This is doubling as my mid-semester self-pep-talk as I am torn between daily apathy and anxiety.
I came across a phrase this year that resonated with me in a way that I haven’t experienced since I was about 14 years old. The brain spark that fires when you’re expanding your vocabulary, learning a language, and improving your ability to express your thoughts and feelings to others. That phrase is self-efficacy. Its a bit lofty sounding, I’ll admit, but as I absorbed its meaning I realized that I knew its meaning all along. The fact that it was so concisely summed up is what struck me. (Word nerd, right here.)
I stumbled across this phrase in a textbook I was reading for an undergraduate class I am taking this semester. The significance of my enrollment an undergraduate program involves the fact that I was home-schooled for 3 years, never finished the 8th grade, and never attended high school. I was an unreported runaway working two jobs at 16, researched where I could take the GED test at 17, and promptly enrolled at the local community college. In hindsight, knowing the compromises that I faced, I have wondered how I survived. Fast forward to today, and – ah ha! Call it dumb desperation, but it suddenly clicked in my mind that what I had was self-efficacy. When I have struggled, it is because my self-efficacy was shaken.
This concept connects with almost every experience in my life, and likely yours as well. Self-efficacy is as simple as the story of The Little Engine That Could, and so popular that you’ll find an infinite number of quotes, memes, books, and posters shouting the importance of believing in yourself.
Okay, I’ll bring it back around to dispatching: the training experience (and daily experience, for that matter) of being a dispatcher has posed a fierce challenge to my personal efficacy. One of the dispatcher supervisors (who had done my background check) even laid it out for me during a board interview, when I asked what they thought I would have the hardest time with. She said, “You seem like kind of person who is used to being good at everything you try your hand at — but you’re not going to be good at this for a long time.” (Cue wide-eyed gulp.)
The reason I want to bring up this topic on this blog is because it truly is the key to being a successful dispatcher – both learning the job and doing it right. I’m bringing it up because it is so important to keep at the forefront of my mind as both a learner and as a trainer. But even if you decide to go do something else, you should keep in mind that your greatest predictor of success in life is your attitude towards it. If you proceed into dispatching, or any great challenge in life, perhaps this psychology-reminder will help you prepare and press through. If you find yourself in a negative tailspin, recognize it for what it is, and the affect that your mentality can have moving forward. If you are struggling, be resourceful. Own up to your maxed-out-ed-ness (I say to myself), practice self-care, and keep your chin up.
In all of this, I stumbled across a great blog that succinctly lays out important things you should know about self-efficacy and how to wield it. See Tiffany Brown’s Self-Efficacy.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
*Because I believe in keeping a humorous balance, I am choosing to also include this cartoon, with hopes that it does not undercut any of the above sincere statements. The reality is that working in emergency communications is not for everyone, and that’s okay!