandura has given us a model with three primary drivers of behavior (a) cognitive factors, including beliefs, especially self-efficacy beliefs, (b) behavioral factors, including skill and practice; and (c) environmental factors, including social influences. Social learning theory is less concerned with aspects of talent and ability that may have a stronger biological basis.
BEST stands for Beliefs, Environment, Skills, and Talent.
Beliefs are related to self-efficacy; to the question, “what is possible?”; to growth mindset; “how are benefit and cost related?”; process; and motivation and effort. Beliefs can be self-fulfilling, self-limiting, self-defeating, and self-enhancing.
Environment is about the situation, social and physical; stimuli; rewards and punishment; resources; support; expectations.
Skills include skills, strategies, knowledge, and understanding. One can enhance them through small, easy, and deliberate practice.
Talent includes ability, temperament, developmental stage, physical state, and genes. Talent changes via self-reflection, neuroplasticity, and epigenetics.
These factors can enable, disable, help, or hinder improved performance. Performance results from a response to a situation. It satisfies needs, wants, and expectations. Satisfaction is a self-reinforcement factor in performance. Performance and satisfaction result in success, health, and happiness outcomes. Again, outcomes serve as reinforcement of performance and also satisfaction.
What challenges are you experiencing?
In light of these challenges, what desired outcomes are you aiming for?
Consider the factors that determine your performance. Identify the most significant to your performance in responding to challenges and achieving your desired outcomes.
Responses —> Satisfaction —> Outcomes
Responses can be automatic, as in first reactions and habits, or they can be considered.
Improving performance means improving responses; responses in the areas of beliefs, environment, skills, and talent. How might you modify your responses to improve performance?
What responses are effective? What responses need improvement?
Positive satisfaction of needs, wants, goals, and expectations and managing the challenges further our wellbeing in terms of positive outcomes, namely, success, health, and happiness.
Effective responses to challenges and opportunities grow our wellbeing.
Effective responses are built on resources, internal and external.
Resources are sources of control, and powers to help you shape challenges and situations such that they satisfy your needs, wants, and expectations. Effective use of these powers produces positive outcomes such as success, health, and happiness. However, if the responses do not satisfy your needs, wants, and expectations, negative outcomes may result, e.g., failure, ill health, and misery.
Implications for Coaching
Coaching focuses on whatever internal and external resources enable you to manage challenges and satisfy your needs, improving life outcomes.
Challenges may be in your external environment or within your experience.
Resources of the external include your whole environment, the support you can draw upon, and the resources you can access.
These may be interindividual, such as family support, close friends, mentors, and elders; social-institutional, such as community centers, healthcare centers, and continuous education programs; cultural, such as rituals and ceremonies; political, economic, legal, and physical environment.
Resources of the internal consist of your psychological fitness, including your beliefs, skills, knowledge, and understanding, and your physical fitness, including your talent, abilities, developmental stage, physical state, and genetic endowment.
Coaching aims to enable you to draw upon resources and develop resources that permit effective responses to challenges so desired outcomes are achieved optimally.
Again, how might you modify your responses to improve performance?
What responses are effective? What responses need improvement?
What beliefs, environment, skills, and talent might you identify as most significant to your performance? How might each of these enable or disable your performance in this situation?
Responses are constituted by beliefs, environment, skills, and talent. These affect performance in proportion to their varying availability and deployment.
A lack of belief is voiced as “There is no way I can do that.”
Lack of skill is voiced as “I don’t have a clue about how to do this.”
Lack of belief and skill results in the absence of motivation, attenuating the action potential and overriding any level of available talent.
The absence of belief or skill results in the non-performance of a task.
The same holds for a hostile environment.
In the case of talent, the absence should never be assumed since people always have some talent that reveals upon effort and sustained action.
Applying this to your situation, what performance area would you like to improve?
What would you rate to be your talent, skills, environment, and belief that you can achieve what you desire? You may apply a range of zero to ten.
Looking at these ratings, what changes would produce the biggest improvement in your performance?
What would it look like to notch up your belief by one point, your mindset or self-efficacy belief?
Let’s look at all four factors in search of the most effective targets for change.
See if you can take on these beliefs;
I believe I can perform as required; self-efficacy beliefs.
I believe I can make changes to improve my performance; growth mindset.
I believe improving my performance is beneficial; net benefits are greater than effort costs.
I believe there is a way by which I may achieve improvement; process.
These beliefs feed into your motivation to change and your willingness to invest the effort to make it happen.
The effect of self-efficacy beliefs on performance is well established.
The effect of a growth mindset and belief in the possibility of improvement through my agency is well established.
The relation of the perceived cost of the changes to the perceived benefits contributes to the motivation to exert effort in terms of initiating, sustaining, maintaining, and drawing away and in terms of level, intensity, continuity, perseverance, adaptation, or agility.
I appreciate the importance of the performance factors in driving performance.
I see how acting on these factors translates into performance improvement.
I appreciate the performance process.
To complete a thorough look at these beliefs, examine to what extent they are self-fulfilling, self-limiting, self-defeating, or self-enhancing; and examine and establish a realistic evaluation of the costs and benefits of action and inaction.
What enables behavior change? What disables or hinders behavior change?
What aspect of the environment affect or influences behavior?
How might you arrange your life to facilitate the desired changes?
A first step is to look at your history so far and examine critical moments of success and failure. From these insights, can you discern what environmental factors are working for you or against you in the present situation and what needs to be changed?
What are the general expectations and beliefs in the cultural environment; about change, improvement, peoples’ capacities and capabilities, e.g., what is the expectation about your capacity to change and perform?
What physical access to resources is provided, e.g., access to information, materials, education, technology, and finance?
How is the social environment organized and structured, e.g., the active interest of mentors and partners that support or discourage change and learning?
How do aspects of work, legal, and economic environment reward or punish certain actions, e.g., working late, crossing ethical boundaries, and willingness to share and cooperate?
How do religious and family factors stimulate, provoke, or trigger certain responses, e.g., taking a stance toward a certain action, situation, or group of people, indulging in addictive behavior for momentary release of difficult emotions, escaping into mindless eating, or excessive exercise?
We can do a skills scan to identify which skills and strategies are required for improved performance, along with any domain-specific knowledge or expertise needed.
What needs to change? How is it best achieved?
The answers will be specific to the person, situation, and challenge.
Not all successful behavior change is of equal benefit. Some are easier to make and sustain, converting skills into habit; some make a bigger difference, producing reliable performance. Coaching helps identify optimum changes, the easiest to make that make the biggest difference.
The “what needs to change” question gives us an understanding of what skill level to target in the skills hierarchy, e.g., emotional self-regulation, learning, social, or work skills.
The “how is it best achieved” question gives us an understanding of strategies to employ, e.g., problem-solving, starting small, making it easy to change, or incremental improvement via deliberate practice.
Talent includes intelligence, abilities, strengths, and interests that facilitate performance and adaptation, also qualities such as interest, kindness, consideration, and the ability to connect with others. All are essential qualities that facilitate adaptive, cooperative, and competitive behaviors.
Other talent qualities include temperament, developmental stage, physical state, and genetic endowment. Certain temperamental characteristics, such as emotional reactivity, may make some changes easier or harder. One’s developmental stage may facilitate or inhibit change. Physical functioning or state includes sleep hygiene, mental or physical fatigue, fitness, health, and emotional state and can help or hinder behavior change and may need to be the focus of change.
The biological processes of neuroplasticity and epigenetics may enhance the talents which we may draw upon to lift our performance and better cope with or exploit challenging life events.
Case Example with a college student
Six coaching sessions that systematically applied the BEST formula to identify changes that would increase the client’s academic performance.
Examine the self-fulfilling nature of beliefs.
Help to see client how negative beliefs about the client’s ability would likely be self-limiting and possibly self-defeating.
Revising their views about the possibility of success would hopefully be self-enhancing.
Ask the client to write out the full costs to them of not going to university and the many benefits of undertaking study and achieving success.
Ask the client to write out and carry a personal motivational statement that will remind them why it is essential to their sense of self and future that they succeed in university.
Analyze the client’s environment; how supportive is it of their decision regarding interpersonal support, physical support, etc.?
How might the client create a more supportive environment if necessary?
Analyze client skills; what skills make their academic endeavor easier, what skills are lacking, how might they catch up on weaker skills, and how might they leverage available skills?
Special attention to self skills, e.g., emotion regulation; self-efficacy through engagement and support-seeking behavior; self-compassion through mindfulness and kindness practice; self-sabotage effects of perfectionism through mindfulness of self-defeating thoughts and beliefs.
Enhance physical state and talent by ensuring good and sufficient sleep, healthy nutrition, and daily exercise.