Self-efficacy is the knowing that you are capable of achieving a specific goal. The term is also used to describe the confident knowing that you are capable of meeting all the challenges that come your way. The reason self-efficacy is an emphasis in both my book and in the course I teach is that it instills a sense of life mastery—the sense that you are in control of your life. Having the sense that you are in control of your life serves to reduce stress. It also provides the courage to try new things and to work harder to achieve your goals.

Enactive mastery is a powerful contributor to self-efficacy. It is developed by succeeding in goals you set. For this reason, it is important to set realistic goals. When I was young and active in the martial arts, I remember that students who were new to sparring were always started out with relatively gentle punches and kicks being thrown at them; otherwise they became glove shy and too afraid to continue. Gradual success builds gradual confidence and enactive mastery.

Vicarious experience is achieved by watching others. Although I stopped watching boxing and mixed martial arts when all the new data began to come out about traumatic brain injuries, I did learn from the vicarious experience of watching during all those earlier years. Forty years ago, I remember we all used to watch lots of boxing on TV because we were able to learn from what the fighters were doing correctly and from their mistakes. The vicarious experience of watching the televised and live fights also served as inspiration, catalyzing us to work much harder in our sparring sessions.

Verbal persuasion is still another contributor to self-efficacy. A good coach or teacher provides lots of encouragement along with the teaching. The encouragement must be sincere and based in reality so that the students will be able to take it in. Verbal persuasion is both a teaching tool as well as a source of inspiration and encouragement.

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