Great article about self-efficacy, enthusiasm, motivation, and perseverance, … and the anime character Shoyo Hinata. See the original and more on the blog Crushing the Moon (https://crushingonthemoon.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/thoughtful-moments-6-is-shoyo-hinata-delusional/)
Shoyo Hinata is a tiny boy with huge dreams. He knows that volleyball is a sport dominated by extremely tall players, and yet at just over 5′ 4″ he wants to become a national champion more than anything. However, he has almost no experience whatsoever with volleyball. Still, he’s determined to work his hardest and fight his way to the national stage. Hinata’s seemingly endless enthusiasm, motivation, and perseverance is his most defining as well as his most endearing trait. This boy has proved that he won’t stop or give up, even when the challenge he faces seems impossible. Although some of the other Haikyu!! characters took more time for me to appreciate (I’m looking at you, Kageyama) I fell in love with Hinata’s boundless energy and cheerfulness immediately.
There’s a psychological construct known as self-efficacy, which basically tells us that our belief in our ability to accomplish a task greatly increases our likelihood of achieving it. In short, seemingly impossible challenges can be conquered if we just believe in ourselves. Hinata’s endless optimism is basic self efficacy–it’s what allows him to improve at such a rapid rate. As long as this wannabe volleyball star has faith in himself, we as an audience feel happy and reassured that he can in fact reach his goal. Hinata’s enthusiasm and determination gives us hope.
Psychologists in the past have conceptualized talent as an IQ-like cognitive ability , and practice focused on the view of human achievements to be limited by innate characteristics . Human cognitive processing is indeed universally depending on sensory abilities, often biased and unaware of its own mechanisms, and limited to a relatively bounded range of working memory capacity . However, these innate factors are not directly encoding skills, but the development of human expertise rather relies on whether or not and how experience and training are happening .
Ericsson, Prietula, and Cokely (2007)  describe “deliberate practice” , which is the direction of efforts towards learning something that can’t be done well yet as compared to an already familiar task. Deliberate thinking develops the concentration and accepting consideration of even painful feedback (people tend to over-estimate their skills and performance) to practice new things that are, therefore, more challenging to approach . Learning outside of one’s comfort zone has been found favorable for reaping the benefits from brain plasticity allowing for ongoing cognitive health even in older age .
The development of cognitive abilities needs practice because it is, for example, relying on stored contextual information for improved anticipation and decision-making . The so-called psychological support skills are more domain-general, can respectively have to be learned too though, improve motivation, attention, and anxiety, and comprise of mental abilities such as imagery, self-talk, relaxation skills, goals setting, and organizing . Also, spatial abilities have been found supportive of developing expertise in science, technology, and engineering education .
Self-efficacy and motivation
Performance achievement requires self-confidence in one’s ability to learn. For any learning, it is vital to develop this life-skill of self-efficacy . Self-efficacy helps develop a stronger sense of hope and purpose of life . The attribution of failure to controllable factors (such as one’s development of abilities) causes individuals to think more positively, being more motivated and perseverant, and perform more successfully . While available to all, proactive personalities might access self-efficacy more easily though . The so-called Deep Layer Learning Motivation (i.e., the interest in internal motivation, as opposed to external motivators) is positively related to learning performance and self-efficacy . All this taken together, the possibility of creating an upward spiral for developing human capital exists through the mutually reinforcing effects of positive self-belief, intrinsic motivation, and successful learning achievement.
Creating a supportive environment
How a student, including the gifted , perceives the supportiveness of his/her learning environment, e.g., colleagues, family, and teachers, influences the motivation for self-directed engagement . This demonstrates the importance of a practice-friendly design of learning environments . The Triarchic Model of Grit has been evaluated a valid and reliable tool for measuring talent development self-efﬁcacy and has recently added the dimension of ‘adaptability to situations’ to the already established dimensions of ‘perseverance of effort’ and ‘consistency of interests’ . This could be especially useful to assess a conception of talent (respectively ability) that is seen as a more multi-dimensional function of person-environment interactions ensuring that educational policies and programs are consequently designed and promoted as opportunities for all .
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Men have made millions of laws to punish crimes, and they have not established even one to reward virtue; Virtue being a product not of the command of law, but of our own free will, society has no right whatsoever over it. Virtue on no account enters into the social contract; and if it remains without reward, society commits an injustice similar to that of one who defrauds another of his labor.
Moments of instability bear the opportunity for change, and leadership determines whether it be a breakdown or breakthrough . Many institutional environments experience turning points through “critical actors” rather than through “critical masses” . To gain acceptance for change, leaders use different types of power, e.g., coercion, punishment, reward, legitimation, and expert information ; . In contrast, to incentivize change through fear, dissatisfaction, or guilt , reward power is to offer a positive motivation in case of compliance, e.g., an increase in salary, a career promotion, or other privileges . In the study of coach-athlete relationships, rewards and not punitive methods have shown positive effects on the athletes’ behaviors .
Dragonetti, an old Neapolitan economist, more than 250 years ago stated that “Men have made millions of laws to punish crimes, and they have not established even one to reward virtue ” . Indeed, a system more based on incentives, e.g., in the form of intrinsic societal awards, would foster more cooperation with economic and civic benefits . This may be required today more than ever. Longitudinal research found that as a result of modernization and westernization, mothers in San Vicente, Mexico, developed more self-promoting behavior at the cost of a more giving and rewarding (e.g., including encouraging failures) attitude only forty years ago .
Monetary compensation, social status, or ideological values all may provide for reward . Equating satisfaction with perception minus expectation, unexpected rewards can impact individuals’ satisfaction disproportionately and therefore, motivate change . Contingent rewards have proven to be an effective change leadership tool. However, it was also found that rewards need to be specified according to the situation respectively to the field of interest . Strategic alignment of changes and related rewards is essential to create clear psychological contracts that define well what contributions to company performance the employees owe their employer and what they can hope for in return . Of course, it is foolish to incentivize something and expect something else in return .
Because not all change is of equal ease to everybody, change efforts rather than change expertise/effectiveness should be rewarded . Not only reward size, but also the sequence and frequency of incentivizing are influencing the future expectancy of further rewards in social-change theories . Age may also be a factor for reward-sensitivity, as, for example, adolescents with typically lower inhibitory control capability attribute more value to reward . In conclusion, the focus on rewarding desired behavior rather than punishing unwanted conduct might have several advantages, such as creating positive feelings, increasing acceptance of positive change, and enabling higher likability of the influencing change agents .
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The life and work of author and speaker Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, who died at the age of seventy-five in 2015, provides the opportunity to reflect on leadership from a holistic perspective beyond a specific organizational setting or national politics. Dyer’s many best-selling books on the practical psychology of personal development towards a positive transformation for all of humanity  brought him the nickname of the Father of Motivation by his fans . Writing and meditating on Maui on Eastern Philosophies like Taoism, the Sage of Maui covers the self-conscious wisdom category of the self-help genre . Like in the book ‘Wisdom of the Ages,’ Dyer’s messages focus on virtuous love, inspiration, and patience as found in Confucian, Christian, and Thoreauvian teachings . Having written ‘Erroneous Zones,’ one of the most famous books of all time , and if leadership is about influence, Wayne Dyer was an enormous leader in influencing masses around the globe . Although not limited to an organizational goal setting context, the topics Dyer was promoting represent the core of the study of leadership and address change, motivation, inspiration, and influence .
A practical, humorous, personal, and sometimes too self-confident leader?
As a Welch proverb puts it aptly: “The hand will not reach for what the heart does not long for” , p. 38. In that sense, Dyer’s messages speak empathically to the core desires of people through practical, humorous , and personal  stories, presented as inviting offerings rather than pushing rules. Practical intelligence is of high importance for leaders . Indeed, Dyer focused on outcome rather than intellectualization , one possible reason why he chose the career of an independent writer rather than continuing his university job, which he saw limited to producing papers for the sake of a small self-serving academic community . It was Dyer’s high self-confidence that allowed him to, for example, tell “the shocking truth” he was so convinced about publicly  and therefore intuitively take required risks to advance his growth as a leader . Dyer got accused of plagiarism of Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) . However, he did seemingly ignore what other people think of him  and unwaveringly continued his mission.
Life transitions and openness to experience
Assertiveness is the candid expression of one’s desires, opinions, and feelings and may help to get the recognition that is a powerful human motivator . Wayne Dyer’s public exposure of his style in writing and speaking may have also reflected a personality tendency of extraversion. In the US, extraversion is a personality trait showcased to create a societal image of openness and friendliness . It is therefore difficult to say how much Dyer’s demonstration of extraversion is part of his working brand to reach the goal of spreading his messages as much as possible, and how much, in comparison, he enjoyed his extended writing retreats on Maui from a more introvert perspective. In any case, according to his children’s accounts, he naturally loved to lecture and entertain others with his vast knowledge . Extraversion and openness to experience are personal characteristics that strongly relate to leadership effectiveness . Wayne Dyer’s openness to experience may be well seen in his demonstration of mindfulness that allowed him to accept new and demanding situations, to further develop his self-image, to promote changes, and to let go of attachments . Dyer went through different career transitions and lived over time with three wives and eight children . He also underwent a spiritual transformation in his “meaning stage” of life. These may be lessons of what Dyer framed in his film ‘Shift’ as “What was true in the morning has become a lie in the afternoon” .
Between charismatic mentorship and rescuer syndrome?
Regardless of the leadership position, it seems that the opportunity to help others’ personal growth, rather than sources of satisfaction like power, salary and status  represented the main motive of meaningfulness for Wayne Dyer throughout his life. Dyer spent parts of his childhood in foster homes. However, he described himself as seeing and remembering mainly the positive aspects, what helped him already at the age of three to help others in overcoming their despair . It may be this “naturally” developed talent of soothing others distress that adds a charismatic quality  to Dyer’s personality. In his thirties, Dyer visited his father’s grave and could resolve his anger towards that person who had left a wife with small children in a difficult situation. This pivotal event of forgiveness might not only have unlocked Dyer’s potential as a writer  but may have been necessary not to let the urge to mentor other people become a self-serving compensation for emotional and psychological issues; which would also be known as the rescuer syndrome .
Holistic leadership: inspirational motivation, trust, and loving service
Like Einstein and Emerson, Wayne Dyer believed in the Transcendentalist ideas  of the human soul being able to intuitively connect to the spiritual truth that creates a collective consciousness , itself capable of reconstructing the world . Wishing to lead a God-realized life  and occasionally named a self-help guru  and pied piper of the movement , Dyer could be suspect of suffering self-perceptions of grandiosity . However, Dyer believed, and that’s the position of equality that might have been so appealing to his diverse readers, that the divine realm is available to all . Such an uplifting vision is inspirationally motivating and contributes to a new-genre leadership style that emphasizes an environment of trust and feelings beyond what is necessarily found in transformational leadership . Dyer may be an example of one of the newest leadership theories, that is authentic leadership, and which is true to its values . As a friendly, amiable, assertive, and serving ‘soft leader’ , Dr. Wayne W. Dyer lived the messages he taught . It is loving service and unselfish love that makes holistic leadership .
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Learned helplessness and some psychological disorders
Dogs who experienced repeatedly unavoidable electro shocks learned that they have no control over escaping from such painful events , and henceforth developed a cognitive deficit in the form of generalizing the helplessness expectation to other situations . This phenomenon is also considered reduced incentive motivation . Mental patterns of learned helplessness (LH) resemble those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which associate with depression . LH is mentioned as the animal correspondent of depression . Indeed, LH was found to be a primary cause of both PTSD and major depressive disorder (MDD) . Depression includes the symptoms of feeling helplessness, but it is not its (sole) source. Non-depressed people can learn helplessness as well. Interestingly, ‘normal’ people may over-optimistically assess their level of control and therefore less likely notice uncontrollability as more realistically reasoning individuals with depressive tendencies do .
For what could appear as inappropriate passivity in refugees who are not seeking help and not filing timely registration from the new government, for example, can be explained by LH theory. Survivors of traumatic persecution have learned that they cannot expect help from their violent or passive government, an uncontrollable fact that caused the learning of helplessness that now is applied to the new country’s government as well . LH is characterized by attributions that are more personalized, constant, and of global nature and is directly associated with more severe PTSD and MDD symptoms. The relative importance of a situation to a person’s identity is further mediating this relationship . This way, LH explains why a persecuted refugee may not display the knowledge of pro-actively managing the required legal administration even in a new context that would, in contrast to the former learned one, offering help to do so .
Related theories and hope
Towards the end of the last century, the finding that hopelessness can lead to depression caused researchers like Seligman to re-focus from helplessness to hopelessness and finally to a hope-promoting view that was intended to prevent helplessness and related pathologies of hopelessness depression . For individuals who assume a performance-oriented motivation, prompts of hope and self-esteem are important to let them believe in their ability and become actively engaged, e.g., in learning and other challenging tasks. In contrast, according to goal achievement theory, subjects with a mastery-(learning-)orientation behave actively regardless of their degree of self-confidence. . Models of regulation posit that learners self-regulate (i.e., manage, monitor, and motivate) their resources either towards process or achievement goals . However pronounced and efficient these strategies may be though; the effects of hope finally beat any deficits in self-regulation .
A more positive outlook on relationships reduced the detrimental correlation between PTSD and dysfunctional goal orientation such as performance-avoidance. While mastery development is achieved through social comparison, performance-avoiding students see peer comparison as a threat. Therefore, motivation to get help and to learn can be increased by the adoption of a social-cognitive framework that is supportive of a positive relational outlook fostering help-seeking experiences .
Photo credit: Pexels (pixabay.com)
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Is it possible to increase one’s well-being regardless of biological, economic and social conditions? Happiness is genetically influenced but not genetically fixed. Economic factors only significantly influence subjective well-being within subsistence-level poverty. How well we feel, how happy we are is a psychological state and personal development provides a possible path towards increased happiness. Let’s act on it.
In this article I detail out a bit further the link between meditation and its therapeutic effect on anxiety and depression and apply it to a case example.
Mindfulness meditation seems to be suitable to shift the perception of life-uncertainty and adjust “from rumination to present awareness and acceptance” (Li et al., 2016, p. 12). Mindfulness as a psycho-therapeutic approach has proven beneficial for the treatment of anxiety and depression disorders.