Monday, March 2, 2009 a nut shell

I am currently taking a social and behavioral class as part of my Masters in Public Health. I have always been interested in sociology, especially why people behave differently based on groupings I have often claimed that it was my belief that all people problems are social in nature. So last week was Chapter 6, dealing with different health based models, in particulars, Bandura Social Cognitive Theory (SGT).

Dr. Thomas Tai-Seale, my professor, has written his own text book “Planning Health Improvement through Behavioral and Social Change.” For me I like all this thinking about the why. There is a why, find the why and you can understand and make change.

Bandura’s SGT was responsible for the concept of “self-efficacy", which he defined as a “conviction that one can successfully execute the behavior required to produce the outcome” or as Tai-Seale states “a self-assessment [that] one can do x – given all other relevant factors."

Pretty interesting stuff. Then I get to page 104 and it explains to me why I am the way I am. Me, in a nutshell. Damn, I have high self-efficacy!

  • Goal Setting: people with higher self-efficacy choose and act on loftier goals.
I was made fun of by my friend Travis (a former Scout in my son’s Troop) for always stating “Why can’t we….” Well Travis, I have high self –efficacy (it’s not a disease big guy!) it’s just the way I am. I look at every situation I am in and ask how it could be better. I hate the status quo, staying under the radar, stagnating. I invent things in my head, I write future novels, I want to do this and do that. To others they seem pie-in-the-sky but to me they really are achievable. Unfartunately high self-efficacy does not mean high skill level.

  • Anticipatory Scenarios (outcome expectations) people with high self-efficacy visualize success scenarios (positive cognitive stimulations) that are motivating. Those with lower self-efficacy visualize failure and are not motivated.
Yep – that’s why I would say “why can’t we….” I am motivated by the opportunity to make it work, I only say it if I see it in my head, if I can work it out step-by-step. That’s why I have been fairly successful on the jobs I bid and manage. I don’t go after them unless I can see it move from start to finish in my head.

  • The ability to predict probabilistic outcomes (to engage in analytical thinking/strategies) People with high self-efficacy remain on task longer in thinking through the probable outcomes of action and view their ability as an acquired skill which they get better at with practice. Thus they persist and improve in performance.
Bingo! I spend a lot of time looking at the outcomes on projects that are stretching my physical limitations, that is my ability to afford a solution. This is why bureaucracies and me do not get along, they are not the problem per say, they just get in the way of thinking through solutions to problems that may be encountered.

  • Belief in the extent to which their environment is controllable.
My Achilles' heel is my inability to work with people who for reasons only they know, do not want to find a solution to the problem. Bureaucracies become a difficulty because problems, which are just a normal result of forward movement, must be attached to a particular person within the organization. It is in the persons best interest to never step out of the box for fear of being chastised if a problem happens. “If I let you use this tool and you hurt yourself, I will get reprimanded for the accident.” Mistakes do not bother me as long as I don’t repeat them, all I care about is a successful outcome in the task at hand. Just like all people problems are social, all problems can be engineered out. It takes will, attitude, and an understanding that stuff happens, move on, move past.

So there it is. 51 years I have been wondering why I look at things differently than my peers. I am not highly skilled in anything particular; I can’t remember things I just heard a minute ago. I can’t play a musical instrument, sing, or dance. I suck at sports, mathematics, spelling, texting, and recalling your name. I am mediocre or average in most everything my peers seem to do with ease.

On the other hand I am passionate about my belief that a positive outcome is achievable when my head, gut, and heart says it is. I will stick something out until I have exhausted all plausible ways to fix it. I don't quit when the going gets tough as long as I can see a path in my head. I am an optomist grounded in reality. The reason I say "Why can't we..." is because I believe we can Mr. Travis!

My name is Jeff and I am a person with high self-efficacy!

I can’t pronounce it, but I is one!

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