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Last Updated on April 22, 2020

What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

I wont lie Self efficacy is not a word I usually use, but when I looked it up to check its true meaning, I was happy to see that it’s basically what I do for a living.

How had I missed that!

Self efficacy according to the Oxford English Dictionary says:

• A personal power or capacity to produce an intended effect (rare).
• A person’s belief in his or her ability to effect change in his or her life, achieve goals, or produce desired results.

So can you say you truly believe you will get the results you want?

Do you have faith and trust that you are going to get where you want to go?

And why does it even matter?

In this article, we will look into the definition of self efficacy and how you can improve yours.

What Is Self Efficacy?

Let’s start by looking at 5 signs that you don’t have the right level of self efficacy.

  • You stop taking action and procrastinate over things.
  • You don’t like to set goals.
  • You fear failing.
  • Your internal dialogue is always moaning at you.
  • You don’t do anything about the things you hate in your life.

Self efficacy is really about what you believe. And when you appreciate how powerfully your beliefs impact on your actions and results in every area of life, it can be enough to make you never want to think again!

Improving your self efficacy is critically important to your success, happiness and even your health. If you don’t believe it is going to work, why would you bother to take any action?

Self efficacy also means that even when things go wrong, you still believe it can go well. As Michael J. Fox said,

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”

He’s right, when your self esteem and self respect remain in tact no matter what, you will find a way to get what you want.

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A lack of self efficacy can be the difference between failure and success. Take the client I am working with at the moment, (I’ve their permission to talk about them) who wanted to work with me to grow their business.

We started by looking at their strategies and plans, and even their goals, but ultimately the biggest Eurekas that have led to the biggest sales and successes came from boosting what they thought about themselves:

  • How can a thought make you sell more?
  • How can a thought help you get your dream job?
  • How can what you think impact on your time management?

Scary, right?

How to Improve Your Self Efficacy

So now we are starting to see why self efficacy is so important for us all, how do we improve it?

1. Check What You Currently Think

It’s no good improving something unless you have a bench mark to compare it with!

So ask yourself honestly on a scale of 1 to 10 these questions (10 being awesome and 1 being awful);

  • How much do you believe in your ability to get the result you want?
  • How much do you believe people respect you?
  • How likely are you to get where you want in life?

You don’t need to be scoring 10 across the board, however, if you gave yourself consistently low scores, then the key to being more successful could lie in improving your self efficacy.

It’s worth remembering a little doubt is good for you. If you score 10 for questions like these, it’s possible that you haven’t really appreciated what is involved or what is going on.

A little healthy doubt is good for you because it means you worry about the outcomes. You want things to go well and you want to apply yourself.

There’s a big difference between being a little nervous about chairing your first meeting (7 out of 10) and being petrified and assuming its going to be the worse experience of your life (1 out of 10).

A little drop in your scores makes you work harder, learn more and practice. All things that mean you then have more control over the result any way.

2. Learn to Love Yourself

You don’t need to go around the streets shouting “Hello, I’m awesome.” However, you do need to internally believe that you are wonderful just the way you are.

A good tester is to say to yourself these sentences (which are highly likely to make you squirm) and see how you feel:

  • I love being me.
  • I’m fabulous.
  • I’m great at what I do.
  • People adore me just the way I am.

Was that an unpleasant experience?

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The thing about self efficacy is that if you lack it, then your self confidence takes a nose dive. And of all the questions I get asked even more than “how do I make more money” is, “how do I build my confidence?”

While most of understand a lack of confidence can impact on your happiness, health and success – few truly invest in building it up.

Not all dips in confidence are obvious. A lack of confidence does not mean you are shy. Plenty of extroverts lack confidence. It’s not about what’s on the outside it is about what is happening on the inside.

The quickest way for me to build someone’s confidence is to help them see who they really are. It’s only in a coaching session do people really get challenged to notice the facts and not the emotive thoughts and beliefs that tear you down. The reason for this is often because you are on this automatic way of thinking that you’ve developed over many years.

And remember, lots of people who have oodles of confidence in some areas of their life can still feel completely exposed and un-confident in other areas of your life. So watch out for that too.

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre said,

“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”

Challenge how you perceive yourself.

Is it true what you believe or are you holding onto a belief that you feel will keep you safe?

3. Challenge Your Comfort Zones

Comfort zones feel good because we feel safe in them. The issue is when we are not safe but trapped by them.

As with a dip in confidence, it can be hard to spot a comfort zone. Successful people will often tell me they have no comfort zone and then as we work together, it becomes obvious that they have an automatic no thought way of thinking and working; that means they have not pushed themselves in that area for years.

The successful professional speaker who told me that they never picked up the phone because “in their industry,” everything is done via email. Guess what happened when we challenged that!

The point was that through the coaching process, we discovered their self efficacy was taking a heavy hit because they believed that if they phoned people, then they’d say the wrong thing and lose out on the contract – far better to email and be able to pose what you want to say, right?

However, what was happening is that their emails were getting lost in a very busy office. The phone call pushed them out of their comfort zone but with coaching so, they believed in the results. Practised what they would say and knew the outcome they wanted, they were able to confidently make the call and stand out for the right reasons.

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Challenge your comfort zones. In my experience, some people like to jump out of their comfort zones and do something scary; and others like to break it down and do tiny little moves that get them out of their comfort zone. Look for clues in your past to advise which would work best for you.

4. Get the Evidence Flowing

One of the reasons we lack self efficacy is because we believe things that aren’t true. We don’t want to look at the evidence that says that no matter how scared we are, we can achieve great things. It feels better to hide from the truth – it’s easier right?

Take at leat 10 minutes to write down on paper all of the amazing things you’ve done.(We want evidence.) This is a confidential document. It’s not showing off, it’s giving yourself proof that you have the skills, attributes and tenacity to get the results you want.

I was working with a person who felt they were not reaching their true potential at work. There were some very formidable people in the work place that they felt they could never live up to. Helping them see that they didn’t need to be someone else and that to do that, they needed to get the evidence at the front of their mind. And then, they could push themselves out of the comfort zones and into the goals they aspired to had a massive impact on their results.

Marilyn Monroe said it beautifully,

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”

So get the evidence that proves you really are that good.

5. Let Other People Build You up, Not Tear You Down

We all know someone that could sap the joy out of a theme park; and we know why we need to keep them away from us. When you build self efficacy it doesn’t matter who you are around, they can’t hurt you any more.

As you become more aware of how you talk to yourself and how you let other people’s words impact on you, you will be able to keep negative people away.

For one client, every time they were with this happiness vampire, they would in their head sing their favourite song. Their favourite song reminded them of the perfect holiday — sunsets that don’t look real, powdery pink sands and palm tree fronds clacking in the distance. It was hard to get any negative energy into that person’s mind when they sang that song.

Know how you will keep other people’s negativity out of you life and know the people who you can rely on to help you improve your self efficacy.

The good people will help to inspire, motivate and support you to see how awesome you are; and that builds faith in what you can do and achieve.

6. Visionary

Lastly, to really improve your self efficacy, you need to challenge what you want;

  • Are you thinking big enough?
  • Have you set big goals?
  • Have you created a plan of action to get you there?
  • Have you drawn a time line to show what will happen by when?
  • What tiny bite size actions need to happen to make your goals a reality?

I’m often told I’m lucky to have achieved what I have.

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Really? Luck?

Could it not be a plan?

If you ask anyone that has achieved what they wanted to in life, yes, there was an element of luck but it was far more about the plan of action. I was lucky to have one of the UK’s top non-fiction publishers ask me to write a book, however, I had spent 3 years positioning myself as a thought leader and ensured the content I got out there mirrored the ultimate goal.

Don’t rely on luck to achieve big. Work out what matters to you most and, then plan how you will get there.

And if you are struggling for ideas on what you really want, take a tip from Da Vinci, Steve Jobs and Einstein all who famously believed in day dreaming. Day dreaming allows us to play with our thoughts and explore the seemingly impossible.

Don’t take my word for it. In this Lifehack article, Judith Fleyshgakker explores 10 reasons why day dreaming is good for you.

Listen out for the quality of your day dreaming and if it’s helping you explore your true potential. This then enables you to clearly define what you want.

As I tell my clients, you don’t need to know how you are going to get there but, you do need to start by knowing where you wish to go. Building a plan of action is easier when you know the destination.

And building a destination helps you to break this down into a workable and actionable set of tasks. That way, instead of seeing a monumental task in front of you, you are able to see little steps. This means the ability to believe you will get there is broken down too. If you fail, you’ve not failed at your big goal, you’ve just stumbled on one small action. That’s far easier to come back from.

Final Thoughts

Self efficacy may not be a word that springs to mind when we want to achieve more and be happy with our lives, but ultimately learning how to improve yours could have multiple implications.

As Mark Twain shared,

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”

So take a moment to ask if you are truly comfortable around you. It’s the starting point to achieving what you really want to.

More Tips About Building Self-Worth

Featured photo credit: Marcelo Matarazzo via unsplash.com

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

International Coach, Best Selling Author & Speaker inspiring people around the world to success.

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Last Updated on October 29, 2020

How to Deal With Negative Thoughts (the Healthy Way)

How to Deal With Negative Thoughts (the Healthy Way)

When I think back to all the unhappy and frustrating times in my life, I realize now that I prolonged these experiences because I spent too much time in my head. I was either worrying about the future or thinking about past mistakes, missed opportunities, and all the other events in my life where I felt dissatisfied and frustrated. I didn’t even realize how much impact negative thoughts had on my life,

Then, one day I read an article that said that we have between 40,000-80,000 thoughts every day. I realized then that the thousands of negative thoughts I was having on a daily basis were preventing me from not only enjoying life experiences, but draining my energy and distracting me from focusing on what was important in my life.

In this article, you will understand why you have negative thoughts and how to deal with them.

What Causes Negative Thoughts?

The first thing to do is to find the why — what triggers set off your negative thinking? If you can find the answer as to why you are constantly having so many negative thoughts, then you will be one step closer to better managing the impact that negative thinking is having on your life.

Mental Health Conditions

Negative thoughts have many different causes, and these causes can differ for everyone. The most excessive cause of negative thinking can be as a result of mental health conditions such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Depression is also a factor that contributes to negative thoughts. If you feel that you may be struggling with a mental illness, contact a mental health professional to get medical advice.

Rumination

Everyone has negative thoughts from time to time; it’s a natural part of life to feel sad or down. The danger for us, however, is when these negative thoughts are replaying over and over in our minds.

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Scientists call this rumination[1]. A habit of rumination can be dangerous to our mental health, as it can prolong or intensify depression as well as impair our ability to think and process emotions.

The Cortisol Effect

Cortisol is a hormone, which is mainly released at times of stress and has many important functions in our body. Having the right cortisol balance is essential for human health, and you can have problems if your adrenal gland releases too much or too little cortisol.

Our brain loves cortisol, as it is there to warn us about imminent danger.[2] The problem occurs when we constantly put our bodies and minds in situations of high stress and negative thinking, as this causes cortisol to overload. Our brain starts to develop patterns of negative thinking, and we start to normalize our thought patterns.

We train our brains to think we are no longer in imminent danger – this is our new normal, but our cortisol levels become dangerously high. Over time, the body will start to show signs of wear and tear – heart attacks, depression, anxiety, mental illness, etc.

If you don’t keep your negative thinking under control, you will eventually have to deal with serious health issues.

Holding on to Fears and Regrets

Martin Seligman, an American psychologist, educator, and author of self-help books, is a strong promoter within the scientific community of his theories on positive psychology and well-being. He says that the three leading causes of negative thoughts for most people are:

Fear of the Future

People can fear the unknown, and, as a result, they start thinking that the worst things can happen, such as failure or disaster. The future hasn’t happened, so people who fear it are distracted from living in the present, which is where they have more control over how they live their lives.

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Anxiety About the Present

Many of us worry about what others think of us, what the traffic will be like going home, or if we are doing a good job. If we are in a toxic environment or relationship, we are more susceptible to negative thoughts.

Regret About the Past

Everyone does things that they are embarrassed or ashamed of. People who are prone to negative thinking tend to dwell on past mistakes and failures more than others.

No matter what causes your negative thoughts, you can manage them with some strategies. Start dealing with your negative thoughts as soon as you recognize that they are about to become a big problem in your life.

5 Steps to Manage Your Negative Thoughts

It is unrealistic to think that you will be able to eliminate all negative thoughts. A more realistic and sustainable approach is to learn strategies to manage your negative thinking so that you have control over how you want to live your life.

1. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

This step-by-step strategy takes time and practice; you will not have control of your thoughts overnight. Be prepared and committed to practicing this strategy on a daily basis.

This strategy is all about teaching yourself how to counter your negative thoughts. There are 5 questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Is this thought true? Is there a basis for this negative belief?
  2. Is this thought giving your power or is it taking away your power?
  3. Can you put a positive spin on this thought or learn from it?
  4. What would it be like if you didn’t have these negative thoughts?
  5. Is this negative thought hiding you from issues you need to address?

2. Distract Your Negative Thoughts by Focusing on Something Else

Visualization is a useful strategy to help you distract yourself from your negative thoughts. Try to picture yourself doing an activity that you love to do—for example, shopping, reading books, listening to music, etc. The key is to train your brain to think about something completely different for at least 30 seconds.

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Be disciplined in trying this technique. Over time, you will have trained your brain to go in a different direction every time your negative thoughts come up.

You can learn more visualization techniques in this article.

3. The Balloon Exercise – Throw Away Your Negative Thoughts

I love this strategy the most. Essentially, what you are doing here is throwing your negative thoughts away.

Clearing your head of negative thoughts by writing them down and letting them go in a physical way releases you from a lot of negative energy. Some people write down their negative thoughts on a piece of paper and throw in the rubbish bin.

I like to write my negative thoughts, fears, and regrets on an inflated balloon, and then release it into the sky. Find the technique that feels best for you.

4.Surround Yourself With Positive People

The people that you spend your time with have a huge influence on how you live your life.

If you want to better manage your negative thoughts, then spend time with a friend who has positive energy, a positive outlook on life, and is willing to listen to you share your thoughts and feelings.

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5. Reframe Your Thoughts

Our mind has this amazing ability to convince us of something that isn’t really true. These untrue and inaccurate thoughts reinforce our negative thinking.

The next time you are thinking that you are to blame for everything that is going wrong, stop. What you are doing is assuming and personalizing your thoughts and reinforcing this with negative thinking.

Take a few minutes to acknowledge the great things you do, write these down, and say these wonderful things out loud to yourself. Another strategy you could do is to challenge these thoughts with the questions outlined in step 1.

Use positivity to overcome negative thoughts

    You can also take a look at these tips on How to Practice Positive Thinking And Change Your Life.

    Final Thoughts

    “The key to happiness – or that even more desired thing, calmness – lies not in always thinking happy thoughts…No mind on earth with any kind of intelligence could spend a lifetime enjoying only happy thoughts. The key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them.” -Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

    With dedicated practice and commitment, you can replace negative thought patterns with thoughts that will actually help you achieve happiness and a sense of calm acceptance. There is no doubt that the more positive thoughts you have the more positive results you will achieve in life, so get started today.

    More Tips on Overcoming Negative Thoughts

    Featured photo credit: Danilo Batista via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] BBC: Rumination: The danger of dwelling
    [2] Healthline: High Cortisol Symptoms: What Do They Mean?

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