The three sentences: “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can,” from the beloved children’s book, The Little Engine That Could, capture the essence of what psychologists refer to as “self-efficacy theory.” Self-efficacy is a belief in one’s capabilities to take action, to complete tasks and to reach goals. Having a sense of self-efficacy goes hand in hand with well-being:

A strong sense of efficacy enhances human accomplishment and personal well-being in many ways. People with high assurance in their capabilities approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided. Such an efficacious outlook fosters intrinsic interest and deep engrossment in activities.

They set themselves challenging goals and maintain strong commitment to them. They heighten and sustain their efforts in the face of failure. They quickly recover their sense of efficacy after failures or setbacks. They attribute failure to insufficient effort or deficient knowledge and skills which are acquirable. They approach threatening situations with assurance that they can exercise control over them. Such an efficacious outlook produces personal accomplishments, reduces stress and lowers vulnerability to depression.

Self-efficacy is predicated on the idea that we are active participants rather than passive reactors in our lives and that we have a role in shaping our environment. In addition to being important for the individual, “collective efficacy” is important for groups and describes a shared belief in a group’s capabilities and actions.

In short, believing you can accomplish what you want is more than just a mindset. It’s a path to success.